Royal & Derngate
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|For the Royal Theatre:
|Address||1 Guildhall Road
|Owner||Northampton Theatres Trust|
|Designation||Grade II listed (Royal)|
|Current use||In-house productions
National touring productions
2006 (Royal & Derngate)
2013 (Errol Flynn Filmhouse)
|Rebuilt||1887 C J Phipps (fire)
|Architect||C J Phipps (Royal)
|Royal & Derngate website|
Royal & Derngate is a theatre complex in the Cultural Quarter of Northampton, England, consisting of the Royal Theatre, the Derngate Theatre and the Errol Flynn Filmhouse. The Royal Theatre, established as a producing house, has a capacity of 583 seats and since 1976 has been designated a Grade II listed building; the Derngate Theatre seats a maximum of 1,200 and is a multi-purpose space in which the auditorium can be configured for a variety of events including theatre, opera, live music, dance, fashion and sports. The Errol Flynn Filmhouse, an independent cinema built to the side of the complex, opened in 2013.
The Royal was built by theatre architect Charles J. Phipps and opened in 1884. Ninety-nine years later in 1983, the Derngate, designed by RHWL, was built to the rear of the Royal. Whilst the two theatres were physically linked, they only formally merged as one combined organisation in 1999, run by the Northampton Theatres Trust. In 2005, both theatres closed for an 18-month £14.5m redevelopment, which saw the merging of both venues into one construction, the building of a creativity centre, and the total refurbishment of the two venues. The complex reopened as Royal & Derngate in October 2006. From its reopening, Laurie Sansom was Artistic Director; under his tenure, The Stage hailed Royal & Derngate as The Regional Theatre of the Year (2010) in its inaugural Stage 100 Awards for "its artistic quality and connections it has with local audiences." James Dacre took over as Artistic Director in 2013.
In addition to staging and producing entertainment, Royal & Derngate also provide a programme of creative projects in its Underground space, homing its Youth Theatre and giving the local community the chance to get involved in performing, writing and to find out more about what goes on behind the scenes.
The Royal Theatre was the first building of what now exists as the Royal & Derngate complex. The Royal, then called the Theatre Royal and Opera House, was built for John Franklin by Henry Martin and designed by renowned Victorian theatre architect Charles J. Phipps with mural artist Henry Bird. It opened on 5 May 1884 with a production of William Shakespeare's Twelfth Night. On the theatre's opening, The Stage newspaper reported:
No element of success was wanting to contribute to the superb triumph that crowned the opening of this new theatre; the audience which thronged every available part of the house, comprised the rank and fashion of the town and county, while the charming Thespian temple, fresh from the hand of the scene painters, gleamed everywhere with light and colour. The artistically designed scenery, the dress circle brilliant with blue and gold, the crimson rested chairs, together with the soft and delicate beauty of the ceiling and mural embellishment, were the theme of audible admiration from all parts of the house.
The theatre suffered damage from fire in 1887, and was restored by Charles J. Phipps who also built the Savoy Theatre in London. Its proscenium stage was also widened in 1889. In its first four decades, productions of George Edwardes' musical comedies operas, pantomimes, burlesques and melodramas were most popular, but since becoming home to the Northampton Repertory Players in 1927, the Royal Theatre has run as a producing house ever since, now supported by a workshop and wardrobe. The Royal has, since 1976, been designated a Grade II listed building.
Actor Errol Flynn made early appearances on the Royal's stage before embarking on his film career. For several months in 1933, he was part of the Northampton Repertory Players at the Royal. In January 1977, scenes for the Doctor Who serial The Talons of Weng-Chiang were shot inside the theatre. The serial was set in Victorian London and an authentic atmosphere was wanted for the theatre scenes. According to director David Maloney on the DVD commentary, it was chosen because it had the nearest original fly gallery to London.
The Derngate Theatre was added to the rear of the Royal on the site of what was Northampton's former bus station. Following its conception by Northampton Borough Council, RHWL designed the new theatre and building work started in the early 1980s. It opened on 4 April 1983 with an evening performance by singer Jack Jones.
In 1999, the Royal Theatre and the Derngate Theatre became a combined organisation, run by the Northampton Theatres Trust. In 2005, both theatres closed for an 18-month redevelopment. The total cost, £14.5 million, was received from various outlets, including £1.6m from the Heritage Lottery Fund, £2.6m from the East Midlands Development Agency and Northampton Partnernship and almost £1m from partnership funding by the theatres' development team. The redevelopment merged and totally refurbished both venues. A creativity centre was also built. 100 staff were made redundant but were all offered the opportunity of re-employment once the complex reopened. Initially, the refurbishment work was to be in three month periods annually. However, there was a need to remove asbestos in both venues and to repair rotten flooring in the Royal. It was decided to shut the venue for over one year.
Most money was spent on making the theatres "more comfortable for the audiences" with new seats and air conditioning. The 1980s orange décor of Derngate was replaced with lighting techniques allowing changes the colour of the interior. The Royal was returned to its original Victorian splendour. Other improvements included the creation of a joint foyer with a new main entrance. A creativity centre for education and community work was added together with an atrium-style performance space, a new rehearsal room and better changing rooms for actors.
During the 18 month closure, productions were moved elsewhere: the Comedy Club moved to the Roadmender, as did the youth theatre and education work. The classical music season went to Spinney Hill Hall at Northampton School for Girls while dance moved to The Castle theatre in Wellingborough.
The complex reopened as Royal & Derngate in October 2006. Its future was then threatened by annual cuts of £250,000 by Northampton Borough Council. A short term solution was reached with Northamptonshire County Council funding the Borough Council's cuts for the next two years.
Royal & Derngate is now the main venue for arts and entertainment in Northamptonshire. The Royal auditorium seats 530, the Derngate seats 1,200-1,400 people and the 2013 film theatre 90. The venue offers a diverse programme: drama, dance, stand-up comedy, classical music, children’s shows, opera and pantomime. It also hosts the February degree conferment ceremonies for the University of Northampton each year. The venue has produced critically acclaimed shows including Sondheim’s Follies, J.B. Priestley’s The Glass Cage, The Prime Of Miss Jean Brodie and Roald Dahl’s James And The Giant Peach, as well as collaborating with Frantic Assembly on productions of Frankenstein and Othello.
Royal & Derngate welcomes over 300,000 audience members each year to see work in both stages and in the Underground space. 20,000 people a year also take part in over 700 creative projects. Over 20,000 people attended a free outdoor spectacular Crackers? by The World Famous at Delapre Park and a further 80,000 people enjoyed Made in Northampton productions (productions made in-house at Royal & Derngate) on tour throughout the UK.
In 2009, to celebrate its 125th anniversary, the theatres' season included a celebration of Britain's most popular living playwright, Alan Ayckbourn, a brand new show created with the funny company Spymonkey, and a Young America season featuring two rarely seen plays by Eugene O’Neill and Tennessee Williams about young people in love. Royal & Derngate also toured co-productions of Kneehigh Theatre's Brief Encounter and with Fiery Angel, The BFG. In addition, Royal & Derngate played host to some of the biggest touring shows in the country, including the UK premiere of English National Ballet’s Angelina Ballerina’s Big Audition and Rambert Dance Company also returned since the redevelopment.
The following year, the Young America season, transferred to the National Theatre in London, winning a TMA Award and being nomination for an Evening Standard Award. In 2010, Royal & Derngate developed a new charity to provide not-for-profit management services for the complex; it also established another charity to operate Corby Cube, a new theatre in Corby.
In 2011, as well as the West End transfer of End of the Rainbow, which was nominated for 4 Olivier Awards, Royal & Derngate was named the Regional Theatre of the Year in the inaugural Stage 100 awards.
Made in Northampton productions
Made in Northampton is the name given to productions that have been produced in-house at Royal & Derngate. Since re-opening, Royal & Derngate has worked with various writers, creative teams and companies to produce these shows to a lot of critical and commercial avail.
|A Tale of Two Cities, adapted by Mike Poulton||21 February — 15 March||James Dacre||Composed by Rachel Portman|
|"The Body of An American" by Dan O'Brien||27 February — 8 March||James Dacre||A co-production with The Gate Theatre|
|Every Last Trick, adapted by Tamsin Oglesby||18 April — 10 May||Paul Hunter||A collaboration between members of Spymonkey and Told By An Idiot|
|Moominsummer Madness, adapted by Phil Porter||22 May — 1 June||Dani Parr and Peter Gianville||A co-production with Polka Theatre, in association with Little Angel Theatre|
|Pat Barker's Regeneration, adapted for the stage by Nicholas Wright||22 August — 20 September||A co-production with Touring Consortium Theatre Company|
|Cat on a Hot Tin Roof||1 — 18 October||James Dacre||A co-production with Northern Stage and the Royal Exchange Theatre|
|Merlin by Ella Hickson||26 November 2014 — 4 January 2015||A co-production with Nuffield Theatre|
|One for the Road||1 — 23 February||Laurie Sansom||Part of Comedy Gold season|
|Mr Whatnot||15 March — 6 April||Cal McCrystal||Part of Comedy Gold season|
|A Midsummer Night's Dream||19 April — 11 May||Gary Sefton||Part of Comedy Gold season|
|Dancing at Lughnasa||24 May — 15 June||Richard Beecham|
|To Sir, With Love||6 — 28 September||Mark Babych||Nominated—WhatsOnStage Award for Best Regional Production|
|The Wind in the Willows||27 November 2013 — 5 January 2014||Gary Sefton|
|Oedipussy||3 — 18 February||Emma Rice||A co-production with Spymonkey|
|Ladies in Lavender||6 — 21 April||Robin Lefevre||A co-production with Daniel Schumann and Lee Dean|
|The Bacchae||18 May — 30 June||Laurie Sansom||Part of the Festival of Chaos season|
|Blood Wedding||18 May — 30 June||Laurie Sansom||Part of the Festival of Chaos season|
|Hedda Gabler||6 — 28 July||Laurie Sansom||Part of the Festival of Chaos season|
|Bully Boy||24 August — 15 September||David Gilmore and Patrick Sandford||A co-production with Lee Dean, Charles Diamond, Daniel Schumann and St James Theatre|
|God of Carnage||19 October — 10 November||Kate Saxon|
|A Christmas Carol||28 November 2012 — 6 January 2013||Gary Sefton|
|Humbug!||11 December 2012 — 13 January 2013||Dani Parr|
|The Years Between||4 — 26 February||Kate Saxon||Nominated—TMA Award for Best Performance in a Play|
|Diary of a Nobody||4 — 19 March||Gary Sefton||A co-production with Under the Radar Partnership|
|In Praise of Love||1 — 23 April||Richard Beecham|
|Hamlet! The Musical||6 — 21 May||Ryan McBride||A co-production with Eleanor Lloyd Productions|
|Eden End||6 — 25 June||Laurie Sansom|
|End of the Rainbow||25 August — 3 September||Terry Johnson||Post West End revival, prior to national tour
A co-production with Lee Dean
|Basket Case||9 — 24 September||Robin Lefevre||A co-production with Lee Dean|
|The Two Gentlemen of Verona||30 September — 22 October||Matthew Dunster|
|The Go-Between||2 — 19 November||Roger Haines||A co-production with Derby Live and West Yorkshire Playhouse
UK Theatre Award for Best Production of a Musical
|Alice in Wonderland||30 November 2011 — 8 January 2012||Laurie Sansom and Dani Parr|
|End of the Rainbow||5 — 20 February||Terry Johnson||Part of Addicted to You season
A co-production with Lee Dean
Revived at Trafalgar Studios, London from 2010 to 2011
Revived at Guthrie Theater, Minneapolis in 2012
Revived at Belasco Theatre, New York in 2010
Outer Critics' Circle Award and Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Actress in a Play
Nominated—Laurence Olivier Awards for Best Actress, Best New Play, Best Supporting Actor and Best Sound Design
Nominated—Tony Awards for Best Actress, Best Supporting Actor and Best Sound Design
|My Zinc Bed||26 February — 13 March||Laurie Sansom||Part of Addicted to You season|
|Honest||26 February — 13 March||Mike Bartlett||Part of Addicted to You season|
|Travels with My Aunt||30 April — 15 May||Gary Sefton|
|Town||18 June — 3 July||Esther Richardson||Part of Hometown season|
|Flathampton||9 — 17 July||Dani Parr||Part of Hometown season
Revived in 2011
|The Talented Mr. Ripley||17 September — 9 October||Raz Shaw|
|The Duchess of Malfi||15 — 30 October||Laurie Sansom||Nominated—TMA Award for Best Design|
|The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe||1 December 2010 — 9 January 2011||Dani Parr|
|Through the Wardrobe||7 — 19 December||Beth van der Ham-Edwards|
|Noël Coward's Brief Encounter||13 — 28 February||Emma Rice||Kneehigh Theatre in collaboration with Royal & Derngate
TMA Award for Best Touring Production
|The BFG||12 — 28 March||Phil Clark||A co-production with Fiery Angel|
|Under Milk Wood||1 — 16 May||Adele Thomas|
|Wish Wash||6 — 27 June||Dani Parr|
|Just Between Ourselves||22 May — 13 June||Mark Rosenblatt||Part of Ayckbourn at 70 season|
|Private Fears in Public Places||22 June — 11 July||Laurie Sansom||Part of Ayckbourn at 70 season
Nominated—TMA Award for Best Lighting Design
|Man of the Moment||27 July — 15 August||Alan Ayckbourn||Ayckbourn at 70 season|
|Moby Dick||18 — 26 September||Jos Houben||A co-production with Spymonkey|
|Beyond the Horizon and Spring Storm||9 October — 14 November||Laurie Sansom||Part of Young America season
Revived at London's National Theatre in 2010
TMA Award for Best Director and Best Lighting Design
Nominated—Evening Standard Award for Best Director
|Honk!||1 December 2009 — 3 January 2010||Andrew Panton|
|The Clean House||1 — 16 February||John Dove||In association with Lee Dean|
|Mary Shelley's Frankenstein||22 February — 15 March||Laurie Sansom||In association with Frantic Assembly|
|Humble Boy||11 April — 3 May||Richard Beecham|
|Laurel and Hardy||20 — 31 May||Peter Rowe||A co-production with New Wolsey, Ipswich in association with Anvil Arts|
|James and the Giant Peach||13 — 28 June||Dani Parr|
|The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie||12 September — 4 October||Laurie Sansom||TMA Award for Best Performance in a Play
Revived at Assembly Hall, Edinburgh in 2009
|Othello||7 — 18 October||Scott Graham and Steven Hoggett||Frantic Assembly and Theatre Royal Plymouth in association with Royal & Derngate
TMA Award for Best Director
|The Wizard of Oz||3 December 2008 — 11 January 2009||Laurie Sansom|
|Twelfth Night||26 January — 17 February||Laurie Sansom||Part of A Season of Love and Madness|
|Soap||2 — 24 March||Laurie Sansom||Part of A Season of Love and Madness|
|The Way of the World||27 April — 19 May||Selina Cadell||Part of A Season of Love and Madness|
|Knitwits||21 April — 12 May||Dani Parr|
|Closer||25 May — 16 June||Tamara Harvey|
|Starseeker||22 June — 7 July||Dani Parr|
|Time of My Life||21 September — 13 October||Laurie Sansom|
|The Glass Cage||1 — 17 November|
|101 Dalmatians||4 December 2007 — 6 January 2008||Dani Parr|
|Follies||20 October – 18 November||Laurie Sansom||Nominated—TMA Award for Best Musical Production|
|Pinocchio||5 December 2006 — 13 January 2007||Lu Kemp|
- Pevsner, Nikolaus (1961). The Buildings of England – Northamptonshire. London and New Haven: Yale University Press. p. 334. ISBN 978-0-300-09632-3.
- 1039681 - The National Heritage List for England | English Heritage
- Whatsonstage.com report of Sansom's appointment.
- BBC - Royal & Derngate Theatre wins national award
- http://www.turnipnet.com/atc/safetycurtain.htm Henry Bird and his Theatrical Mural on the Ashcroft Theatre Safety Curtain, Croydon
- Connelly, Gerry (1998). Errol Flynn in Northampton. Domra Publications. ISBN 978-0-9524417-2-4.
- "The Talons Of Weng-Chiang". A Brief History Of Time (Travel). Retrieved 21 December 2013.
- 100 face sack as Northampton's Royal and Derngate go dark - News - The Stage
- BBC - Northamptonshire - Entertainment - Dramatic changes at the Royal and Derngate
- Guide to British Theatres 1750-1950, John Earl and Michael Sell pp. 170–71 (Theatres Trust, 2000) ISBN 0-7136-5688-3