Newcastle Theatre Royal reopens after renovation

Theatre Royal before and after restoration. Pictures by Sally Ann Norman and Rory Gibson Newcastle's Theatre Royal before and after renovation

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Newcastle's Theatre Royal will reopen on Monday following a six month, £5 million renovation project.

The Grade I listed theatre's Victorian auditorium has been recreated from the original architect Frank Matcham's designs, which date back to 1901.

New carpets, lighting, seats, wallpaper and gold-leaf plasterwork have all been refitted in the revamp.

The theatre will re-open with a production of Alan Bennett's The Madness of George III.

It was George III who originally gave the theatre its royal licence in 1787.

About 500 craftsmen from across Europe worked on the project to have it completed in time for the theatre's 175th birthday in 2012.

Foyers and stairways have also been upgraded, while 37,000 pieces of gold leaf have been used to coat nearly a fifth of the auditorium.

Theatre Royal restoration. Picture: Rory Gibson More than 30,000 pieces of gold leaf were used in the auditorium

"This project has been a labour of love for everyone involved, and no expense spared on the creation of authentic decorative touches," said Philip Bernays, chief executive of the theatre.

"The result is simply breathtaking. We know that our audiences will be blown away by the sheer beauty of it.

"If Matcham were alive today, I think he would be very impressed."

Matcham expert David Wilmore, who advised on the project, added: "This is the biggest and most meticulous theatre restoration I have ever worked on - no other I'm aware of has been as meticulously researched and recreated."

The project has largely been funded by theatre patrons, who have been paying a £1.75 levy on every ticket sold since 2008.

The rest of the funding has come from private and trust donations, as well as a £300,000 grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund.

Future shows at the theatre include touring productions of The Sound of Music and End of the Rainbow, the RSC's Young People's Shakespeare production of Hamlet and one-off shows from Dave Gorman and Pam Ayres.

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