When the Haymarket Theatre closed its doors to the public, it was with a heavy heart but now almost 10 years later, the theatre has reopened with a new lease of life. Pukaar Magazine speaks to the venue’s Marketing and PR Director, Natalie Cheary.
The theatre had a soft opening earlier this year following a £3.6 million investment, and will now run as a multi-purpose venue. “The council needed somebody to take on the project of completely refurbishing it and were waiting on a bid that they could invest in and that’s when the consortium was put together. Our business model was to turn it into a receiving house, as a purely commercial venture.”
Built in 1972 as part of the Haymarket Shopping Centre, the theatre was and still is located above the retail units below.
Even though the building had fallen into severe disrepair it did not seem to faze those involved. The actual idea to reopen the venue came from Chris Knight who is now a Consortium member: “He was rehearsing a play in the building about four years ago and was looking around the building and had a crazy idea and thought “what if one day we could bring this building back to life” and that’s where the spark initiated.
And so began a 10 month revamp which involved a massive amount of work including refitting all the technical equipment and all the electricals for it to function as a theatre. There’s also been a huge amount of work that’s being done to the lift, stage, backstage, seating, toilets and more to ensure that anyone with restricted mobility, feels comfortable and safe using the facilities.
“There’s an office floor that’s still being worked on and a lot of things behind the scenes still happening – so we’re not a completed project but the building is able to hold trial events, so that’s what we’ve been doing since March. Hopefully by Autumn/Winter we’ll have an all singing, all dancing grand opening.”
As well as updating equipment, the building itself has enjoyed a makeover; a brand-new entrance has been created, automatic doors lead into a remodelled lobby area, with glazed walls now flooding the space with light. The theatre’s two bars have been fully refurbished and inside the revamped auditorium, 901 seats have been installed offering impressive views of the stage – the largest in the UK.
So far, and unsurprisingly, the public’s reaction has been brilliant: “The thing with this building is that there’s a lot of love for it in the city. A lot of people have very happy memories of it. It was a huge part of the community back then and that love still remains. We’ve seen people reduced to tears as they’ve walked through the doors because it still feels the same.”
A new major change to the venue is that it will now be able to stream and broadcast live events from, making it versatile enough for a wide range of events and live performance, including the rapidly-growing e-sports industry.
The future of the theatre and the area itself looks bright and Natalie believes its kick started a whole new regeneration process: “It’s a big multi-cultural city with a lot going on and we should be attracting people from all over the country. We’ve got a hub in the Haymarket which didn’t have a great deal going and now there is a huge venue, there’s a new hotel opening, they’re doing some work on the car park and Sir Peter Soulsby has got some nice plans for the main road, that the Haymarket is on. It’s all slotted in together.”
By keya Modessa