Theatre Royal, Nottingham
The theatre’s logo, incorporating the city’s coat of arms
City Centre, Nottingham
|Owner||Nottingham City Council|
|Type||Proscenium arch theatre|
|Capacity||1,186 (4 levels)|
|Current use||Touring venue|
|Years active||31 years (since refurbishment)|
|Architect||Charles J. Phipps|
The Theatre Royal in Nottingham, England, is a venue in the heart of Nottingham City Centre and is owned by Nottingham City Council as part of a complex that also includes the city’s Royal Concert Hall. The Theatre Royal attracts major touring dramas, opera, ballet, West End musicals and an annual pantomime.
The Theatre Royal was completed in 1865, after six months of work and costing the clients te Nottingham Theatre Company, owned by lace manufacturers John and William Lambert £15,000. The Classic façade and Corinthian columns designed by Charles J. Phipps are still a major Nottingham landmark.
The Theatre Royal opened on Monday, 25 September 1865 with Sheridan’s The School for Scandal. Its managers staged the full range of productions. For some six years to early 1897 the manager was H Cecil Beryl before he went off on his own account to operate and then buy theatres in Glasgow including its Royal Princess`s Theatre.
The new lessee from 1897 was the newly formed limited company The Robert Arthur Theatres Ltd which had theatres in Scotland such as Her Majesty`s in Dundee and in England, such as the Theatre Royal, Newcastle. Robert Arthur, from Glasgow, now floated his company on the Stock Exchange. He presented the whole range of acclaimed plays, opera, revues and pantomimes until the company ran out of funds in 1912. At this point Michael Simons also of Glasgow, chairman and founder of Howard & Wyndham Ltd, became chairman of the Robert Arthur group with the Arthur theatres now operated under the same directors and managers of Howard & Wyndham. When the long lease ended in 1924 the theatre was bought outright by Moss Empires.
Baroness Orczy’s The Scarlet Pimpernel (1903) was first produced at the Theatre Royal by Fred Terry and Julia Neilson before being published as a novel. Although initially the play was met with little success, the novel is credited with influencing the mystery genre and arguably creating the ‘masked hero’ genre.
On October 6, 1952, the theatre made history with the world premiere of The Mousetrap (as part of a pre-West End tour). The play has gone on to be the longest-running theatrical production in the world.
In 1969 the city council bought the theatre and began restoring it at a cost of £4 million in the day, re-opening it in 1978. It was in need of restoration and had earned a reputation as one of the worst theatres for backstage conditions in the country.
It was officially reopened 6 June 1978 by Princess Anne who was “impressed and delighted” and said “…what an improvement on the old place. All you had there was the smell of gas.” Inside she met with “…City Council leader Coun. Jack Green…” and unveiled a plaque in the foyer.
Phipps’ Building – 1865
The elegant portico, with its six Corinthian columns of Ancaster stone; owe much to the desire of the Lamberts to build a prestigious theatre. Indeed, the orientation of the portico was designed to afford maximum effect, closing a new street from the Great Market Place, Market Street (originally named Theatre Street).
The original capacity was 2,200, made up as follows:
Dress Circle - 250
Private Boxes - 50
Upper Boxes - 250
Pit - 850
Gallery - 800
Matcham’s remodelling – 1897
The noted theatrical architect Frank Matcham was engaged to build the new Empire Palace of Varieties next door. The Theatre Royal was closed between the end of April and September 1897 for remodelling. The works included building new dressing rooms at the rear to clear part of the site for the Empire. Matcham also refashioned the existing auditorium.
Frank Matcham pioneered the use of cantilevered steel in his designs, and patented his design. This allowed balconies to be built without the use of supporting pillars; which had characterised the work of the previous generation of theatre architects, such as Phipps. Without pillars, lowering the stage and increasing the rake of the tiers: sight lines were much improved and the audience capacity increased to around 3,000.
The building today
The theatre has four tiers of seating, the stalls, dress circle, upper circle and balcony with a total capacity of 1,186 seats. It has seven fully licensed bars including The Green Room Cafe Bar on the ground floor and The Restaurant on the dress circle level.
The theatre has an annual pantomime, usually starring local or national celebrities. Some of them include;
2018 Peter Pan
1999 Snow White.
1996 Peter Pan.
1975 Robin Hood with The Patton Brothers.
- "General Information - History". Royalcentre-nottingham.co.uk. Archived from the original on 29 September 2010. Retrieved 18 October 2010.
- "Theatre Royal in Nottingham". Theatresonline.com. Retrieved 18 October 2010.
- Iliffe, Richard (1972). Victorian Nottingham - Volume 7. Nottingham: Nottingham Historical Film Unit. p. 41.
- The Theatre Royal: Entertaining a Nation, by Graeme Smith, published 2008
- "Her Majesty's Theatre, Seagate, Dundee". Arthurlloyd.co.uk. Retrieved 10 December 2018.
- "The Theatre Royal, 282 Hope Street, Cowcaddens, Glasgow". Arthurlloyd.co.uk. Retrieved 10 December 2018.
- "General Information - History". Royalcentre-nottingham.co.uk. Retrieved 18 October 2010.
- "Royal seal of approval!". Evening Post. Nottingham. 7 June 1978. p. 11.
- "Restaurants and Bars". Royalcentre-nottingham.co.uk. Retrieved 18 October 2010.
- "Nottingham Express Transit : Tram Stops : Royal Centre". TheTrams.co.uk. Retrieved 18 August 2015.
- "Archive Listings". Arts-archive.co.uk. Retrieved 18 October 2010.
- "Aladdin". Royalcentre-nottingham.co.uk. Retrieved 18 October 2010.
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