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Georgian Theatre Royal

history of the theatresupplementtechnical dataHistoric equipment

Important events

(detail)1788 | opening

(detail)1848 | closure

(detail)1962 | opened after renovation

History

The UK’s most complete Georgian playhouse is situated in Richmond, North Yorkshire – winner of the Great Town Award 2009. Serving as both a thriving community playhouse and a living theatre museum, the Georgian Theatre Royal welcomes visitors of all ages to its year-round performances and hourly guided tours. Built by actor-manager Samuel Butler in 1788 and forming part of Butler’s theatre circuit, the theatre opened with “Inkle & Yarico”, a comic opera by George Colman, and “The Midnight Hour”, a comedy by Elisabeth Inchbald. In 1848 the theatre closed but, following a campaign, was restored and re-opened in 1963. A second restoration and refurbishment was undertaken in 2002/03. Britain’s oldest scenery, The Woodland Scenery, is also housed in the museum. The theatre’s unique configuration includes seating on stage (side boxes). This brings an authentic immediacy, as experienced by 18th century British theatre-goers.

 

Georgian Theatre Royal, Victoria Road, Richmond, North Yorkshire, DL10 4DW, Great Britain

Victoria Road, Richmond, North Yorkshire, DL10 4DW, Great Britain

Tel.: +44 (0)1748 823710, Tel. box office: +44 (0)1748 825252, E-mail: admin@georgiantheatreroyal.co.ukwww.georgiantheatreroyal.co.uk

Visits: guided tours Mid February – Mid December 10:00 – 16:00 Monday – Saturday.

guided tours Mid February – Mid December 10:00 – 16:00 Monday – Saturday.

Please check in advance

 

 

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This is one of the only four surviving eighteenth-century playhouses in England (the others are in Bristol, Bury St. Edmunds, and Margate). It is small, with a rectangular auditorium, and is unique in having preserved its original proscenium. Built by Samuel Butler  (?-1812), it opened in 1788 and formed part of the Richmond circuit, which included Harrogate, Beverley, Northallerton, Whitby, Kendal, and Ulverston. After Butler's death his widow ran it until 1812, when her son, Samuel S. W. Butler  (1787-1845), took over. The circuit then began to break up and the Butlers' connection with the theatre ended in 1830. For a few years it was rented to visiting managers for short seasons, and in 1848 was converted into a wine cellar and auction room, the sunk pit being boarded over. In 1943 the un-restored building was used for a performance in commemoration of the 850th anniversary of the enfranchisement of the borough. A Trust was formed in 1960 to restore and redecorate it, which was done at a cost of £17,000, and in 1962 it was reopened as a theatre. It is used occasionally for performances.

 

In: Hartnoll, Phyllis, ed. The concise Oxford companion to the theatre. 1st ed. London: Oxford University Press, 1972.  ISBN 0-19-281102-9. p. 454

 

 

It is a tiny building with the plainest of exteriors, a simple stone rectangle with a gable roof, like a barn. There is no foyer. One goes straight in, past the paybox, up a short flight of stairs to the passage behind the lower tier of boxes. More steps lead to the gallery. To reach the pit, one goes down a narrow passage and emerges at the front, next to the stage. The theatre could be converted into a dance-hall by covering the pit with boards. The first tier of boxes was on the level of the substitute floor, but could easily overlook the occupants of the pit. Traces of the proscenium doors and boxes have been preserved, but not the proscenium arch, if there was one.

 

In: Tidworth, Simon : Theatres: An Illustrated History. London 1973 p. 132

 

 

Authors: Hartnoll Phyllis, Simon Tidworth

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