Theatreland, in the West End of London, is home to around 40 venues and attracts 19 million people each year to its eclectic variety of shows and performances. Many of these venues opened their doors over 100 years ago, meaning that although they offer charming and quaint spaces for performances, they may not always be able to offer the experience and amenities demanded by modern visitors and producers. In addition, many of these theatres have a certain special interest which warrants being a listed building, further limiting the degree of change and intervention that theatre operators can readily implement.
Montagu Evans has been dealing with two such cases over the past year, working with the Ambassadors Theatre Group (ATG), who have sought to adapt their theatres to address many of the above issues that are important to tackle for both patrons and visiting production companies.
At the Phoenix Theatre on Charing Cross Road, Montagu Evans has recently secured planning permission and listed building consent from the London Borough of Camden for works that provide enhanced accessibility of the theatre whilst also creating an improved street presence with a new multi-functional space for better ticketing, merchandising and a customer experience.
ATG took a rare opportunity to acquire the adjacent row of retail units on Charing Cross Road to expand the theatre’s demise. Designed by Pawlik + Weidmar Architects, the scheme incorporates the installation of a new lift, level access, accessible toilet provision and new seating – all facilitated by linking the former retail units into the theatre (with 1,650 sqft of new space).
Simultaneously, the new front-of-house area provides flexibility to production companies, who now have space to improve the overall theatre experience in the auditorium, providing visitors with a seamless customer journey and experience. Overall, the works help secure the Phoenix Theatre's long-term appeal, enhancing the aesthetics of Charing Cross Road and continuing to promote Camden as a destination for world-leading theatre.
Separately, Montagu Evans secured permission and listed building consent for the refurbishment of the Ambassadors Theatre last year, which included a full refurbishment and improvement to the seating, installation of a new access lift, services lighting, and alterations to the stalls bar provision – to improve the quality of experience for patrons further and adapt to improve the facilities for visiting productions. This also included a donation of 275 no-original seats to the Sandpit Theatre in St Albans as part of a sustainable salvage strategy.
It's often said that ‘timing is everything’ in theatre, and that's also the case in the planning process. The ability to undertake refurbishment works is limited to the periods between productions, and therefore, a smooth process through the application and obtaining the relevant permissions is critical for all venues across the West End.
Overall, the works, which received support from the Theatres Trust, contribute to maintaining the vitality of the West End as a leisure and theatre destination. Both schemes optimise the use of listed buildings through sensitive proposals that also safeguard the continued appeal and high demand of theatres into the future.
acts for a range of venue owners across London and has a track record of securing permissions for cultural and entertainment uses, often in sensitive listed buildings. These buildings have an ongoing need to adapt to remain usable and viable venues. Their age and special interest provide charm, which makes each performance space unique. However, careful consideration is required to ensure that the required interventions are sensitively designed and alterations are undertaken whilst balancing both the interests of the venue and the significance of the heritage asset.