New Vic Theatre
The New Vic Theatre is situated in Newcastle-under-Lyme, Staffordshire. It was purpose-built as a theatre in the round and opened in 1986, replacing a converted cinema, the Victoria Theatre, Hartshill, Stoke-on-Trent.
In the early 1960s Stephen Joseph was searching for a permanent base for his Studio Theatre company, which specialised in theatrical productions "in the round", that is with audience on all sides. He found it in a disused cinema in Hartshill, Stoke, which was converted to theatrical use and opened as a playhouse on 9 October 1962. The first resident director was Peter Cheeseman, and he remained in control for 36 years, bar a period in 1967/8 where he was temporarily replaced by the management.
The company soon established a reputation for innovative productions of both new and classic works. A particular focus was on plays with a local subject, such as The Knotty, about the North Staffordshire Railway, The Fight for Shelton Bar, about the closure of a local steelworks, and Jolly Potters.
As well as drama, the venue was also used for classical and other music. The square layout of the performance area and audience created an excellent acoustic for chamber music. The Lindsay String Quartet performed there regularly in the 1970s.
By 1985, over 280 productions had been staged. The need was felt for a larger, purpose-built building from the very start, and this was created in nearby Newcastle-under-Lyme and opened its doors in 1986 after many years of fundraising, negotiation with local councils and construction. The new venue took the name The New Victoria Theatre, often abbreviated to "New Vic" - and this shortened name was formally adopted later. Whereas the old theatre had a seating capacity of 389, the main auditorium in the new theatre has a capacity of just over 600, with the audience surrounding a central stage as before. The acoustics for music are good and the Lindsay String Quartet performed there regularly, as they had done at the old theatre.
In 1998 Peter Cheeseman retired as Artistic Director, and was succeeded by Gwenda Hughes. In 2007 she in turn was succeeded by Theresa Heskins.