Theatre Royal, Plymouth

Last updated
Theatre Royal Plymouth
Main entrance of Theatre Royal Plymouth
Theatre Royal, Plymouth
AddressRoyal Parade
TypeProducing and Receiving House
Capacity 1,320
Architect Peter Moro
Theatre Royal, Plymouth
TypeProduction and Learning Centre
Architect Ian Ritchie

Theatre Royal, Plymouth, is a theatre venue in Plymouth, Devon. It consists of a 1,300-seat main auditorium, The Lyric, which regularly hosts large-scale musicals, opera and ballet; a 200-seat studio, The Drum; and a 50-seat studio, The Lab. On a separate site, Theatre Royal Plymouth also has a production and learning centre, TR2, featuring rehearsal studios and workshops for the production of set and costumes.


The theatre is a National Portfolio Organisation, receiving regular funding from Arts Council England. [1]

A £7 million Regeneration Project was completed in September 2013 with a renovated front of house area and community performance space called The Lab.

A 7-metre-high (23 ft) bronze sculpture depicting a crouching female actor called Messenger is due to be erected in front of the theatre. [2]


In 1758 a theatre was built at the top of George Street in Plymouth. Originally known as the Theatre, Frankfort-Gate, [3] it adopted the name Theatre Royal after King George III and his family visited it in 1789. [4]

Foulston's building of 1813 Royal Hotel Plymouth.jpg
Foulston's building of 1813

In 1810 Plymouth Corporation held a competition for the design of a new theatre, hotel and assembly rooms at the bottom of George Street. The competition was won by John Foulston, who built a neo-classical block of buildings between 1811 and 1813. The new Theatre Royal opened in 1813 and could seat 1,192. [4] Foulston's buildings formed a frontage of 268 feet (82 m) facing George's Place that was dominated by a portico with 30-foot (9.1 m)-high ionic columns. The theatre was on the west side of this portico, with the hotel and assembly rooms on the east. Foulston used thick walls to separate the auditorium from the foyer, corridors and the hotel next door to minimise the risk of fire damage. The whole inner structure was built of cast iron for the same purpose, and Foulston believed it was the only fireproof theatre in the country. [5] Despite these precautions, the theatre suffered a disastrous interior fire in June 1878; by January 1879 it had been repaired and reopened. [6]

The decline in theatre-going caused by the rise in cinema attendance resulted in the building being demolished in 1937. It was replaced by the 2,400-seat Royal Cinema, which opened the following year. [6] The cinema survived the Plymouth Blitz during the Second World War, which destroyed the adjoining hotel and assembly rooms. [7] By 1954 the decline in cinema-going caused by the rise of television led to the cinema's being partly converted back to a theatre and rechristened as the Theatre Royal Cinema. [8] In 1958 it was renamed the ABC Plymouth. It was converted to a triple-screen ABC which opened on 5 May 1977. ABC Cinemas passed to the Cannon Group, then to MGM from 22 May 1992. A management buy-out brought the name ABC back again in the mid-1990s. From 1 August 2006 it was operated by the independent Reel Cinemas chain. The Reel Plymouth Cinema finally closed its doors on Thursday 28 February 2019. [9]

On a different site, the current Theatre Royal was designed in 1977 by the Peter Moro Partnership, which had already designed a number of new theatres around the country. [10] Building started in 1979 and the theatre was officially opened on 5 May 1982 by Princess Margaret. [11]

The Lyric (the main auditorium)

The Lyric seats 1,315 but has a unique ability to compress the auditorium, creating a more intimate performance space of 787.[ citation needed ] It has a steep auditorium with two galleries [10] and very large proscenium arch. The range of work presented and produced is extensive and includes major touring drama and musical productions, as well as leading opera and dance companies (including the Birmingham Royal Ballet, the Rambert Dance Company, Glyndebourne on Tour and the Welsh National Opera).

In 2019 the main auditorium was transformed into Bikini Bottom for the filming of Nickelodeon's production SpongeBob SquarePants the Musical.

The Lyric also produces its own drama and musical productions each year, usually with commercial or subsidised partners.

The Drum

The Drum (capacity – 200) specialises in the production of new plays and has a good reputation for its innovative programme. It won the Peter Brook Empty Space Award in 2007. It often collaborates with other subsidised companies and venues such as the Royal Court, ATC, the Lyric Hammersmith, the Bush Theatre, Frantic Assembly, Hampstead Theatre, Paines Plough, the Traverse Theatre and the Tron Glasgow. [12]

The Production and Learning Centre, TR2

The Production and Learning Centre, TR2, is on the bank of the River Plym designed by Ian Ritchie Architects. It contains set, costume, prop-making and rehearsal facilities. TR2 provides one of the biggest education and outreach programmes for a regional venue in the UK. [12]

Related Research Articles

Royal Opera House opera house and major performing arts venue in Covent Garden, central London

The Royal Opera House (ROH) is an opera house and major performing arts venue in Covent Garden, central London. The large building is often referred to as simply Covent Garden, after a previous use of the site. The first opera house was constructed in 1732. It is the home of The Royal Opera, The Royal Ballet, and the Orchestra of the Royal Opera House. Originally called the Theatre Royal, it served primarily as a playhouse for the first hundred years of its history. In 1734, the first ballet was presented. A year later, first season of operas by George Frideric Handel began. Many of his operas and oratorios were specifically written for Covent Garden and had their premieres there.

Lyric Opera of Chicago Non-profit organisation in the USA

Lyric Opera of Chicago is one of the leading opera companies in the United States. It was founded in Chicago in 1954, under the name 'Lyric Theatre of Chicago' by Carol Fox, Nicola Rescigno and Lawrence Kelly, with a season that included Maria Callas's American debut in Norma. The company was re-organized by Fox in 1956 under its present name and, after her 1981 departure, it has continued to be of one of the major opera companies in the United States. The Lyric is housed in a theater and related spaces in the Civic Opera Building. These spaces are now owned by the Lyric.

Auditorium Building (Chicago) United States historic place

The Auditorium Building in Chicago is one of the best-known designs of Louis Sullivan and Dankmar Adler. Completed in 1889, the building is located at the northwest corner of South Michigan Avenue and Congress Street. The building was designed to be a multi-use complex, including offices, a theater, and a hotel. As a young apprentice, Frank Lloyd Wright worked on some of the interior design.

Auditorium A room built to enable an audience to hear and watch performances

An auditorium is a room built to enable an audience to hear and watch performances. For movie theatres, the number of auditoria is expressed as the number of screens. Auditoria can be found in entertainment venues, community halls, and theaters, and may be used for rehearsal, presentation, performing arts productions, or as a learning space.

Buxton Opera House

Buxton Opera House is in The Square, Buxton, Derbyshire, England. It is a 902-seat opera house that hosts the annual Buxton Festival and, from 1994 to 2013, the International Gilbert and Sullivan Festival, among others, as well as pantomime at Christmas, musicals and other entertainments year-round. Hosting live performances until 1927, the theatre then was used mostly as a cinema until 1976. In 1979, it was refurbished and reopened as a venue for live performance.

Auditorium Theatre

The Auditorium Theatre is a music and performance venue located inside the Auditorium Building at 50 Ida B. Wells Drive in Chicago, Illinois. Inspired by the Richardsonian Romanesque Style of architect Henry Hobson Richardson, the building was designed by Dankmar Adler and Louis Sullivan and completed in 1889. The Chicago Symphony Orchestra performed in the theatre until 1904 as well as the Chicago Grand Opera Company and its successors the Chicago Opera Association and Chicago Civic Opera until its relocation to the Civic Opera House in 1929. The theatre currently hosts performances by the Joffrey Ballet, in addition to a variety of concerts, musicals, performances and events. Since the 1940s, it has been owned by Roosevelt University and since the 1960s refurbished and managed by an independent non-profit arts organization.

Grand Theatre, Leeds

The Grand Theatre, also known as Leeds Grand Theatre and Leeds Grand Theatre and Opera House, is a theatre and opera house in Briggate, Leeds, West Yorkshire, England. It seats approximately 1,500 people.

Teatro Real

Teatro Real or simply El Real, as it is known colloquially, is a major opera house located in Madrid. Founded in 1818 and inaugurated on 19 November 1850, it closed in 1925 and reopened in 1966. Beginning in 1988 it underwent major refurbishing and renovation works and finally reopened in 1997 with a capacity of 1,746 seats. Today the Teatro Real opera is one of the great theaters of Europe hosting large productions involving leading international figures in opera singing, musical direction, stage direction and dance. The theater offers visitors guided tours in several languages, including the auditorium, stage, workshops and rehearsal rooms.

Tivoli Theatre, Aberdeen

The Tivoli Theatre is a theatre in Aberdeen, Scotland, opened in 1872 as Her Majesty's Theatre and was built by the Aberdeen Theatre and Opera House Company Ltd, under architects James Matthews of Aberdeen and Charles J. Phipps, a London-based architect brought in to consult. The auditorium was rebuilt in 1897 by theatre architect Frank Matcham, but then closed temporarily in 1906, following the opening of the larger His Majesty's Theatre. The smaller theatre was extensively reconstructed in 1909, again by Frank Matcham, and re-opened in July 1910 as the Tivoli. The Tivoli was refurbished again in 1938.

Manchester Opera House English commercial touring theatre

The Opera House in Quay Street, Manchester, England, is a 1,920-seater commercial touring theatre that plays host to touring musicals, ballet, concerts and a Christmas pantomime. It is a Grade II listed building. The Opera House is one of the main theatres in Manchester, England. The Opera House and its sister theatre the Palace Theatre, Manchester on Oxford Street are operated by the same parent company, Ambassador Theatre Group.

Theatre Royal, Brighton

The Theatre Royal, Brighton is a theatre in Brighton, England presenting a range of West End and touring musicals and plays, along with performances of opera and ballet.

Victoria Rooms, Bristol

The Victoria Rooms, also known as the Vic Rooms, houses the University of Bristol's music department in Clifton, Bristol, England, on a prominent site at the junction of Queens Road and Whiteladies Road. The building, originally assembly rooms, was designed by Charles Dyer and was constructed between 1838 and 1842 in Greek revival style, and named in honour of Queen Victoria, who had acceded to the throne in the previous year. An eight column Corinthian portico surmounts the entrance, with a classical relief sculpture designed by Musgrave Watson above. The construction is of dressed stonework, with a slate roof. A bronze statue of Edward VII, was erected in 1912 at the front of the Victoria Rooms, together with a curved pool and several fountains with sculptures in the Art Nouveau style.

Canberra Theatre

The Canberra Theatre or officially the Canberra Theatre Centre, is the Australian Capital Territory’s central performing arts venue and Australia’s first performing arts centre, the first Australian Government initiated performing arts centre to be completed. It opened on 24 June 1965 with a gala performance by the Australian Ballet.

John Foulston

John Foulston was an English architect who was a pupil of Thomas Hardwick and set up a practice in London in 1796. In 1810 he won a competition to design the Royal Hotel and Theatre group of buildings in Plymouth, Devon, and after relocating he remained Plymouth's leading architect for twenty-five years.

Royal & Derngate

Royal & Derngate is a theatre complex in the Cultural Quarter of Northampton, England, consisting of the Royal Theatre and Derngate Theatre. The Royal Theatre, established as a producing house, has a capacity of 450 seats and since 1976 has been designated a Grade II listed building; Derngate Theatre seats a maximum of 1,200 and is a multi-purpose space in which the auditorium can be configured for a variety of events including theatre, opera, live music, dance, fashion and sports. The Errol Flynn Filmhouse, an independent cinema built to the side of the complex, opened in 2013.

The Drum Theatre is a theatre in Plymouth, England, part of the Theatre Royal. The Drum Theatre has a capacity of 200 people and specialises in the production of new plays. It won the Peter Brook Empty Space Award in 2007, and often collaborates with other subsidised companies and venues such as the Royal Court, ATC, the Lyric Hammersmith, the Bush Theatre, Frantic Assembly, Hampstead Theatre, Paines Plough, the Traverse Theatre and the Tron Glasgow. In 2007 it put on a production of Flower Girls, a play featuring disabled women.

The following is a timeline of the history of the city of Plymouth, Devon, England.

The Plymouth Athenaeum

The Plymouth Athenaeum, located in Plymouth, England, is a society dedicated to the promotion of learning in the fields of science, technology, literature and art.

The Deco

The Deco is a restored 1930s cinema and theatre located in the heart of Northampton, England. It is now operated as a venue for corporate, social and theatrical events.


  1. "The Theatre Royal Plymouth secures National Portfolio funding for 2015-18 - Theatre Royal Plymouth". Theatre Royal Plymouth. Retrieved 9 February 2017.
  2. Steven Morris (26 November 2018). "Giant bronze statue for Devon takes shape in tiny Welsh village". The Guardian . Retrieved 26 November 2018.
  3. Whitfeld, Henry Francis (1900). Plymouth and Devonport: In Times of War and Peace. Plymouth: E. Chapple. p. 306 (illustration facing).
  4. 1 2 Gill, Crispin (1993). Plymouth. A New History. Devon Books. p. 194. ISBN   0-86114-882-7.
  5. Gerrard, John (1982). The Book of Plymouth. Buckingham: Barracuda Books. p. 50. ISBN   0-86023-153-4.
  6. 1 2 Lloyd, Matthew. "Theatres and Halls in Plymouth". – The Music Hall and Theatre History Site. Retrieved 24 July 2010.
  7. Robinson, Chris (1985). Plymouth – As Time Draws On. Plymouth: Pen & Ink Publishing. p. 35. ISBN   0-9510747-0-9.
  8. Robinson, Chris (1985). Plymouth – As Time Draws On. Plymouth: Pen & Ink Publishing. p. 37. ISBN   0-9510747-0-9.
  10. 1 2 Cherry, Bridget & Pevsner, Nikolaus (1989). The Buildings of England – Devon. Harmondsworth: Penguin. p. 667. ISBN   0-14-071050-7.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  11. Moseley, Brian (25 March 2006). "Plymouth, Theatre Royal". The Encyclopaedia of Plymouth History. Archived from the original on 7 June 2011. Retrieved 12 February 2015.
  12. 1 2 "Theatre Royal and Drum Theatre Plymouth : About us". Archived from the original on 5 August 2012. Retrieved 24 July 2010.

Coordinates: 50°22′12″N4°08′42″W / 50.3699°N 4.1451°W / 50.3699; -4.1451