York Theatre Royal is a theatre in St Leonard's Place, in York, England, which dates back to 1744. The theatre currently seats 750 people. Whilst the theatre is traditionally a proscenium theatre, it was reconfigured for a season in 2011 to offer productions in-the-round. The theatre puts on many of its own productions, as well as hosting touring companies, one of which is Pilot Theatre, a national touring company which often co-produces its work with the theatre. Additionally the main stage and studio are regularly used by local amateur dramatic and operatic societies. York Theatre Royal was one of the co-producers of the historic York Mystery Plays 2012 which were staged in York Museum Gardens between 2–27 August. The theatre reopened on Friday 22 April 2016 following a £6million redevelopment, with a new roof, an extended and re-modelled front of house area, a refurbished and redecorated main auditorium and with major improvements to access and environmental impact.

York Theatre Royal
Front Facade of York's Theatre Royal, June 2022
AddressSt Leonard's Place
LocationYork, England
Coordinates53°57′43″N 1°05′07″W / 53.9620°N 1.0853°W / 53.9620; -1.0853
OwnerYork Citizens' Theatre Trust
DesignationGrade II* listed[1]
Expanded1879, 1967
ArchitectGeorge Styan (1879), FA Tugwell (1902), Patrick Gwynne and RA Sefton (1967)

History edit

York Theatre Royal was built in 1744 on, and among, the site of the medieval St. Leonard's Hospital.[2] Parts of the old hospital can still be seen in the modern building, including archways and walls. Under the stage lies a well, which is believed to be dated from the Roman era of York's history.[3] The 1744 theatre replaced a theatre in Minster Yard, built by Thomas Keregan, with the encouragement of the City Corporation, in 1734. Twenty five years after its construction, in 1769, Tate Wilkinson paid £500 for a Royal Patent, and, accordingly, it was renamed the Theatre Royal. Wilkinson ran a company that included theatres in Hull, Leeds, Pontefract, Wakefield and other Yorkshire towns. His company was reckoned to be the leading provincial company, and he attracted many of the finest actors of the period, including John Philip Kemble and his sister Sarah Siddons, Dorothea Jordan and Elizabeth Farren, to act in York.

Original scale model of the new foyer at York Theatre Royal by Patrick Gwynne, 1967

Since Wilkinson's time the theatre has undergone several renovations and upgrades.[2] In the late 1800s the theatre was refurbished into the Victorian style, including, in 1879, a new Gothic Revival frontage, which is decorated with carved heads representing Elizabeth I and characters from Shakespeare's plays.[4] In 1902 architect F. A. Tugwell of Scarborough redesigned the theatre interior. The latest major redevelopment was an extensive renovation of the theatre, with a new modernist foyer (architect: Patrick Gwynne), in 1967.

The theatre has been designated a Grade II* listed building by Historic England.[5]

The theatre was forced to close to the public during the lockdowns brought about by Covid-19. The theatre building was closed between March 2020 and May 2022.[6] During this time, the theatre staff made scrubs for the NHS, created a pop-up outdoor theatre adjacent to the building[7] and performed a 'Travelling Pantomime' in 14 different neighbourhoods of the city.[8] The building re-opened on 17 May 2022 for 'The Love Season', a season of love stories featuring Ralph Fiennes, Julie Hesmondhalgh and New Earth Theatre among many others.[9]

In 2022, the theatre welcomed the Kyiv City Ballet to the UK for the first time,[10] in order to raise funds for UNICEF's work in Ukraine.

Pantomime edit

The theatre produced its first pantomime in 1862 with a production of The Sleeping Beauty.[11]

The theatre's annual pantomime was for more than 30 years been written and directed by Berwick Kaler, who also starred in the show. Kaler retired from playing the Dame in 2019.[12] Due to an ongoing fall in ticket sales, the Theatre Royal announced that the pantomime for 2020 was going to be a 'reboot', and would move away from the Kaler-era pantomimes with a new writer and director.[13]

In December 2020, the theatre performed 'The Travelling Pantomime',[14] a tour of a small-scale pantomime to 14 different neighbourhoods in York.

See also edit

References edit

  1. ^ Historic England. "Theatre Royal and Undercroft (1256767)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 10 June 2022.
  2. ^ a b "History", York Theatre Royal. Retrieved 19 November 2011
  3. ^ "Theatre Royal in York factsheet". Archived from the original on 4 July 2008. Retrieved 1 October 2006.
  4. ^ Historic England. "Theatre Royal and Undercroft (1256767)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 10 June 2022.
  5. ^ Historic England. "Theatre Royal and Undercroft (1256767)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 19 November 2011.
  6. ^ "How York Theatre Royal's finding a new lease of life under lockdown". York Press. Retrieved 14 July 2022.
  7. ^ "Live theatre shows to return to York over coming weeks". York Press. Retrieved 14 July 2022.
  8. ^ "York's travelling pantomime is coming to a venue near you – Here's when". YorkMix. 20 November 2020. Retrieved 14 July 2022.
  9. ^ "York Theatre Royal reveals its reopening date – and a special first event". YorkMix. 16 December 2020. Retrieved 14 July 2022.
  10. ^ "Kyiv City Ballet gears up for York performance". BBC News. 14 June 2022. Retrieved 14 July 2022.
  11. ^ "York Theatre Royal". York Theatre Royal. Retrieved 1 January 2020.
  12. ^ Rees, Jasper (14 December 2005); "Panto's merriest widow"[dead link], The Telegraph. Retrieved 19 November 2011
  13. ^ Mix, York (24 January 2020); [1], York Mix. Retrieved 31 January 2020
  14. ^ "It's before you! York Theatre Royal announces travelling panto troupe". The Guardian. 14 September 2020. Retrieved 14 July 2022.

External links edit