Theatre Royal Drury Lane, 2021

major restoration of the Grade I listed theatre

Haworth Tompkins have completed a major restoration of the Grade I listed Theatre Royal Drury Lane, one of the world’s most important theatres. The project, for LW Theatres, has involved seven years of painstaking research, analysis, design and craftsmanship to bring London’s grandest venue gloriously back to life.

Drury Lane encapsulates the history of British theatre, Benjamin Dean Wyatt’s 1812 building being only the latest incarnation of a continuous theatrical presence on the site since 1663.

A central part of the project vision was to reveal and restore Wyatt’s foyers and staircase - arguably the most impressive Georgian sequence of public interior spaces in existence - and to democratise the previously segregated circulation into the auditorium. For the first time in almost a century, the auditorium can be entered directly from street level without needing to go via the basement level.

A new lift, along with fully accessible circulation at each level, has ensured that every audience member can now experience the grandeur of the architecture. And by opening up the original foyer entrances on three sides and removing later accretions, the front of house foyer has been restored to its former glory.

Andrew Lloyd Webber has personally commissioned new paintings and ‘grisaille’ murals for the foyers to complement a new hang of historic paintings, drawings and posters.

We have collaborated with interior designers AWI to install new bars, retail space and furniture that enable the theatre to operate viably throughout the day and evening, and with BDP lighting to recreate a warm, soft ambience inspired by historic precedents.

Wyatt’s multi-tiered, enveloping auditorium was replaced entirely in the 1920s when a more disengaged, cinematic style of seating arrangement was fashionable. A crucial aspect of our work has been to bring the audience into a closer and more direct relationship with the stage, aspiring to the legendary intimacy of LW Theatre’s other great venue of similar capacity, Frank Matcham’s London Palladium.

We worked alongside regular theatre consultant partners Charcoalblue, greatly improving the sightlines, removing overbearing boxes and subtly tightening the room geometry to embrace the stage more closely. The redecorated auditorium has been fully re-seated and technically refitted so that for the first time it will be possible to arrange the theatre in unconventional formats for specific productions.

With major technical renewal of the stagehouse, greatly increased restroom provision and full refurbishment of the dressing rooms, the entire building has been restored and upgraded: this magnificent historic theatre has entered yet another incarnation, equipped for the next generations of theatre making.

“I believe that the Lane is now one of London’s most warm and beautiful auditoriums, and the most versatile historic theatrical space anywhere in the world.” Lord Andrew Lloyd Webber

client

LW theatres

Construction Manager

GTCM

project manager

Avison Young

structural engineer

conisbee

services engineer

skelly & couch

quantity surveyor

gardiner & theobald

theatre & acoustics consultant

charcoalblue

lighting consultant

BDP

Interior designers

alexander waterworth Interiors

picture credits

philip vile/fred howarth

Behind the scenes
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