Though I’m now a Yorkshire lass, I was once Nottingham based and Nottingham Theatre Royal remains a favourite haunt of mine. I may get to visit it far less than I once did but there’s plenty to love about the very first theatre I remember visiting. The Theatre Royal is operated jointly with The Royal Concert Hall next door, so here are five things to love about this dynamic duo of arts venues…
1. The team. I may sound like a stuck record but it can’t be helped – truth is truth! This venue suffers no bad eggs and is run by a very lovely, always happy to help bunch at every level I’ve had dealings with. Despite not being local any more Press & PR Manager Lucy Thomas is a dream to work with and always does her best to accommodate – you can’t say fairer than that!
2. Location and two-for-one dynamic. You don’t get more hub-based than Nottingham Theatre Royal and Concert Hall. Not only do the venues sit side by side in the heart of Nottingham, they’re a stone’s throw from the Cornerhouse and a wide variety of pubs and eateries (as well as offering their own bar and eatery). In being situated and operated side by side, you have the ease of one website to find your entertainment and if you get muddled about which venue you’re booked for, there’s no dashing across the city (which happened to me in Liverpool once), it’s just a hop, skip and a jump between the two. Unless you’ve actually booked for the Playhouse… then you’ll need your running shoes!
3. The buildings and safety curtain (yes, really!) This is a great pairing; one classic and grand with plenty of Victorian adornment, the other modern and bright with wide open spaces. The Theatre Royal was built in 1865 and with 1,107 seat across a classic Victorian four tier space, it’s a beautiful venue which has the best of both worlds when it comes to intimate stage space and grand optics. Its partner in all things entertainment made its appearance in 1982 and is an impressively modern space which boasts 2,257 seats across three tiers and comes complete with fantastic acoustics.
Nottingham Theatre Royal also has by far the most gorgeous safety curtain design of any theatre I go to. Really. Look, we all know how long audiences sit in their seats awaiting curtain up – a beautiful safety curtain is to be loudly appreciated and this one is art! It’s all in the details as they say.
I’ll very quickly add as a deserved tangent that accessibility is another impressive feature which goes above and beyond what we’ve come to expect; BSL, captioned and audio described performances are staples of most theatres now (thankfully) but the Theatre Royal also offers a guide dog-sitting service, large print materials, complimentary tickets for carers and a free Access Requirement Register scheme – a dedicated booking service. Have you ever stumbled across a guide dog-sitting service before? Me neither. It might be time to consider a career switch…
4. The programming. The touring giants more often than not land at Nottingham Theatre Royal. So if you’re looking to see the biggest shows from the West End and beyond, keep an eye on this theatre – they have their eye on the prize. They also produce spectacular full-wattage, all glitter and gold pantos each year which are always a great to see. As for programming for the Concert Hall, you’ll find all the top comics, chart toppers and classical musicians booked in year on year for all round great variety of entertainment. It must be those acoustics…
5. The Heritage Archives. As well as operating a variety of outreach programmes, the theatre offers something more unique to audiences. In 2018, as part of the the Our Theatre Royal Nottingham project (a partnership project between the University of Nottingham and Horizon Digital Economy Research), the digital archive arrived on the scene to celebrate the rich and long history of the Theatre Royal. The archive is operated by volunteers with the aim to simply ‘share images, stories and memories from audiences, performers and the people’. As a theatre which has survived so much historical and cultural change, the archives are a fantastic idea and a wonderful opportunity to explore bygone timesfrom the comfort of your own home.
So, this wonderful dynamic duo may well be closed for the time being, but they’ll be back along with our other homes from home soon(ish). And there’s the archive to enjoy from home for now, so get exploring!
Hungry for more theatre appreciation? Take a look at some of these other love letters to cracking theatres: Leeds Playhouse, Leeds City Varieties, The Grand Theatre and Opera House, Leeds, York Theatre Royal, York Grand Opera House and Harrogate Theatre. And watch this space – there’s plenty more to come!