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Nestled on Grey Street, in the heart of Newcastle upon Tyne, stands the Theatre Royal, a beacon of the city’s cultural life and a historical monument of theatrical art. Since its opening in 1837, the Theatre Royal has become an integral part of Newcastle’s artistic and social fabric.

Theatre Royal Old

Early Beginnings

Designed by local architects John and Benjamin Green as part of Richard Grainger’s grand design for the city centre, the Theatre Royal opened its doors on 20 February 1837 with a performance of “The Merchant of Venice”. This marked the beginning of an era that would see the Theatre Royal become one of the most prestigious venues in the UK​.

John and Benjamin Green: Master Architects of Newcastle

The Father-Son Duo

John and Benjamin Green were a formidable father-son duo in the architectural world of Newcastle. As prominent architects in Newcastle during the 19th century, they played a pivotal role in shaping the city’s architectural landscape. John Green, born in 1787, established himself as a significant architect in Newcastle. His work was marked by a blend of practicality and aesthetic appeal. He was responsible for designing several key buildings and structures in and around Newcastle, showcasing his versatility and vision.

Benjamin Green, following in his father’s footsteps, brought a fresh perspective to the architectural scene. Born in 1811, he collaborated with his father on numerous projects, combining traditional styles with emerging trends of the era. Together, they formed a dynamic team that left an indelible mark on Newcastle’s architectural heritage.

The design of the Theatre Royal in 1837 is perhaps one of their most renowned collaborations. The theatre’s elegant façade and sophisticated interior reflect the Greens’ proficiency in creating structures that were not only functional but also aesthetically pleasing. Their work on the Theatre Royal remains a celebrated example of their architectural prowess and a key part of their legacy as architects in Newcastle.

John and Benjamin Green were more than just some architects newcastle loved; they were visionaries who contributed significantly to the architectural identity of Newcastle. Their designs often encapsulated the spirit of the city, combining utility with beauty. As architects in Newcastle, they set a high standard for architectural excellence, influencing future generations of architects in the city.

The legacy of John and Benjamin Green in Newcastle’s architectural history is profound. Their collaboration on the Theatre Royal is a testament to their skill and creativity, showcasing their ability to create enduring and iconic structures. As architects in Newcastle, they played a crucial role in shaping the city’s architectural narrative, leaving behind a legacy that continues to inspire and impress.

The Role of Lessees

The theatre was managed by a series of lessees appointed by the shareholders of the Proprietors’ Committee. Among the most notable was Edward D. Davis, who managed the theatre from 1845 to 1870. During his tenure, the theatre’s interior was redesigned in 1867 by architect Charles J. Phipps, enhancing its aesthetic and functional appeal​.

A Period of Change and Reconstruction

Robert Arthur took over the lease in 1888, ushering in a new era for the theatre. However, in 1899, a devastating fire broke out following a performance of Shakespeare’s “Macbeth”, destroying the interior. Renowned architect Frank Matcham was commissioned to redesign the interior, which reopened in 1901, preserving its external façade. The reconstruction under Matcham introduced an opulent Edwardian style that remains a defining feature of the theatre​.

Modern Renovations

In the late 1980s, the Theatre Royal underwent a major refurbishment, reopening in 1988 with a performance of “A Man For All Seasons” starring Charlton Heston. This restoration project rejuvenated the theatre, ensuring its legacy for future generations​.

The most recent restoration occurred in 2011, focusing on reviving the original 1901 Edwardian interior designed by Frank Matcham. This £4.75 million project involved meticulous preservation of the original plasterwork, updating the seating to Edwardian-style theatre seats, and enhancing accessibility and comfort. The Theatre Royal reopened on 12 September 2011 with Alan Bennett’s “The Madness of George III”, marking yet another chapter in its illustrious history​.

Present-Day Theatre Royal

Today, the Theatre Royal is a hub of cultural activity, hosting a variety of shows including ballet, contemporary dance, drama, musicals, and opera. It is a key stop for national British tours, hosting 30 to 35 visiting shows annually. The theatre boasts a substantial stage and a sizeable orchestra pit, accommodating large-scale productions and performances​.

The Theatre Royal, Newcastle upon Tyne, stands not just as a building but as a living testament to the city’s enduring love for the performing arts. Its rich history, architectural evolution, and continued prominence in the cultural landscape make it a jewel in Newcastle’s crown, cherished by both artists and audiences alike.