Royal and Derngate Theatre (formerly The Royal)

The Royal Theatre, which opened in 1884, was designed by the renowned Victorian theatre architect C J Phipps who also designed the Theatre Royal Bath, The Lyceum in Edinburgh, Theatre Royal Glasgow and the Grand in Wolverhampton. It is a Grade II listed building. Whilst it has a nominal capacity of 583 seats, its practical capacity is 460 given the nature of the seating on the gallery benches. It is a ‘producing’ house and is supported by workshop and wardrobe. In 1927 it became home to the Northampton Repertory Players and has run as a producing house ever since, staging at least six ‘in-house’ productions each year. Amongst many famous actors to tread the boards at the Royal, the most notable is arguably Errol Flynn who was a member of Northampton Repertory Players in the early 1930s. It is famed, amongst other things, for its beautiful safety curtain, also known as the ‘Sipario Dipinto’ (meaning the Separator Painted). Created and painted by Henry Bird, this iconic feature was inspired by sources such as Commedia dell’Arte and Hamlet’s mirror.

In complete contrast, The Derngate was opened in 1983. A Northampton Borough Council initiative, the venue was designed by RHWL for multi-purpose use. It can be configured to stage a variety of events including classical concerts, musicals, opera, dance, ‘in the round’ events such as snooker tournaments as well as gala dinners and product launches. It has a maximum capacity of 1,500 for classical concerts, with 1200 seats for ‘lyric’ performances and has been run as a touring theatre since, regularly welcoming some of the biggest names and shows on the circuit.

With the merger of the two organisations and the development of new production and artistic strategies, a whole new range of opportunities emerged to encourage cross-site work. The two auditoriums were used uniquely to stage Alan Ayckbourn’s House and Garden in Summer of 2001. Using one cast, two plays (House and Garden) were simultaneously played out in each of the venues with the cast running between each space for their appropriate ‘entries’. A huge critical success, the production cemented the joining of the two theatres and became a platform for future artistic development.

Past productions

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Photographs

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