Richmond’s Georgian Theatre Royal celebrated the official opening of its new auditorium last week, which has undergone a major development programme during lockdown.
There to see the curtains go bac was the philanthropist Hamish Ogston, whose donation of £375,000 through the Hamish Ogston Foundation enabled the historic venue to use the closure period to complete an ambitious capital works project that has provided new comfortable seating and improved views of the stage.
The three-tier, courtyard-style auditorium has also been completely re-decorated, new stage and auditorium lighting has been installed, and a mural depicting a lively Georgian audience is an additional feature behind the boxes.
It was the intention of Hamish Ogston that his donation would provide a catalyst for further financial support of the theatre and this has been forthcoming in further grants from the Theatres Trust, the Pilgrim Trust, the Foyle Foundation and the Normanby Trust.
Collectively, this has meant that the theatre has also been able to replace old boilers and install a modern building management system, which will greatly improve both the effectiveness and efficiency of the ventilation and heating in the Grade I Listed building.
Among the guests at the opening event was local MP and Chancellor Rishi Sunak, and Lord Crathorne, a long-serving trustee of the theatre whose mother Lady Nancy Crathorne was the driving force behind the original re-opening of the Theatre in 1963.
“We are hugely grateful to Hamish Ogston whose Foundation gave us the substantial grant that enabled us to complete much of our celebrated auditorium project,” said Mac Bryant, chair of the Georgian Theatre Royal Trust.
“In addition, Rishi Sunak’s staff furlough scheme and other Government initiatives have enabled us to retain our dedicated staff team and meet the day-to-day running costs of the theatre during the closure period.
“It is thanks to them both and everyone else that has supported and donated to the theatre throughout the pandemic that we are now able to welcome audiences back to this wonderful theatre and look forward to a glorious season of live entertainment.”
Starting the autumn season with a recital on the same evening was international pianist Albert Lau who also played selected pieces at the opening event.
He performed on the Theatre’s recently restored Steinway grand piano that was renovated during lockdown.
Speaking at the event, Rishi Sunak said: “I am delighted the Government’s economic support packages helped this very special venue weather the last 18 months and provided the opportunity to bring about the really impressive improvements to the auditorium that we see today.
“This is a glorious re-awakening of a unique theatre which is not only renowned nationally and internationally but loved locally. It is great to be back here and I have already booked my family’s tickets for this year’s panto.”
For further information about the Georgian Theatre Royal’s autumn season, please visit: www.georgiantheatreroyal.co.uk