Royal & Derngate

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Royal & Derngate
Main entrance
Address 1 Guildhall Road
Northampton, Northamptonshire
Coordinates 52°14′10″N 0°53′37″W / 52.2362°N 0.8936°W / 52.2362; -0.8936
Owner Northampton Theatres Trust
Designation Grade II listed (Royal)
Capacity 583 (Royal)
1,200 (Derngate)
90 (Filmhouse)
Current use In-house productions
National touring productions
Opened 1884 (Royal)
1983 (Derngate)
2006 (Royal & Derngate)
2013 (Errol Flynn Filmhouse)
Rebuilt 1887 C J Phipps (fire)
2005 (refurbishment)
Architect C J Phipps (Royal)
Aedas RHWL (Derngate)
Royal & Derngate website

Royal & Derngate is a theatre complex in the Cultural Quarter of Northampton, England, consisting of the Royal Theatre and the Derngate Theatre. 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;[1] 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;[2] 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."[3] James Dacre took over as Artistic Director in 2013. It was shortlisted for the Regional Theatre of the Year Award again in 2016.[4]

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.


Entrance to the Royal on Guildhall Road in May 2013

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.[5] It opened on 5 May 1884 with a production of William Shakespeare's Twelfth Night.[6] 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.[7] In January 1977, scenes for the Doctor Who serial The Talons of Weng-Chiang were shot inside the theatre.[8] 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.

Recent years[edit]

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.[9] 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.[9] 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.[9]

Most money was spent on making the theatres "more comfortable for the audiences" with new seats and air conditioning.[10] 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.[10] 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.[10]

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.[10]

A view of the Royal & Derngate complex from Swan Street in 2013. In 2015 an hotel was constructed in the car park in front of the building obscuring this view.

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.

Recent success[edit]

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[edit]

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.

2014 season
Show Duration Director Notes
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
2013 season
Show Duration Director Notes
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
2012 season
Show Duration Director Notes
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
2011 season
Show Duration Director Notes
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
2010 season
Show Duration Director Notes
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
2009 season
Show Duration Director Notes
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
2008 season
Show Duration Director Notes
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
2007 season
Show Duration Director Notes
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
2006 season
Show Duration Director Notes
Follies 20 October – 18 November Laurie Sansom Nominated—TMA Award for Best Musical Production
Pinocchio 5 December 2006 — 13 January 2007 Lu Kemp

Errol Flynn Filmhouse[edit]

Errol Flynn Filmhouse
Errol Flynn Filmhouse - part of Derngate Theatre Complex, Northampton, England.jpg
Errol Flynn Filmhouse is attached to Royal & Derngate
Address Derngate, Northampton, NN1 1UD
Location Northampton, England, UK
Owner Northampton Theatres Trust
Type Cinema
Capacity 88
Built 2013
Opened 2013

The Errol Flynn Filmhouse is a cinema located in the Cultural Quarter of Northampton and is named after the actor Errol Flynn. Flynn spent 18 months as an actor in the nearby Royal Theatre during 1934 and 1935 before heading for Hollywood. The cinema has a capacity of 90 and is attached to the theatre complex. The cinema opened on June 20, 2013, Flynn's birthday.[11][12]


The first film shown was Behind the Candelebra. With the first public screening being Summer in February.[13]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ England, Historic. "THEATRE ROYAL - 1039681 - Historic England". Retrieved 9 August 2016. 
  2. ^ "London Theatre News, Reviews, Interviews and more - WhatsOnStage". Retrieved 9 August 2016. 
  3. ^ "Town theatre wins national award". 6 January 2011. Retrieved 9 August 2016 – via 
  4. ^ "Royal & Derngate nominated as regional theatre of year in The Stage awards". Retrieved 9 August 2016. 
  5. ^ Henry Bird and his Theatrical Mural on the Ashcroft Theatre Safety Curtain, Croydon
  6. ^ Pevsner, Nikolaus (1961). The Buildings of England – Northamptonshire. London and New Haven: Yale University Press. p. 334. ISBN 978-0-300-09632-3. 
  7. ^ Connelly, Gerry (1998). Errol Flynn in Northampton. Domra Publications. ISBN 978-0-9524417-2-4. 
  8. ^ "The Talons Of Weng-Chiang". A Brief History Of Time (Travel). Retrieved 21 December 2013. 
  9. ^ a b c "Accounts". Retrieved 9 August 2016. 
  10. ^ a b c d "Dramatic changes at the Royal and Derngate". BBC. Retrieved 9 August 2016. 
  11. ^ "Northampton's new Errol Flynn Filmhouse cinema to open next week". Northampton Chronicle & Echo. June 12, 2013. 
  12. ^ "Cine-files: Errol Flynn Filmhouse, Northampton". The Guardian. September 24, 2013. 
  13. ^ "Errol Flynn Filmhouse: Northampton cinema set to open". BBC. June 12, 2013. 


  • Guide to British Theatres 1750-1950, John Earl and Michael Sell pp. 170–71 (Theatres Trust, 2000) ISBN 0-7136-5688-3

External links[edit]