Theatre Royal, Newcastle
Façade of the Theatre Royal
Newcastle upon Tyne
|Owner||Theatre Royal Trust|
|Type||Major regional theatre|
|Capacity||1294 on four levels|
|Opened||20 February 1837|
|Rebuilt||1901 Frank Matcham|
|Architect||John and Benjamin Green|
The theatre was designed by local architects John and Benjamin Green as part of Richard Grainger's grand design for the centre of Newcastle, and was opened on 20 February 1837 with a performance of The Merchant of Venice. One of the first manager's here was Thomas Ternan who employed his wife, Frances Ternan as the main actress.
Following a performance of William Shakespeare's play Macbeth, a huge fire destroyed the interior of the building in 1899. It had its interior redesigned by Frank Matcham and reopened on 31 December 1901. The theatre's restaurant is named after Matcham. Externally, the building is exactly as it was when it was first built.
The Theatre Royal went dark on 14 March 2011 due to a major restoration of the auditorium, box office, bars and restaurant. The restoration restoredo the theatre to the original 1901 Frank Matcham Edwardian interior. The whole interior was stripped apart from the original plaster work which was carefully preserved. The proscenium arch, tiers and boxes have all been gold leafed and the plaster work restored. On all levels the seats have been replaced with Edwardian style theatre seats in keeping with the restoration. The amphitheatre which was removed during previous renovations has been restored and offers more leg room and better views than the gallery. This takes the theatre to five distinct seating areas, the stalls, grand circle, upper circle, amphitheatre and gallery. Wheelchair spaces have been installed on levels which had previously been inaccessible. As well as the boxes near the stage, boxes at the rear of the grand and upper circles have also been restored taking the total number of boxes up to ten. The stage lift and orchestra pit have been replaced to offer better facilities for opera and musicals. A new ventilation system has been put in place to improve comfort levels in the theatre. New frescos for the lobby and upper circle were commissioned and put in place. This £4.75m project is also introducing the highest modern standards of comfort and improving energy and carbon efficiency. The Theatre Royal reopened on 12 September 2011 with the Alan Bennett’s epic period drama The Madness of George III; George III was in fact the monarch who gave the Theatre Royal its charter.
The theatre hosts a variety of shows, including ballet, contemporary dance, drama, musicals and opera. The Royal Shakespeare Company visits annually, and considers the Theatre Royal its northern base. The Christmas pantomime is also very popular.
Almost all of the shows that come to the Theatre Royal are part of a national British tour, and in a typical year the theatre will have 30 to 35 visiting shows. For the annual pantomime, and any visiting musicals and opera performances, there is a sizeable orchestral pit available. This can seat 60 musicians if necessary. The stage itself is also of substantial size, and can house 50 singers, dancers, actors and musicians.
The Original Theatre Royal
Newcastle's original Theatre Royal opened on 21 January 1788. Its location on Mosley Street obstructed plans for the redevelopment of the city centre (as it was on the route of Grey Street), so it was demolished to make way for the present building. One of the theatre's most successful managers at this time was Stephen Kemble of the famous Kemble family, who managed the theatre from 1791 to 1806. The original theatre's final performance was on 25 June 1836.
The theatre has a proscenium stage, and accommodates a variable orchestra pit on 2 lifts - which reduces the stall seating. The audience is seated on four levels: stalls (501), grand circle (252), upper circle (249) and gallery (247).
- Thomas Ternan, John Simkin, Spartacus Educational, retrieved 19 January 2015