Curtain goes up on Norwich Theatre Royal’s ambitious Stage Two centre

Children from the Theatre Royal's Arts Courses Summer School perform in the auditorium of the new St

Children from the Theatre Royal's Arts Courses Summer School perform in the auditorium of the new Stage Two building. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY - Credit: Copyright: Archant 2016

The curtain has gone up on Norwich Theatre Royal's ambitious new learning and participation centre.

The Theatre Royal's Stage Two building. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

The Theatre Royal's Stage Two building. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY - Credit: Copyright: Archant 2016

Called Stage Two, the £3m venue next to the city theatre aims to provide a huge boost to the Theatre Royal's work in education while also offering more opportunities for people of all ages.

Peter Wilson, the Theatre Royal's outgoing chief executive, said: 'Stage Two has been eight years in the planning.

'Its principal original vision was to equip Norfolk's school children with the confidence, ambition and skills to succeed in life. This vision has been enlarged to include every citizen of Norfolk, of every background and every ability, inside and outside school hours.

'The Theatre Royal will, within its resources, strive to ensure that the facilities, expertise and support of Stage Two are available to anyone. Everyone. All ages, all abilities.'

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The new state-of-the-art building includes a flexible performing space with seating for up to 100 people as well as rehearsal spaces, dressing rooms and a light industrial workshop. All this week young people from the theatre's summer school have been enjoying working across the new centre ready to put on special performances for an open day on Saturday, and the group is just one of many the Theatre Royal hopes will benefit from Stage Two.

The building is the Theatre Royal arts courses' new home, and classes and some of the arts courses' productions will take place there. It will also host a new technical theatre course run by Access To Music which starts in the autumn term.

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The Theatre Royal aims to build on its Umbrella Trust with Arden Grove Infant and Nursery School and Hellesdon High School, throwing its weight behind the Arts Mark scheme which supports young people's experiences of learning about the arts. There will be more workshops linked to touring shows and productions at the Theatre Royal, and support will be available to help schools achieve Arts Awards.

New volunteer roles for young people will also be created through a Stage Two usher scheme and there are plans for special family days.

There will also be opportunities for older people. The Theatre Royal's Limelighter dance and movement workshops for the over-50s will take place there, and there are plans for weekly theatre workshops for over 60s and a programme of events for more mature theatre-goers.

Wendy Ellis, Norwich Theatre Royal's learning and participation manager who is overseeing the running of Stage Two, said one of the aims was to make the theatre even more inclusive and accessible to all.

She said: 'We will be exploring opportunities to engage with even more people. This will include the provision of bursaries for access to Theatre Arts Course activities, and other activities within Stage Two.

'We also want to set up a Theatre Café which will be a monthly conversation group for everyone over 18 offering the chance to talk about the work we stage here, theatre across Britain, and the reasons we make theatre.

'We will also explore the potential of other targeted activities initially focusing on three areas – dementia, special educational needs and disabilities (SEND), and mental health.'

Meanwhile the fundraising is continuing for the building. About 60pc of the funding is secured, with more grant applications submitted and a public appeal under way.

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People can visit Stage Two this Saturday during the Theatre Royal open day from 10am until 4pm. Free entry.

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