Breathing new life into Tivoli Theatre

Tivoli Theatre, Aberdeen

A renovation project to revive the previously derelict Tivoli Theatre in Aberdeen is well underway.

The theatre development will not be fully completed until September 2015 but shows and exhibitions are still being run from the venue. So far the listed building has been made wind and watertight and is showing six performances a year in its 242 seated auditorium.

Premier Construction caught up with the building’s owner and Managing director of the Tivoli Theatre Company Brian Hendry. He said:

“I bought the building in 2009 and had to apply for planning permission from Historic Scotland, The Theatres Trust, and Aberdeen City Council in order to go ahead with the project, as the building is listed. The property was on the Buildings at Risk Register as Critical and so stage one of the scheme was to seal the building off from the elements.

“Project managers G Cheyne Builders installed a new roof, doors, and windows between 2009 and 2012. Work began inside the building in November 2012 and the property’s gallery and auditorium became operational in October 2013. In between the shows we currently run work continues in the auditorium on the dress circle which will be released later on in 2014; this will increase capacity to 500 seats.”

Tivoli Theatre, Aberdeen

The property was built in December 1872 and was named Her Majesty’s Theatre and Opera House, it was designed by the famous theatre architect; C J Phipps. Phipps designed many iconic theatres including the Vaudeville theatre and Theatre royal in London. The building was refurbished in the 1900’s by another renowned architect; Frank Marchum before changing its name to the Tivoli Theatre in 1910.

In 1966 the building closed as a theatre and reopened as a bingo hall before shutting down completely in 1998. The property has since then remained derelict until the current owner, Brian Hendry, purchased the property in 2009.

Brian ensured that the theatre’s historic features were retained during the renovation; this was necessary in order to maintain the building’s listed status. The Victorian auditorium is decorated in the same beautiful plaster work and decorative ceiling art that was originally there 140 years ago. The seating has been modernised but does not detract from the impressive, elegant decorative space.

The construction team and owner Brian Hendry have had to apply for numerous planning permissions throughout the various stages of the theatre’s development which has meant working closely with Aberdeen City Council.

The theatre boasts a beautiful gallery space entitled CNR International Gallery which has already held seven exhibitions since opening in October. The gallery also contains reception rooms as well as refurbished dressing rooms located just off the gallery space. The dressing rooms contain state of the art, modern facilities but still maintain the old 18th century design.

Tivoli Theatre, Aberdeen

The five storey building underwent extensive maintenance work to ensure that the renovation project did not detract from the property’s historic features. No-fines concrete was used to match the concrete to the material originally used on the building, as were used slate tiles to refurbish the roof. The doors were refurbished instead of replaced and the windows were maintained instead of stripped out.

A L1 fire alarm system has been installed so the theatre is rigged up with detection devices and alarms throughout. Brian said the plan in the future is to install three theatre bars in the building and have a capacity of 500 seats; this will be realised in 2015 at the theatres grand opening.

Tivoli Theatre owner Brian Hendry said the theatre is continually growing in popularity:

“People are visiting the building everyday to see the exhibitions; during the pantomime period we had 16 sold out shows. The building has breathed new life into the area after being closed since 1998.

“I wanted to revive the building and showcase its beautiful ceiling and features. It needed saving; it looked like a great theatre and project to renovate. Hopefully we are through the hard part now and can see the end of the building project; now we can start the theatre project and look for shows.”

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