Dream of £3m refit for historic theatre a step closer

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A RADICAL £3m revamp of a 269-year-old Yorkshire theatre will add a 21st century touch to its layers of history, bosses hope.

The proposed extensive renovation project at York Theatre Royal is a step closer to fruition after De Matos Ryan were unveiled as the architects and design team behind the project, which is yet to secure core funding.

The initial blueprint includes a redesign of the front of the building, and a doubling in size of the public areas. The auditorium is also set to be re-thought to reduce the drop-down to the stage and give the audience a more intimate feel.

The last time a revamp of such a grand scale was carried out at the theatre was in 1967. The theatre was built on the present site in 1744, over and among the ruins of the medieval St Leonard’s Hospital.

The chief executive of the theatre, Liz Wilson, said: “We are delighted to have appointed De Matos Ryan to lead a design team that will work with York Theatre Royal to transform the theatre for the city.

“Our plans are all about improving the audience experience and providing the city with some of the best theatre buildings in the country, so we are looking forward to sharing our design proposals with the citizens of York as they develop over the coming months.”

York Theatre Royal announced in January that it had successfully got through the Stage One application process of the Arts Council’s large scale capital grants. It is now developing the project in more detail, and is hoping to secure a grant of £2.9m from the Arts Council Capital Lottery Fund.

The new design team’s ideas will contribute to the Stage Two application process, due to be submitted in March 2014.

Angus Morrogh-Ryan, director of De Matos Ryan, said: “We are delighted to be embarking on this exciting project with York Theatre Royal and its community.

“The opportunity to add another layer to its rich history is a privilege and we look forward to delivering a world-class-theatre for the city of York that fosters creativity, improves access and widens audience engagement.”

The redesign vision includes a new enclosed colonnade, an opening out of currently unused areas of the theatre, and an increase in the size of the public areas to improve the flow of audience and visitors.

There will also be an revamp of the toilets, an expanded step-free foyer and a new lift to create access to the dress-circle and upper foyer.