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£4 million revamp for York Theatre Royal
PLANS for a £4 million revamp of York Theatre Royal – one of the biggest projects in its history – have been revealed.
Bosses at the St Leonard’s Place venue have bid for £2.8 million in Arts Council funding for a scheme which would see its auditorium close for about eight months so improvements can be made.
The overhaul would also see the theatre’s entrance, foyer and public areas, including the café and bar, being improved to provide more space and better access.
City of York Council has made an “in principle” pledge of £500,000 towards the work, with the theatre – famed for its annual pantomime and acclaimed for its role in the York Mystery Plays – raising the rest of the cost.
The Arts Council is set to confirm in January whether the first stage of the theatre’s bid has succeeded, and if it has, proposals would be moved forward and a full planning application would be submitted.
A final decision on the project is expected to be made next August, with the aim of carrying out the work between March and November 2014 so the theatre’s pantomime season is not affected.
During the auditorium’s closure, the theatre - owned by York Citizens Theatre Trust - would look to stage performances elsewhere. Its chief executive Liz Wilson said talks were being held with potential other venues.
She said the scheme was “essential” to increase the theatre’s income and safeguard its future, saying: “We do world-class theatre in a world-class city, but at the moment we do not have the world-class building to go with it.
“The entrance to the theatre does not reflect the quality of what happens here and we have to take it to the next stage. People quite rightly expect more from a visit to the theatre, and there is a limit to how often they will come if the facilities are not good enough.
“This project would be a significant investment - we are not talking about the sort of money we would put aside for regular refurbishment. It is much bigger than that. But I genuinely believe we have a responsibility to the future of this organisation and will be fulfilling that through this work.”
Plans drawn up by architects Levitt Bernstein – who have worked on many theatres, including Manchester’s Royal Exchange, – said the auditorium scheme would alter the seating rake of the stalls to “improve intimacy”, reseat the dress and upper circles and rebuild the stage. I
ts capacity would be reduced by about 50, but the firm said an improvement in the “actor-audience relationship” would compensate for this.
The theatre said staffing levels and income from ticket sales would not be affected by the work due to performances being staged at other venues, while the bar and café would not close.