Derby Theatre

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Derby Theatre
Derby Playhouse (1975–2008)
Derby Theatre.jpg
Derby Theatre entrance viewed from Theatre Walk
Address Derby
United Kingdom
Coordinates 52°55′13″N 1°28′17″W / 52.92024°N 1.4715°W / 52.92024; -1.4715Coordinates: 52°55′13″N 1°28′17″W / 52.92024°N 1.4715°W / 52.92024; -1.4715
Owner University of Derby
Type Proscenium
Capacity 535
Opened 1975
Architect Roderick Ham

Derby Theatre is a theatre situated in Derby, England. Formerly known as the Derby Playhouse, it was owned and run by Derby Playhouse Ltd from its opening in 1975 until 2008, when the company ceased operating after a period in administration. The theatre was reopened in 2009 as the Derby Theatre under the ownership of the University of Derby, who use it as a professional and learning theatre. In addition to the 535 seat main auditorium, the building contains a 110-seat studio theatre for experimental productions.


For details of the pre-2009 productions at the theatre and its original owners, see Derby Playhouse

Roderick Ham, who had already designed the Thorndike Theatre, Leatherhead, was commissioned to design the theatre, and the Derby City Council offered the site as part of the new shopping development, the Eagle Centre. It was officially opened as the Derby Playhouse on 20 September 1975 by the 11th Duke of Devonshire.[1]

From its opening until October 2008, the theatre was owned and operated by Derby Playhouse Ltd. The company, which had a history going back to 1948, opened its first season in the new theatre with My Fair Lady, followed by Hamlet and concluding the following summer with Alan Bates in The Seagull. Serious financial difficulties emerged in 2007, and in October 2008, Derby Playhouse Ltd. ceased operating after a period in administration. The company's last production at the theatre was The Killing of Sister George starring Jenny Eclair.[2]

The theatre was reopened in October 2009 as the Derby Theatre under the ownership of the University of Derby. The first two productions were by the Derby Gilbert & Sullivan Company who performed The Gondoliers and The Mikado.[3] The University of Derby originally operated the venue in partnership with Derby LIVE, the city council's performing arts programme with the theatre used for both visiting professional companies and as a learning and community theatre. This partnership came to end in March 2012 when responsibility for all areas of the operation were returned to the University who operate the theatre with the support of the Arts Council England.[4] In May 2012 it was confirmed that Derby Theatre would receive £923,000 over three years from the Arts Council England to support a Learning Theatre Pilot programme. The University also offered financial support of up to £500,000 per year from its Arts fund.[5]

Auditorium after 2012 refurbishment

The theatre launched a fundraising campaign to help with restoration costs, and the main auditorium seating and carpets were refurbished in August 2012 in time for the autumn season.[6] The old Arts College and Metro Cinema building on Green Lane (an historic building owned by the University of Derby) was restored and adapted for the theatre's use with spaces for rehearsals, prop storage, and the wardrobe department. The rehearsal spaces were opened in December 2012 by the theatre's newly appointed Artistic Director, Sarah Brigham; general manager, Gary Johnson; and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Derby, John Coyne.[7]

In November 2013 it was announced that Esmée Fairbairn Foundation would be awarding a grant of £164,000 to the theatre to support the development of its work as a learning theatre and in particular to focus on supporting emerging artists, developing creative skills and working with community groups.[8]


Former actor, Gary Johnson, has been the Derby Theatre's general manager since its opening in 2009.[9] Sarah Brigham was appointed as the theatre's first resident Artistic Director in October 2012 to take up her post alongside Johnson in January 2013. Brigham was previously the Artistic Director of The Point, Eastleigh and is a former Associate Director of the Dundee Repertory Theatre.[10]


The first season of works programmed by the venue itself (April – June 2012) included Yes, Prime Minister, Funny Peculiar, Horrible Histories and a co-production of The Butterfly Lion in association with New Perspectives Theatre Company and Curve Theatre.[11] Autumn 2012 saw a number of productions including Radio Times, Three Men in a Boat, Driving Miss Daisy and The Haunting. The 2013 season featured productions of The Pitmen Painters, James and the Giant Peach and a new touring production of Birdsong.[12] Since its re-opening, the theatre has staged an annual children's classic during the Christmas season. In 2012, it presented a musical theatre adaptation of Charlotte's Web in conjunction with The Birmingham Stage Company.[13]

The first production commissioned and produced by the theatre under the artistic directorship of Sarah Brigham was Lee Hall’s Cooking with Elvis which was directed by Mark Babych in May 2013.[14] The first show directed by Sarah Brigham was Kes in September 2013 and featured former Skins actor Sam Jackson in his first stage role.Visiting productions included Go Back for Murder and September in the Rain and a co-production with the Mercury Theatre, Colchester of The Opinion Makers by Brian Mitchell and Joseph Nixon. The theatre teamed up with Birmingham Stage Company again to produce Horrible Histories Horrible Christmas in December 2013 which was directed by Phil Clark. The author Terry Deary attended the first preview performance, signed copies of his books and launched the Derby citywide Plus One scheme.[15]


In November 2013 the Theatre was recognised for its partnership with the University of Derby by winning the Excellence and Innovation in the Arts award at the 2013 THE Awards.[16]

Blanche McIntyre won the award for Best Director for The Seagull, a co-production with Headlong, Nuffield, Southampton and Derby Theatre at the UK Theatre Awards 2013.[17]


  1. ^ BBC News. (20 September 2005). "Replacement for Playhouse urged". Retrieved 10 January 2013.
  2. ^ Derby Telegraph (13 September 2008). "Abridged Version Of Playhouse Drama". Retrieved 10 January 2013.
  3. ^ Derby Telegraph (8 October 2009). "Theatre stages a remarkable comeback" Archived 19 September 2012 at Retrieved 10 January 2013.
  4. ^ Derby Telegraph (13 January 2012). "It's all change for Derby Theatre". Retrieved 10 January 2013.
  5. ^ Derby Telegraph (4 May 2012). "Derby Theatre's relief as three years of Arts Council cash is secured". Retrieved 10 January 2013.
  6. ^ Derby Telegraph (19 September 2012). "Curtain up on Derby Theatre's £80k revamp". Retrieved 10 January 2013
  7. ^ ArtsDerbyshire (4 December 2012). "Derby Theatre branches out across the city". Retrieved 14 January 2013.
  8. ^ British Theatre Guide (16 November 2013). "Grant means Derby Theatre “more secure” than ever". Retrieved 7 December 2013.
  9. ^ Derby Telegraph (2 October 2009). "Ex-actor takes on theatre role". Retrieved 10 January 2013.
  10. ^ Merrifield, Nicola (16 October 2012). "Derby Theatre announces first resident artistic director". The Stage. Retrieved 10 January 2013.
  11. ^ Derby Telegraph (16 December 2011). "Comedy top of the agenda in Derby Theatre's debut season". Retrieved 10 January 2013
  12. ^ Derby Telegraph (3 December 2012). "Pitmen Painters head colourful season as Derby Theatre unveils spring line-up. Retrieved 10 January 2013
  13. ^ Powlson, Nigel (19 December 2012). "Heart-warming tale of a pig, a man and a spider" Archived 7 January 2013 at the Wayback Machine.. Burton Mail. Retrieved 10 January 2013.
  14. ^ The Guardian (2 May 2013)."Cooking With Elvis Review"
  15. ^ Derby Telegraph (2 May 2013).Famous author and Rams skipper Shaun Barker launch foster kids’ project[permanent dead link]
  16. ^ Derby Telegraph (7 December 2013).Derby Theatre wins national award Archived 13 December 2013 at the Wayback Machine.
  17. ^ WhatsOnStage (20 October 2013).'Sheffield dominates UK Theatre Awards Archived 11 December 2013 at the Wayback Machine.

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