Curtain-raiser for Hull New Theatre after £16m upgrade to attract West End shows

AUDIENCES are being promised more top-notch West End productions as the curtains open at Hull New Theatre after its £16m upgrade.

Keziah Dean (left) and Isabelle Heath from NAPA are pictured on stage. PIC: Simon Hulme

The new-look theatre was revealed, six weeks ahead of its official reopening, with a sell-out performance by the Royal Ballet.

Theatregoers are said to be embracing the new programme, which includes the National Theatre’s Jane Eyre and a new John Godber comedy, with ticket sales showing “positive signs”.

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The biggest seller of the autumn season is Beautiful, The Carole King Musical, coming to Hull on a national tour, which has already sold nearly 5,000 tickets. Over 8,000 have also sold for award-winning West End production Jersey Boys, which arrives in February.

Hull Council spent £11m on making the theatre a “world-class venue”, with £5m from the Arts Council. The auditorium has increased to 1,330 seats, as part of the revamp which has seen the technical and backstage infrastructure transformed, including a larger 27m flytower, new entrance and foyer, as well as new-look restaurant and bars.

Theatre manager Janice Wincott said they were in “exciting conversations” with key touring companies and producers. She added: “It’s fantastic to see the result of the last two years’ hard work.”

Executive producer for Hull City of Culture 2017 Niccy Halifax said: “For touring shows it is critical to get in and out quickly – time is money and this building now allows that. The work has been done sensitively and the building has kept its character.”

Council leader Steve Brady, inset, expects the theatre to attract West End shows which bypassed Hull in the past, adding: “What I’d like is more Hull people to come and take in the quality of the productions that are going to come to this city.”

It came as casual workers at the theatre and City Hall yesterday protested that they were being asked to reapply for their old roles. Hull Council said it needed to ensure staffing was right for what was essentially a new facility.