Standing ovation for restoration of Newcastle Theatre Royal

PUBLISHED: 18:32 27 September 2011 | UPDATED: 20:04 20 February 2013

After Restoration - Newcastle Theatre Royal, Credit Rory Gibson.jpg

After Restoration - Newcastle Theatre Royal, Credit Rory Gibson.jpg

The 'crowning glory of Grey Street', Newcastle's Theatre Royal, has reopened to the public after one of the biggest and most meticulous theatre restorations in recorded history. Andrew Smith was one of the first through the doors

We emerge from the dark claustrophobia of the backstage alleyways into an opulent, awe-inspiring chamber of deep warmth and glittering light - and mutter Wow.

Such is the beauty of the auditorium of Newcastle Theatre Royal following its 4.9 million restoration that it takes the breath away.

It has taken 500 workmen six months to undo the architectural and decorative tampering of the past 175 years - not all of it sympathetic - and to recreate the features and colour schemes as near as painstaking research permits to the Victorian elegance that greeted equally awestruck patrons when the theatre opened.

The Theatre Royal is probably Newcastles most treasured building and everything from carpets to brasswork, light fittings to wallpaper, lost tilework to ornate gold-leaf plasterwork has been meticulously recreated in exquisite detail from original 1901 designs, photographs and catalogues by specialist craftsmen from across Europe. Now work is complete and the Grade I listed auditorium in the greatest building on Britains greatest street, is once again offering the best, and most authentic, theatre experience in
the UK.

Seats are now much more comfortable, with more leg room and a better view of the stage, plus there are now two new luxury boxes in the Grand Circle, and a superb Amphitheatre in the Gallery.

David Wilmore, a theatre consultant and Matcham expert who has advised the project said: This is the biggest and most meticulous theatre restoration I have ever worked on.

Nothing is off-the-shelf here. Everything has been bespoke-made using traditional techniques, and for that reason the project signifies a fundamental shift in how we approach conservation in the 21st century.

Lighting, air conditioning and technical facilities have all been upgraded; foyers, toilets and stairways have been renovated, and there is an all-new restaurant for theatre-goers.

In total, 37,000 pieces of gold leaf were used to coat the plasterwork in the auditorium.

The Theatre Royal attracts the very best in productions and performers from around the world, but now theres a new star on show - the theatre itself. I would pay just to sit there in the glow of a masterpiece.

The print version of this article appeared in the October 2011 issue of North East Life

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