CENTRE STAGE – NOVEMBER 10
It is a day of celebration for Norwich Theatre Royal as it announces its best financial results ever.
Guests at its annual celebration of success – Centre Stage – have been told today (November 10) that it has produced its best-ever operating surplus of over £700,000 before depreciation, which will provide the final injection of funding to pay for the capital costs of the theatre’s Stage Two learning and participation centre.
It will also give the theatre the chance to forge ahead with plans to increase the breadth and ambition of its artistic programming and expand and put more focus on its learning and participation work.
The development of the on-stage offering will be focused on four main areas. They are:
• Dance which includes Norwich Theatre Royal becoming part of the Dance Consortium, enabling high-quality and large-scale international dance to become a key year-round addition to the programme. The first two pieces coming to the city will be the Norwich debut of world-renowned dancer Carlos Acosta and his new company Acosta Danza, and a visit from the Brooklyn-based Mark Morris Dance Group, presenting their Beatles-inspired piece Pepperland. There will also be some ambitious dance work at Norwich Playhouse including Protein Dance’s Border Tales which focuses on life in post-Brexit Britain through the eyes of a multicultural cast, and 201 Dance Company’s Skin which follows a boy’s journey through gender transition.
• Drama which includes National Theatre, Chichester Festival Theatre and Headlong returning to the Theatre Royal with This House, their ferociously funny flashback to Westminster in 1974, and the return of the critically-acclaimed Watermill Theatre Company who will present more of their inventive takes on Shakespeare’s classic works. Also coming to Norwich Playhouse is Wardrobe Ensemble’s Education, Education, Education which chronicles life at a Nineties comprehensive mixing irreverent humour and inventive theatricality.
• Classical Music which will include regular visits from professional symphony orchestras including a performance by the world-renowned Hallé Orchestra.
• The Extraordinary with plans to present some innovative and extraordinary programming that will see us work with partners to further establish Norwich as an international destination for culture
Stephen Crocker, the theatre’s chief executive, said: “It is a tribute to the experience, skills, resilience and boundless energy of the staff and volunteers of the Theatre Royal and Norwich Playhouse that we have achieved our best business results ever as well as the phenomenal loyalty of our audiences.
“A significant development in this financial year was the completion of our new purpose-built £3.5m learning and participation centre. This important project has seen a whole new area of work and ambition for the Theatre Royal open up and has further cemented learning and participation at the core of our mission.
“In light of this, our Trustees made the decision to use reserves to close the remaining capital funding gap on Stage Two, and to allow organisational resources and our fundraising strategy to focus on supporting new programmes of work in the future.”
Within Stage Two, this will mean a growing programme of new work and projects. In January, it will host its second Creative Matters season which aims to break down barriers and give people the chance to look at important issues creatively within a safe space. The next one will focus on men’s mental health and include an audience with Nimmo Twin Karl Minns talking about his own anxiety battles, and Small Nose Productions presenting I Had A Black Dog which focuses on a man’s battle with depression and is based on the novel by Matthew Johnstone.
The theatre’s youth company is also going to bring the classic musical Grease to the stage next summer. The all-American love story set at Rydell High and featuring iconic songs including You’re The One That I Want and Summer Lovin’ will be a great chance for young people to bring a famous musical to the stage through learning the skills to act and sing in the cast dance in the ensemble and also to form the production crew for the show. The celebration of that work will continue with a showcase at the Playhouse entitled Take Part Presents which will feature drama created by younger acting students and some of the Limelighters group which works with those aged 50-plus on dance, drama and creative writing projects.
The theatre’s artistic strategy will be bolstered through closer working with Norwich Playhouse, developing joint, complementary programming as well as sharing expertise and knowledge between the venues on-stage and off.
The Centre Stage event coincides with the online publication of the theatre’s annual survey which sets out the performances and highlights of the 2016/17 year.
It shows the Theatre Royal presented 409 performances of 91 separate productions and sold just under 400,000 tickets, an average seating capacity of 76 per cent.
Highlights included high-quality drama like the hugely-popular Hobson’s Choice starring Norwich Theatre Royal favourite Martin Shaw, the epic National Theatre of Scotland trilogy The James Plays which chronicled a turbulent period of history in the 15th century north of the border, and A Midsummer Night’s Dream: A Play For The Nation which featured a cast drawn from the Royal Shakespeare Company and local amateur theatre group The Common Lot.
The summer saw a hugely successful five week run of Cameron Mackintosh’s iconic musical Mary Poppins. Stephen Crocker said: “More than 42,000 people saw it here filling over 92 per cent of the seats and it took £1.99m at the Box Office, more than any other single show in the Theatre Royal’s history.”
Meanwhile over 60,000 people came along to the Wild West-set panto Jack and the Beanstalk which was once again written and directed by Richard Gauntlett, who also starred in it. “We achieved new heights of excellence reflected in the record advance bookings for the 2017-18 pantomime season,” said Stephen. “We are rightly very proud of our pantomimes particularly as they provide the most entertaining and exciting experience for many small first-time theatregoers and a unique opportunity for families to come together at Christmas in our theatre.”
The theatre is also punching its weight in comparison to 14 other theatres around the UK of a similar size and type. The total annual number of seats sold of 399,792 is around 106,000 more than the average and its 76 per cent capacity achieved dwarfs the survey average of 64 per cent.
The number of Friends of the Theatre also compares favourably with the rest of the country. It totals 11,135, well above the national average of 2655.
Overall, Stephen has ambitious plans to drive forward the theatre. He said: “We would like to say a big thank you to everyone who has helped and supported us so far. We hope they will now join us on the journey to develop our programme even further as we innovate and develop what we offer across our three venues while absolutely sustaining the incredible quality and breadth of work across all genres that has become the trademark of the Theatre Royal and Playhouse.”
Norwich Eye will continue to support our leading Norwich theatre with regulars reviews and previews and special insights into what makes the theatre work so well. Some of the changes instituted by new Chief Executive Stephen Crocker have already been enjoyed by capacity audiences, such as the well-received visit of the 87 strong St Petersburg Symphony Orchestra in October, who gave us a sparkling evening of works by Prokofiev, Rachmaninov and Rimsky Korsakov from an impressive orchestra that filled every available inch of the Theatre Royal stage. The enthusiasm of the audience for that concert suggests that Stephen Crocker is leading the theatre in the direction that is right for Norwich. Our fine city is fortunate in having a variety of venues that host the best of current music and drama in a range of venues, with small cutting edge and innovative dramas at the Norwich Arts Centre, an increasingly diverse offer from Norwich Playhouse and some of the most prestigious national and international touring productions at the Theatre Royal. We are also blessed with some rare specialist organisations such as the Puppet Theatre and the Oak Circus Centre and strong community theatre groups such as Crude Apache and Common Lot who all present high quality and entertaining productions.