Norwich Theatre Royal open day

EMMA LEE Have you ever wondered what happens behind the scenes at the theatre? This Saturday there’s a chance to find out. EMMA LEE discovers what the Theatre Royal’s open day has in store.

EMMA LEE

A visit to the theatre is a magical experience and now there's an opportunity to find out a few tricks of the trade and discover what's going on behind the scenes as you enjoy a musical, pantomime or play.

This Saturday, July 29, the Theatre Royal, in Norwich, is holding its last open day before it closes for a multi-million pound refurbishment in the spring. The highlights of the event include an access-all-areas backstage tour, where visitors have the chance to nose around the wardrobe department, see the star's dressing room and step out on to the stage. They can also take an inside look at the technical wizardry the theatre uses during shows.

The theatre is one of the country's oldest established theatres. There has been a theatre on or around the site for almost 250 years.


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The current building dates back to the mid 1930s, when it replaced a theatre which had been destroyed by fire.

A previous refurbishment, which was completed nearly 15 years ago, enabled the theatre to stage bigger productions such as Cats, Miss Saigon and Starlight Express, which recently had a hugely successful run in the city.

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The new revamp will focus on front of house and improving the experience for visitors by providing more foyer space, doubling the number of toilets and creating easy access bars, sales points and a ground floor restaurant.

There will also be lift access to the circle, better air treatment inside the auditorium, new seating - including more leg room inside the auditorium - and the sound will be improved.

The open day is usually held in August, but has been brought forward a little this year because preliminary works are due to be carried out.

Although the theatre will be open until April, visitors will notice some changes quite soon. Builders are going to move into the west wing, office staff will be relocating and there will no longer be side exits.

Visitors to this Saturday's free event will have the chance to take a closer look at the refurbishment plans and staff will be on hand to answer questions.

There will also be a raffle in aid of the 250 Appeal with prizes including a mountain bike, a £40 Borders gift card, afternoon tea at the Assembly House, family tickets to Norwich attractions, a VIP tour of the BBC studios at the Forum, an £80 Tesco voucher, and a floral display from Elizabeth's florists.

“One of the more popular things is the backstage tour. You go all round the theatre, below stage and into the dressing rooms. You learn a bit about how a show works and what goes on behind the scenes when a show is running,” says deputy front of house manager Caroline Williams.

She has worked at the theatre for 10 years and has been in her current job for just over three.

“It's something that a family can do at its own pace. You could maybe do the tour first and then perhaps go back and look at the bits that interested you most again. There's stuff that will appeal to adults and children.”

The ship that's going to be used for next week's production of Sinbad the Sailor should be on stage and there will be an activity trail of games around the theatre for youngsters to take part in.

They can try their hand at cake decorating, costume dressing, focusing a spotlight and making a front of house announcement over the PA system.

As they complete each activity they will be given a stamp - and once they have collected all six they will go into a draw to win tickets for this year's pantomime, Cinderella, which stars former Coronation Street heart-throb Adam Rickitt.

Norwich Theatre Royal is open from 10am-4pm this Saturday. Admission is free.

Donations can be left in collection envelopes at the theatre, or visit www.theatreroyalnorwich.co.uk.

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