York Theatre Royal – Reopening date revealed as ‘before and after’ images show what we can expect

York Theatre Royal. Photograph: De Matos Ryan
22 Feb 2016 @ 9.25 pm
| Environment, History
How the exterior of the Theatre Royal looked before the revamp. Photograph: Jim Poyner
Before: How the exterior of the Theatre Royal looked before the revamp. Photograph: Jim Poyner

York Theatre Royal will reopen on Friday, April 22 – having had £2 million more spent on it than previously planned.

Now the total investment will come to £6 million, rather than the £4.1 million originally budgeted.

The 270-year-old building’s new owners York Conservation Trust – which bought the theatre for £1 from City of York Council last year – have stumped up the extra money, mostly to replace its roof structures.

After more than a year of work, what can we expect when it reopens?

The exterior

The exterior of the theatre after the redevelopment. Photograph: De Matos Ryan
After: The exterior of the theatre after the redevelopment. Photograph: De Matos Ryan

The gothic colonnade, once exposed to the elements, will be enclosed by glass, creating a warm and inviting entrance.

The theatre's colonnade (aka wind tunnel) before the work began. Photograph: Jim Poyner
Before: The theatre’s colonnade (aka wind tunnel) before the work began. Photograph: Jim Poyner
And afterwards. Photograph: De Matos Ryan
After: And afterwards. Photograph: De Matos Ryan

The box office and foyer

The cramped Box Office before the theatre closed. Photograph: Jim Poyner
Before: The cramped Box Office before the theatre closed. Photograph: Jim Poyner

The extended foyer has been “reimagined to reflect the ways the community and wider audience engage with the space”.

New seating areas have been incorporated into the layout with a new cafe and bistro offering freshly-made deli snacks and main meals with ingredients from the best of local Yorkshire suppliers.

The cafe will not open earlier than the main house, as previously expected.

Polished terrazzo flooring in grey and white will reflect the outlines of the mediaeval foundations remaining below, bringing the history of the building into the modern space.

…and this is how it will look after the transformation. Photograph: De Matos Ryan
After: …and this is how it will look after the transformation. Photograph: De Matos Ryan

The auditorium

How we remember the seats. Photograph: Jim Poyner
Before: How we remember the seats. Photograph: Jim Poyner

Sightlines will dramatically improve with a new rake to the stalls enhancing the intimacy of the auditorium. The dress circle and gallery will get new seating and raking to maximise capacity and improve comfort and sightlines.

The main stage will be reconstructed in a modular form, allowing it to be adapted or removed entirely, offering a flexibility that is rarely seen in such an historic theatre.

The new layout will enable traps and level changes to be provided with ease adding to the versatility of productions and making the theatre more suitable for touring productions and dance companies.

More comfort, better sightlines… The new look. Photograph: De Matos Ryan
After: More comfort, better sightlines… The new look. Photograph: De Matos Ryan

Chief executive of York Conservation Trust Philip Thake said:

In this time of austerity and lack of funds in local government, it seemed appropriate for us to step in and purchase the property.

We will now guarantee its future and have long term plans for even more improvements to other parts of the property which will further enhance the theatre’s offering to the local community

New season

Castle Howard, said to be the inspiration for Brideshead. Photograph: York Theatre Royal
Castle Howard, said to be the inspiration for Brideshead. Photograph: York Theatre Royal

The first season in the new-look theatre will include:

Brideshead Revisited In the latest adaptation of Evelyn Waugh’s much-loved novel, Charles Ryder, Sebastian Flyte, Lord and Lady Marchmain and the rest of them will take to the Theatre Royal stage (April 22-30)

Flare Path Another 1940s drama, Flare Path paints an evocative portrait of life in wartime Britain for the RAF bomber crews, their wives and sweethearts, who were left awaiting their return. Based on Terence Rattigan’s experiences as a tail gunner during the Second World War (May 3-7)

Sherlock Holmes: The Hound Of The Baskervilles On the back of last summer’s hugely popular production of The Railway Children, this new version of Sherlock Holmes will be a fun-filled family show, using all the features of the theatre’s brand new stage to great effect (July 29-August 27)