Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Curtain Goes Up on New Plans for the People's

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Curtain Goes Up on New Plans for the People's

Article excerpt

Byline: David Whetstone Culture Editor

MAJOR redevelopment plans have been unveiled by the theatre which helped to nurture the early performance ambitions of stars including Kevin Whately, Ross Noble, Andrea Riseborough and Kate Fox.

The People's Theatre in Newcastle, the biggest of its kind in the country and with a history stretching back more than a century, has set out to raise PS1.5m to create a new entrance, studio theatre and bar at its site in Heaton, next to the Coast Road.

The plans, to be submitted to Newcastle City Council shortly, have already won the approval of Sir Ian McKellen, patron of the Little Theatre Guild of which the People's is a founder member.

Sir Ian, who has visited the venue, said: "The People's Theatre in Newcastle is renowned throughout the country for its contribution to amateur theatre.

"I hope the campaign to redevelop the premises is a success. "As a professional actor who began acting as an amateur, and as patron of the Little Theatre Guild, the People's has my ongoing and enthusiastic support."

The amateur performers of the company that would become the People's performed their first play in July, 1911. They were as high minded as they were keen, with founder member Norman Veitch declaring: "If we're going to murder plays, let's murder the best."

The company, championed during his lifetime by playwright George Bernard Shaw, performed at various city locations until paying PS27,000 for Heaton's old Lyric Cinema in 1959. It took PS180,000 to transform the 1930s building into a theatre and arts centre.

Now more work is needed to make the building fit for the 21st Century and a world in which every penny must count.

Tony Childs, People's stalwart and head of the redevelopment scheme, said work to zone the heating and electrical systems was already under way. "At the moment, if we want to heat part of the building we have to heat it all."

Under the new plans, replacing earlier ones drawn up four years ago which proved too costly, a new and fully accessible entrance would be created to the side of the building opposite the Corner House pub. "The current entrance at the front of the building has a flight of steps and it's very difficult to create a ramp there because of the gradient," said Mr Childs. …

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