Theatre Royal, Bath
|Address||Sawclose, Bath, BA1 1ET|
|Designation||Listed Building Grade II*|
The theatre building from 1805 is supplemented by two smaller and more recent studio theatres. In 2010 the theatre underwent a major refurbishment.
The present main entrance to the Theatre Royal, in Sawclose, was built in 1720 by Thomas Greenway, and was Beau Nash's first house. Pevsner criticizes the mouldings of window-frames and of frieze and the volutes of the brackets of the door-hood as "characteristically overdone", and mentions Wood remarking on its "profuse ornament" and on how it was typical of a mason rather than an architect. The exterior of the building, with arches, pilasters, garlands and ornaments, which is visible from Beauford Square, was designed by George Dance the Younger and erected by John Palmer.
The theatre itself was erected in 1805, replacing the Old Orchard Street Theatre which was also called the Theatre Royal, which is now a Freemason's Hall. After a fire in 1863 the interior was redone by C J Phipps.
The theatre, along with the neighbouring Garrick's Head public house, is a Grade II* listed building and is considered a prime example of Georgian architecture. The auditorium has tiers of ornate plasterwork, with red and gilt decoration, and a Trompe-l'œil ceiling and glittering chandelier. It was extensively renovated in 1982, with additional refurbishments to the auditorium in 1999, and to the foyer, public bars (including the creation of the Jeremy Fry Bar, recognising his work in rescuing the theatre in the early 1980s) and backstage areas in 2010.
The theatre itself is said to be haunted by The Grey Lady, who was an actress centuries ago. She has been seen watching productions in the Grey Lady Box, and she leaves the distinctive scent of Jasmine. She has been seen and scented in recent years.
The Ustinov Studio
In 1997 a studio theatre was built at the rear of the building on Monmouth Street, called The Ustinov Studio, named after the actor Peter Ustinov. Originally a space for the youth theatre and small-scale touring productions, the Ustinov programme soon expanded to encompass classical concerts, stand-up comedy (including high-profile acts such as Bill Bailey, Stewart Lee and Lucy Porter) and in-house productions. To accommodate the technical needs of these productions, a refurbishment was planned to take place throughout 2007, improving the backstage & technical facilities, the foyer, bar and auditorium. The Ustinov Studio re-opened in February 2008, with their own production of Breakfast With Mugabe starring Joseph Marcell, Miles Anderson and Nicholas Bailey.
Currently enjoying the most exciting period in its illustrious history under Artistic Director Laurence Boswell, the Ustinov Studio has been nationally recognised for the extraordinary quality and range of its work, regular seasons of in-house productions, all UK Premieres of new or newly adapted works. In the 2012 American Season, Sarah Ruhl's In The Next Room, or The Vibrator Play was the winner of the Best New Play - Theatre Awards UK 2012. The Ustinov Studio was also nominated for the prestigious Empty Space... Peter Brook Award 2012. The Daily Telegraph's Dominic Cavendish praised the venue as a "constantly bubbling fount of marvels" at the awards ceremony. The Ustinov is proud to have received a second consecutive nomination for the 2013 awards.
In Autumn 2013, the Ustinov presents its most innovative and ambitious season to date - The Spanish Golden Age Season, three brand new translations of rarely seen plays, the tragedy Punishment Without Revenge and romantic comedies Don Gil of the Green Breeches and A Lady of Little Sense, which will run in repertory with a cast of ten actors in all three plays, between September and December 2013.
The egg theatre
In 2005 another new theatre was opened behind the Theatre Royal, the egg, which is a children's theatre, providing professional theatre productions for children and their families, alongside workshops and youth theatre productions. It includes the egg Cafe, a family friendly cafe, which is also the venue for children's and family events, and occasional teenage arts events.
The Theatre's Vaults Restaurant provides pre-show dinners and matinée lunches, and a suite of rooms (The 1805 Rooms) are available for functions. The Theatre Royal is also licensed to host weddings & civil partnership ceremonies.
In October 2009, the '2010 Refurbishment Appeal' was launched by Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, Royal Patron of the Theatre Royal Bath, to raise money for a programme of work to preserve the Theatre Royal's 200-year-old building, while ensuring that it remained suitable for 21st century audiences. The £3million refurbishment, the most extensive programme of work since the Theatre had been saved from virtual collapse almost 30 years before, by the Theatre's then Chairman Jeremy Fry, would include an expanded foyer; improved lift and other disabled access to the Stalls and Royal Circle levels; complete refurbishment of the bars and the creation of a new bar, The Jeremy Fry Bar, in the former cellars of The Garrick's Head pub, and redecoration of the auditorium. Technical improvements would include the rebuilding of the Main House stage, and an extensive rewiring and lighting programme around the entire building, with new fire alarm systems, air-conditioning and lighting, all designed to improve the building's efficiency and reduce the carbon footprint by some 30%. The design was by architects of the Fielden Clegg Bradley Studios, and construction firm Midas were contracted to complete the building work.
A successful campaign, led by writer and novelist Bel Mooney, who had been instrumental in previous fund-raising campaigns for the Theatre Royal Bath, saw almost a third of the money raised through donations and sponsorship, enabling work to begin away from public areas in March 2010. The Theatre's Main House was closed in July 2010, to allow the work on the foyer, bars and auditorium to be completed.
The official re-opening took place on Wednesday 8 September 2010, just 10 and a half months after the original campaign was launched, with the building work being completed on schedule. The ceremonial re-opening was performed on-stage by actors Penelope Keith and Peter Bowles, who were starring in the Theatre Royal's own production of 'The Rivals', Richard Brinsley Sheridan's classic Restoration comedy, set in and around 18th Century Bath.
Alongside the weekly touring productions which make up the majority of the Theatre Royal's programme, the Theatre Royal is host to several festivals each year, including the Family Theatre Festival, the Shakespeare Unplugged festival and, between 2003 & 2011, the Peter Hall Company Season. Many plays start at the Theatre Royal before their official opening in London.
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- Gadd, David (1971). Georgian Summer. Bath: Adams & Dart Ltd. p. 144. ISBN 0-239-00083-8.
- "A Brief History of The Theatre Royal Bath". Theatre Royal. Retrieved 2009-08-23.
- "Garrick's Head Public House & Theatre Royal". Images of England. English Heritage. Retrieved 2009-08-23.
- Srivastava, Swapnil. "Georgian Architecture". Buzzle. Retrieved 5 May 2011.
- "The Grey Lady". Theatre Royal. Retrieved 5 May 2011.
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- "Refurbishment plans move a step closer as Midas is contracted to work on Bath’s historic theatre". Theatre Royal. Retrieved 12 November 2010.
- "Midas wins refurbishment £2m contract for Bath’s historic theatre". Midas. Retrieved 10 September 2010.
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- "Winners 2011". www.bciawards.org.uk. 2011. Retrieved 14 December 2013.
- Shuttleworth, Ian (18 July 2009). "Please respect FT.com's ts&cs and copyright policy which allow you to: share links; copy content for personal use; & redistribute limited extracts. Email email@example.com to buy additional rights or use this link to reference the article - http://www.ft.com/cms/s/2/73161f3c-7269-11de-ba94-00144feabdc0.html#ixzz1LVnuBTQz The Peter Hall Company at Theatre Royal Bath". Financial Times. Retrieved 5 May 2011.
- "Bath Opens Rivals & Master Class Pre-West End". Whats On Stage. Retrieved 5 May 2011.
- Official website
- Short article and photographs of the theatre
- Theatre Royal, Bath in the Theatres Trust database