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Norwich Theatre Royal announces best-ever financial year and ambitious plans to diversify its programme

PUBLISHED: 13:03 10 November 2017 | UPDATED: 12:52 11 November 2017

Norwich Theatre Royal.
Picture: ANTONY KELLY

Norwich Theatre Royal. Picture: ANTONY KELLY

Archant Norfolk 2016

Norwich Theatre Royal has today announced it achieved its most successful year ever financially in 2016-17 and that this will help pave the way for ambitious future plans both on stage and off.

Stephen Crocker, Norwich Theatre Royal chief executive. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY Stephen Crocker, Norwich Theatre Royal chief executive. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

The announcement was made at the venue’s annual meeting - Centre Stage - by the venue’s chief executive Stephen Crocker, who took the helm in January after former chief executive Peter Wilson left after 25 years at the theatre.

From April 2016 to March 2017, the theatre’s net surplus before depreciation was more than £700,000, and the theatre’s bumper financial year also saw it host Cameron Mackintosh’s musical Mary Poppins which took £1.99m at the box office - more than any other single show in the theatre’s history.

Part of the 2016-17 surplus will provide the final injection of funding to pay for the capital costs of the theatre’s £3.5m Stage Two learning and participation centre.

Mr Crocker said it would also allow the theatre to forge ahead with plans to increase the diversity of its artistic programming in four categories - dance, drama, classical music and the extraordinary - as well its learning and participation work.

Mary Poppins took £1.99m at the Norwich Theatre Royal box office - more than any other single show in the theatres history. 
Pictured performing Step in Time is Zizi Strallen as Mary Poppins and the company. Photo: JOHAN PERSSON. Mary Poppins took £1.99m at the Norwich Theatre Royal box office - more than any other single show in the theatres history. Pictured performing Step in Time is Zizi Strallen as Mary Poppins and the company. Photo: JOHAN PERSSON.

And he said the theatre continued to be committed to bringing the best big shows to the city - revealing the musicals Matilda and The Girls were among the productions heading to Norwich in 2019.

He said: “It’s been a fantastic year. Records broken across the board in terms of our turnover, in terms of individual shows....Today is all about how this provides us with this phenomenal bedrock for our ambitions for the future, and that is really exciting.”

He added: “Stage Two is a wonderful facility for us to have but we are absolutely determined that it is more than just a building, we are determined to eke out amazing impact and outcomes out of every brick in this place, so we have bold ambitions for our work off the stage here in Stage Two.

“We also really want to join up our buildings, the Playhouse, Stage Two and the Theatre Royal, and we will do that through our bold new artistic strategy. Our artistic strategy has four main areas and it is about maintaining the balance within our programme, that diversity of programme that people have come to love about the Theatre Royal and the Playhouse, but being a bit more ambitious in certain areas.”

Mary Poppins came to Norwich Theatre Royal in summer 2016. Pictured performing Chim Chim Cher-ee is Matt Lee as Bert and Zizi Strallen as Mary Poppins. Photo: Johan Persson. Mary Poppins came to Norwich Theatre Royal in summer 2016. Pictured performing Chim Chim Cher-ee is Matt Lee as Bert and Zizi Strallen as Mary Poppins. Photo: Johan Persson.

FOUR KEY AREAS FOR ON-STAGE DEVELOPMENT

The Theatre Royal plans to develop its on-stage programme in four key areas:

Dance - It has become part of the Dance Consortium which will bring large-scale international dance to the venue, including world-renowned dancer Carlos Acosta and his company Acosta Danza, and Brooklyn-based Mark Morris Dance Group’s Beatles-inspired show Pepperland. There will also be ambitious performances at Norwich Playhouse.

Norwich Playhouse. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY Norwich Playhouse. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Drama - Highlights coming up at the Theatre Royal include the return of Watermill Theatre Company with its inventive take on Shakespeare’s classic works, meanwhile highlights at Norwich Playhouse include Wardrobe Ensemble’s Education, Education, Education.

Classical Music - Regular visits from professional symphony orchestras including a performance by world-renowned Hallé Orchestra.

The Extraordinary - Plans to work with partners to present “innovative and extraordinary” work, with more details to be announced in the future.

Norwich Theatre Royal's Stage Two learning and participation centre. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY Norwich Theatre Royal's Stage Two learning and participation centre. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

STAGE TWO

A growing programme of new work and projects is planned for Stage Two.

In January the venue will host its second Creative Matters season which aims to break down barriers and look at important issues creatively. The next Creative Matters season will focus on men’s mental health and include an audience with Nimmo Twin Karl Minns talking about his own anxiety battles, and Small Nose Productions presenting I Had A Black Dog based on the Matthew Johnstone novel.

The theatre’s youth company will bring classic musical Grease to the stage next summer, with the young people being given the chance to take part in both the on-stage and backstage parts of the production.

David Burilin as Jack and Daisy the Cow from Norwich Theatre Royal's 2016 pantomime Jack and the Beanstalk. Photo: Simon Finlay David Burilin as Jack and Daisy the Cow from Norwich Theatre Royal's 2016 pantomime Jack and the Beanstalk. Photo: Simon Finlay

THE THEATRE ROYAL’S 2016/17 ANNUAL SURVEY

Today’s Centre Stage event coincides with the online publication of the Theatre Royal’s annual survey for 2016/17.

It shows the theatre presented 409 performances of 91 separate productions and sold just under 400,000 tickets.

Norwich Theatre Royal's 2016 pantomime Jack and the Beanstalk. 
Photo: Nick Butcher Norwich Theatre Royal's 2016 pantomime Jack and the Beanstalk. Photo: Nick Butcher

One of the key highlights was the five-week run of Cameron Mackintosh’s musical Mary Poppins in summer 2016. More than 42,000 people watched the show which took £1.99m at the box office - more than any other single show in the Theatre Royal’s history.

More than 60,000 people watched the theatre’s Wild West-set 2016 pantomime Jack and the Beanstalk and other highlights included Hobson’s Choice starring Martin Shaw, the epic National Theatre of Scotland trilogy The James Plays, and A Midsummer Night’s Dream: A Play For The Nation which featured a cast drawn from the Royal Shakespeare Company and local amateur theatre group The Common Lot.

The theatre is also punching its weight in comparison to 14 other similar sized UK theatres. It sold 399,792 tickets in 2016/17, which was about 106,000 more than the national average, ameanwhile its 76pc average seating capacity also surpassed the national average of 64pc. It has 11,135 Friends of the theatre compared to the national average of 2,655.

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