Curtain finally up at Great Yarmouth theatre

NORFOLK's newest theatre was this week partially handed over to the trust that will manage it, while engineers continue to get to grips with a problem pavilion.

Council and community shared frustration over delays to St Georges Theatre, in Great Yarmouth, caused by a design fault in the new-build pavilion which should have opened in the summer.

The Grade 1 listed theatre is at the heart of a �9m regeneration scheme aimed at re-inventing historic King Street as a vibrant cultural quarter attracting a string of top acts.

Council leader Trevor Wainwright, said urgent work had been going on behind the scenes to get the theatre open before Christmas so it could honour all its bookings.

He said: 'This is hugely momentous and a huge opportunity for the town at a symbolic gateway and another offer for the town. Yarmouth should be proud of what has been achieved. It has been a remarkable transformation that has bought the building back into use.'

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The renovated 18th century former chapel has retained much of its original splendour boosted by modern interventions like under-floor heating and technical gadgetry helping to enhance performances.

Audiences of up to 400 are set to enjoy a varied programme from children's theatre, drama, readings and circus with the curtain rising for the first time on Wednesday for Fairy Tales of the Unexpected.

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Highlights include Ralph McTell and Robert Powell, reading Dickens.

Theatre manager Chris Moore said: 'It is fantastic news. It is what we have been waiting for for a long time. We are all very excited to get our hands on the building and get it working for the town.

'We need to be turning over some revenue. The acts that we have got booked and lined up will now be able to use the theatre.'

He added a series of open days would give the public an opportunity to view the building, hidden behind hoardings which were due to come down yesterday.

Project manager Peter Hardy said: 'What we have agreed here gives us 80pc of the project now in that the trust can offer it as a theatre, but they will have to work round not having a pavilion.

'The hoardings will be coming down on the north side. A scheme has been agreed for fixing the problem with the pavilion and our best estimate is for that to open in the Spring.

'The simplest way to deal with it would have been to knock it down and start again but we have found a way of fixing it from underneath.

'It has got to be one of the most attractive theatres in the region, if not nationally.'

Saul Humphrey, regional director of RG Carter which carried from today, as the hoardings come down, people will see new areas of public space for the first time. The theatre shut suddenly in 2006 following safety concerns.

The caf� pavilion, being constructed on the pedestrianised St George's Plain, will house a caf�/bar, toilets, and ticket sales.

An outdoor performance area will also animate the Plain itself during certain seasons.

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