Theatre Royal to raise the curtains on redesign

Bury St Edmunds’ Theatre Royal is set to reopen next month with a redesign by architect Levitt Bernstein and branding consultancy Silk Pearce.

The two groups are nearing the end of a £5.3m restoration project for the Georgian theatre, which is being funded by the National Trust, local government and the Heritage Lottery Fund. The Theatre Royal is the sole surviving working theatre in the UK from the Regency period. The theatre’s board of directors, chaired by Judith Shallow, is hoping to inspire a renaissance in Georgian theatre, by restoring the building to its original design, as well as reviving the repertoire of the period for theatre-goers.

‘The Georgian period is a little-known period in theatre because most theatres don’t lend themselves easily to this style of production. Design has been critical in recreating the visual and physical experience needed for this type of programme,’ says Theatre Royal marketing manager Matthew Sanders.

‘We’ve stripped out the entire building and recreated everything from the configuration of seating to building a new foyer. It’s completely changed the way people will use the theatre,’ he adds.

Levitt Bernstein has been working to reinstate the original layout of the stage area, with the seating plan curving around it, creating a more intimate experience, with the audience closer than normal.

It has also developed new areas within the theatre, including bar, toilets and a foyer which uses the exterior of the old building as a key feature.

Levitt Bernstein associate director Rachel James says the geometry and scale of the old building has informed the design of the new areas.

‘The interior design has been kept simple, while the materials used – York stone, ceramic tiles and timber barrel roof – echo the building’s agricultural heritage. All modern interventions have been kept simple,’ James says.

Silk Pearce was appointed to rebrand the theatre, following a three-way credentials pitch against undisclosed consultancies last autumn.

It was given a brief to create an identity that would reflect the theatre’s new vision and raise its profile across the UK.

The identity, a motif of delicate spots, takes its cue from the building’s architectural features, according to Silk Pearce founder Peter Silk.

‘It works on several levels.

It could be a Regency arch or window, but it can also be interpreted as the curved seating plan around the stage,’ Silk says.

The resulting brand language has been implemented across print platforms, including stationery and the season programme.

Silk Pearce is also working on permanent and temporary signage, as well as a website (

The theatre is due to reopen on 11 September, having been closed for two years.

• The Theatre Royal was designed by Greek revival architect William Wilkins in 1819
• The theatre has survived two periods of closure, the longest being from 1925 to 1965, when it was used by local brewer Greene King as a barrel store
• The opening performance in September will be Black-Eyed Susan, by Douglas Jerrold

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