Richmond’s Georgian Theatre provides inspiration for novel

Jaime Gilpin reading A Snowfall of Silver.

Award-winning novelist Laura Wood took inspiration from Richmond’s Georgian Theatre Royal for the setting of her latest book for young adults, A Snowfall of Silver.

The coming of age romance is set in the 1930s and tells the story of 18-year-old Freya Trevelyan who runs away from her home in Cornwall to follow her dream of becoming an actress.

She finds work with a touring theatrical company and their journey takes her to a small Yorkshire theatre where much of the key action takes place.

Writing the novel during lockdown, author and academic Laura Wood researched Richmond’s historic Georgian Theatre Royal to bring her fictional theatre to life and readers can clearly identify the building in the book’s pages, from the description of the “pale, mint green” boxes that line the auditorium to the “intricate woodland scenery” and “snug and cosy” dressing rooms.

The author wrote: “The complete impression is one of delicious folly, as though the whole theatre has been constructed on a whim, like an oversized dolls’ house for grown-ups to play in.”

The winner of the Montegrappa Scholastic Prize for New Children’s Writing said about the theatre: “I knew that I wanted to write about theatres outside of London and as soon as I came across pictures of the Georgian Theatre Royal it was love at first sight.

“The theatre looks like something out of a fairytale, and with its rich history and beautiful design it became the perfect inspiration for my own Theatre Royale.”

Theatre bosses say the novel’s plot mirrors the Georgian Theatre’s own fascinating history.

The central characters are marooned at the theatre due to a snowstorm and have to sleep in the dressing rooms in the same way that the Georgian actors lived when they were travelling between the eight venues that made up a northern circuit of theatres built by actor manager Samuel Butler in the late 18th century.

As well as Richmond, one of Samuel Butler’s other theatres was in Whitby and it is no coincidence that the book’s fictional theatre location of Runleigh is clearly based on the famous Yorkshire coastal town.

The modern day is also accurately alluded to. At first, the actors don’t know why the national tour includes the tiny theatre, which has so far centred on larger city venues, but it becomes apparent that the play’s famous director has a soft spot for “this magical place” even though it is “very out of the way”.

The book says: “I can’t get over that place … it’s so special. No wonder Mr Cantwell wanted to come.” (Chapter 20)

This holds true today – as well as at other times in its history – with The Georgian Theatre Royal hosting many internationally and nationally famous companies and stars who routinely play in much bigger venues.

A Snowfall of Silver was published on October 1 by Scholastic Children’s Books and is widely available at booksellers and online.

Readers can see the delights of the Theatre for themselves by taking a backstage guided tour.

These currently run Monday to Saturday and take place on the hour from 10am until 4pm. Tickets cost £5 for adults and £2 for children. No booking is required.

For further information, please contact 01748 825252 or visit