Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Culture: Curtain Up on Two Theatre Ventures; Barbara Hodgson Recalls Her First Impressions When Two Newcastle Theatres Unveiled Multi-Million-Pound New Looks

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Culture: Curtain Up on Two Theatre Ventures; Barbara Hodgson Recalls Her First Impressions When Two Newcastle Theatres Unveiled Multi-Million-Pound New Looks

Article excerpt

Byline: Barbara Hodgson

THERE surely can't be a better time to be involved in the arts scene, with the city's cultural heart constantly growing and changing before our very eyes.

And a highlight of recent months has been seeing two of our favourite theatrical institutions - Live on the Quayside and the Theatre Royal in Grey Street - adapted to meet the needs of 21st Century audiences.

If there were worries about how comfortably new facilities would sit with the old charm of these historic buildings, they were soon forgotten when the revamps were revealed within a month of each other.

They could hardly have been done more sensitively, gently nudging the theatres into a new era.

The work was, of course, necessarily complicated due to the age of the listed buildings - Live has medieval brick and stonework and the Theatre Royal dates from 1837.

I had a preview of the Theatre Royal's pounds 7.2m extension back in August, just before its official opening after 13 months of work.

My first impression was of how effortlessly the Victorian foyer merges into the spacious new box office and the adjoining bar-bistro, Caffe Teatro, now housed in the former Barclays Bank in Market Street.

It has had the effect of opening up the theatre more and you don't have to be a theatre-goer to drop in for a coffee.

And it's also replaced the more formal Matchams restaurant upstairs which is now occupied by a learning space and a corporate room called the Olivier Suite, named after actor Sir Laurence Olivier and officially opened by his son Richard.

If all that wasn't impressive enough, just a short way down the hill Live Theatre was about to present its own success story.

Having closed for a year for a pounds 5.5m refurbishment, it reopened on the Quayside in September as a "new writing theatre".

As workmen carried out a few finishing touches, I was given a tour of the building and was relieved to find it has lost none of its intimacy or charm. …

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