Theatre Royal: State-of-the-art learning
Plans for a £3.8 million brand new state-of-the-art learning, training and skills centre at Norwich Theatre Royal are currently underway.
The new centre known as Stage Two, which was officially announced last year, will be built on the site of a now demolished Victorian church hall at the rear of the theatre. It will play a pivotal role in a drive to embed the performing arts in every school in Norfolk by providing access to arts-based education activities for students predominantly in the secondary sector.
It will also become a permanent home to the theatre’s highly popular and expanding Theatre Arts Courses, whose young people regularly perform on the Theatre Royal stage, and it will provide training courses for local businesses drawing on drama-based techniques to develop leadership and presentation skills in employees.
Peter Wilson, Chief Executive of Norwich Theatre Royal commented: “This is something that is absolutely needed. We have outgrown our present building and wanted to expand our education work. We first had the idea in 2008 but it has taken a while to get round to actually doing the project.”
Work on the project started in October 2015 with plans for the new building to be handed over to the theatre on 17 June 2016. The development will then be fitted out in July, with some projects taking place in August, before the building is opened properly in September. The main contractors on the project are RG Carter and the main architects are Feilden+Mawson.
The four storey building will include a flexible performance space with seating for up to 100 people to be used by junior and adult performers from the Theatre Arts Courses. Built to high quality environmental standards, it will house workshop rooms for the delivery of courses, rehearsal spaces, two dressing rooms, a light industrial workshop and office space for the theatre’s education and Arts Courses departments, which are expected to expand with up to four new jobs being created.
As a successful regional theatre, and one of the busiest in the country, the Theatre Royal hosted 55 productions (not including one-nighters) in 2014/2015 – a thriving programme which in turn drives its work as an educational charity which has seen it work with 92% of Norfolk’s secondary schools and 90% of its primary schools.
Its educational arm also provides work experience placements for students and runs the twice-yearly Norfolk Schools Project, which has so far seen over 100 schools create operas from scratch before performing them on the Norwich Theatre Royal stage; plus it is involved in an ‘umbrella trust’ with Norwich schools Arden Grove Infants and Hellesdon High School, who work on cross-curricular projects with the theatre and visiting productions.
In conjunction with visiting production companies, the theatre’s education department helps provide resource packs for teachers and, for around one third of those pupils, it also provides a deeper learning experience in the form of pre and post show talks and workshops – a figure it hopes to almost double with the use of extra space in the new centre, which will enable it to cater for larger groups of young people.
Peter added: “We are the only theatre of our kind in the country that will have a dedicated building for education. It will start with seven years olds and finish – goodness knows at what age. This project is a culmination of my 25 years with the theatre. The Theatre Royal is an educational charity, but we’ve had to make do in our present building until now. So this is the logical next step for a theatre of our size and ambitions.”
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