New Wimbledon Theatre Gets A Fresh Look

Three-year building programme comes to finale

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The New Wimbledon Theatre has undergone a recent change, with the facade of the landmark building being clad in scaffolding for major improvement work.

As is traditional for the theatre, the summer sees it go 'dark', when no productions are shown but the box office is open for bookings. This is to enable essential maintenance work to take place, which this year includes extensive refurbishments.

The building improvements will complete a three-year programme to upgrade facilities for visiting companies and to also make changes to the auditorium to improve the audience experience.

The programme represents a matched funding investment between the Ambassador Theatre Group (ATG) and Merton Borough Council who own the building. For the next five weeks extensive building and renovation work will be taking place across the sides, the roof and underneath the stage before the theatre’s autumn season begins in September.

The exterior of the theatre is undergoing a make-over with external painting, fixing of masonry and roof improvements, the winged statue on top of the theatre’s dome (known as the "angel" but representing Laetitia – the Goddess of Gaiety) is being regilded and the air-handling system is being repaired as part of the new roof works for the New Wimbledon Studio. All exterior work to the fabric of the building is being undertaken by the council.

A former entrance to the Upper Circle on The Broadway is being refurbished by ATG for regular use as an entrance to the uppermost tier of seating which will provide a much easier route to "the gods"– 39 steps to the front of the Upper Circle as opposed to the 106 to the back via the previous and now alternative interior entrance.

Inside the building, and financed by ATG, there will be general painting and redecoration of several internal staircases, safety lines installed to improve health and safety for technical staff when rigging lighting equipment. Backstage facilities will also be improved with more spaces for visiting companies and resident staff.

Other developments involve the creation of a brand new scene dock being added to the theatre’s stage right wing space. Knocking through the existing theatre wall, the new dock will provide an area of extra space to store scenery and props which will mean they can stage larger productions, have the possibility of receiving visiting companies offering a repertoire as well as easing congestion of scenery.

Sub-stage is undergoing a makeover with the expansion of the theatre’s Orchestra Pit underneath the stage. Already equipped with a hydraulic lift which raises and lowers the level of the stage, the increased space will enable larger orchestras to be accommodated, and provide for new band rooms, extra storage and workshops.

Executive General Manager of New Wimbledon Theatre Maralyn Sarrington said: "We are thrilled that our centenary year will see the completion of planned refurbishments and improvements that ensure our place as a number one touring venue for the 21st century."

The building and renovation work will be ongoing throughout the next month and be unveiled in time for the brand new autumn season, filled with productions that will benefit from the building improvements. These include Matthew Bourne's Swan Lake (September 14-18), Andrew Lloyd Webber's Evita (September 27- October 2) and the theatre's charity variety gala, 'A Centennial Celebration' (September 26).

August 16, 2010