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Norwich Theatre Royal aiming for world stage after making £34m for region’s economy

PUBLISHED: 14:51 12 October 2018 | UPDATED: 15:05 12 October 2018

The cast of The Band, featuring the music of Take That. Picture: Matt Crockett

The cast of The Band, featuring the music of Take That. Picture: Matt Crockett

Matt Crockett

One of the county’s best-loved arts venues has pledged to “bring the world to Norwich and Norfolk” after generating tens of millions for the region’s economy.

Norwich Theatre RoyalNorwich Theatre Royal

Plans for the future were discussed today as Norwich Theatre Royal hosted Centre Stage, an annual meeting that also looks back on success stories from the past year.

With the theatre company having officially merged with Norwich Playhouse earlier this year, chief executive Stephen Crocker emphasised his desire to make the city a hub for theatrical talent and entertainment.

“Getting together for Centre Stage is all about looking back on the year and celebrating our successes together,” he said. “It’s about everyone who supports us and looking ahead to the future.

Stephen Crocker, CEO at the Norwich Theatre Royal. Picture: DENISE BRADLEYStephen Crocker, CEO at the Norwich Theatre Royal. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

“I want our artistic programme, across our three stages and for 52 weeks of the year, to bring the world to Norwich and Norfolk, and take Norwich and Norfolk to the world.

“I’m really passionate about our towns and cities having access to the very best artistic work - not necessarily at the expense of London, but without having to travel there.”

With 417,000 tickets sold for shows at the company’s venues, an Arts Council England-approved formula has calculated that Norwich Theatre Royal generated £34m for the local economy in the last 12 months.

Programming highlights of the past year included the National Theatre production of Hedda Gabler. Picture: Brinkhoff M�genburgProgramming highlights of the past year included the National Theatre production of Hedda Gabler. Picture: Brinkhoff M�genburg

And audience levels have remained high, with an average capacity of 72pc at the Theatre Royal and 69pc at the Playhouse.

Audiences have enjoyed National Theatre productions including Jane Eyre and Hedda Gabler, as well as West End arrivals Sunny Afternoon and Funny Girl. A new programme of classical music has also proved popular, with the St Petersburg Symphony Orchestra and European Chamber Orchestra attracting crowds of more than 1,000 apiece.

In the financial year, a surplus of more than £350,000 was generated, money that will be used for facility improvements and programming in the year ahead.

“I go by the mantra ‘surplus with a purpose’, meaning all the funds will be reinvested in our buildings and put into the growth of programmes like Stage Two, for budding performers.

“What I’m most pleased about this year is the foundation we’ve laid. With our three stages, we want to create extraordinary things.

“I’m especially thrilled we’ve got the wonderful Welsh National Opera coming back to Norwich for the first time in 46 years next summer, something very close to my heart.”

The next generation

Among the company’s priorities has been enhancing services within its Stage Two building, where budding performers are able to engage in a variety of theatre workshops.

Highlights included the first two Creative Matters programmes, designed to provide a safe place where topical issues including gender, sexual identity and mental health can be examined in a creative way.

In partnership with Broadland Housing Group, the next programme will focus on homelessness and a new piece of theatre will draw on the stories and words of those who have experienced homelessness in Norwich.

“What’s been pleasing is that the people coming through the doors for Stage Two are discernibly different from those who typically come to the theatre,” said Mr Crocker.

“Our work with young people continues to grow and we’ve had incredible success with older members of our communities, particularly in the areas of performance and scriptwriting.”

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