Staged on a well that dates back to the Roman era of the building’s history, York Theatre Royal is an example of a culturally rich, well-preserved piece of history. Constructed in the year 1744, the theatre was built on the site of a medieval hospital, whose essence remains in the form of the building’s archways and walls. The theatre was once a hotspot for exhibiting and appreciating creativity and theatrics at a time, and it was known to have attracted the finest of actors and artists of the period, with the likes of John Philip Kemble and his sister Sarah Siddons, Dorothea Jordan and Elizabeth Farren, to act and to perform at the theatre.
Over time, the theatre was modified to adapt to its surroundings, helping build the plot’s overall value and augment the field of this creative art. The earliest restoration was recorded back in the late 1800s when the building’s facade was designed to have a beautiful frontage decorated with the carvings of royalty and characters from Shakespeare‘s plays. The exterior was all grouped to be a part of the Victorian architecture style with added Gothic Revival elements. With another further extensive redevelopment project, a couple of decades later, the interiors of the building were also refurbished and designed anew. Another revision of design in 1967 introduced the theatre to a much more modernist foyer, which in a way, also influenced the way people perceived the building for the varying transitionary styles. This helped the theatre gain quite a lot of attention, with its recognition as a Grade II listed building, by Historic England.
In March 2020, the structure was forced to close during the lockdown due to the spread of COVID-19, which in turn granted the officials, in the latter half of the lockdown, another “once in a generation” chance to experiment with the framework of this structure. This recent redevelopment program was a product of collaboration between Historic England and CYC’s Conservation Officer, who philosophised the need to spread and support the structure’s cultural importance while also addressing the sensitive cluttering problems and aiming to come up with a better solution such that more of the building’s history was now accessible to all. While digging into the internal extents of the building, another fascinating thing that arose was the archaeologically found evidence of the medieval columns and walls that provided us with significant information about the history of the precedents, which helped to enhance and deepen our knowledge about the missing pieces of our history.
After delaying the progress of work for archaeological research and conquering the modern-day problems, with the combined effort of all, the officials completed the redevelopment project by revealing the significant changes they added to the building. The most important of these changes was the designation of welcoming, gathering, and orientation spots. These helped to ease the problem of unnecessary cramping of spaces. With the allocation of proper civil spaces that directed the motion of human footfall, it was now easier and more accessible for the audience to circulate. Also, the newly glazed windows attached to the facade of the building now attracted a whole lot of individuals. With the help of interactive activities, it helped them to stay mingled within the bounds of the site.
Another essential upgrade of seating and stalling, the air conditioning, and everything regarding the users’ comfort also helped make it easier for the audience to pay their undivided attention to what was going on the stage and focus less on their issues. With better changes following, another one included the treatment of functioning and aesthetic appearance of the roof that had worsened with time. To manage the problems of severe leaking and uneven lighting, the designers made considerate changes by installing ample amounts of LED lights within the internal framework, insulating the roof with soundproofing materials and devices, and changing the complete rainwater channelled pathway for the better cause of sustainability and functionality. After multiple such revisions of refurbishment and renovation, the project has now unlocked the site’s potential. It has opened its gates to a much wider community to spread the cause of theatrics and generate more potential revenue.
This famed theatre is now known for its timeless inflictions of architecture that it has incorporated with every new development project throughout its existence. From the intricate use of glass and concrete to the installation of welcoming doors, the structure has now brought a sense of inclusion to the site that justifies the cultural impact of the building on others whilst also considering the sustainable future for the surroundings. Safeguarding such an incredible part of history and architecture signifies our interest as human civilisation in preserving artefacts and our inclination to hang onto such objects just for nostalgia.
Theplan.(2022). York Theatre Royal. [online]. Available at: https://www.theplan.it/eng/award-2017-renovation/york-theatre-royal–1 [Accessed 1 January 2023]
Wikipedia.(2022). York Theatre Royal. [online]. Available at: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/York_Theatre_Royal [Accessed 1 January 2023]