Visitors will have new opportunities to enjoy the fascinating history of this unique Theatre, thanks to a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) and a generous bequest from former associate director Paul Iles that together total more than £500,000.
The Grade I listed Georgian Theatre Royal contains the only 18th century auditorium still existing in its original form and also possesses the UK’s oldest surviving set of scenery, The Woodland Scene, which was painted between 1818 and 1836.
Although the Theatre runs popular guided tours and has a small exhibition area, lack of space has created difficulties in displaying its heritage to full advantage. Much archive material, including some from the legacy of the late Paul Iles, is not currently available to the public. Some material has never been viewed, including historic playbills, images and scripts dating from the Georgian era to the present day.
With a grant of more than £286,000 from HLF and the bequest of over £231,000, the project will change all that and do much more besides. A new education and learning centre, in memory of Paul Iles, will be created in the Studio and will include a fully accessible classroom space with a lift, updated kitchen and new toilet facilities.
The existing Theatre exhibition space behind the stage will receive a makeover with new information and layout, including the Woodland scenery that could not previously be displayed to best effect.
As well as a small archive area, a new online archive will also be created with QR codes displayed within the building to provide visitors with information on smart phones as they enjoy a tour.
Volunteers are the life blood of the Theatre and the project will depend on their continuing support and commitment. There will be training for Theatre guides, and volunteers will help create the online archive. Members of the community will also be given the chance to learn about Georgian costume making.
In addition to reinforcing the Georgian’s role as an international tourist attraction, local schools will be encouraged to use Theatre visits as a teaching resource. The award-winning Youth Theatre will be invited to create a script for a dramatic performance that will focus on Georgian lifestyle, leisure and work.