An exciting new theatre has burst onto the scene in the north-west and the UK touring circuit with the opening of Storyhouse in Chester. At a cost of £37million, the former Grade II-listed Art Deco cinema has been transformed into a glorious new building housing a cinema and library with two new theatre spaces.
The main theatre will transform in the spring and autumn from being an 800-seat proscenium arch, presenting national and international touring productions, to a more intimate 500-seat space in the summer and at Christmas with a thrust stage extended over the stalls. There is also a 150-seat studio, The Garret Theatre, with its own fourth-floor bar with panoramic views over Chester, as well as a 100-seat boutique cinema.
Storyhouse opens with a run of four home-produced shows, performed in rep, by a new repertory company that is the largest in the UK outside the Royal Shakespeare Company and National Theatre, with 26 actors, two trainees and three musicians. The company members are Daniel Goode, Thomas Richardson, Tom Connor, Charlotte Miranda-Smith, Fred Lancaster, Natalie Grady, Adam Keast, Stephanie Hockley, Meriel Scholfield, Richard Pepper, Christopher Staines, Anne Odeke, Christopher Wright, Baker Mukasa, Charlotte Gorton, Vanessa Schofield, Jonathan Dryden Taylor, Nancy Sullivan, Barbara Hockaday, Caolan McCarthy, Alex Mugnaioni, Emily Johnstone, Bianca Stephens, Anna Leang Brophy, Rebecca Birch and James Weaver.
All of the productions will premiere on the 500-seat wrap-around Storyhouse Stage, with a pit, circle and gallery. The theatre launches with a riotous new musical based on The Beggar’s Opera, directed by Storyhouse’s artistic director Alex Clifton with music and lyrics by Harry Blake. It will be followed by the premiere of playwright Glyn Maxwell’s joyful new adaptation of Alice in Wonderland directed by Derek Bond, Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar directed by Loveday Ingram, and A Midsummer Night’s Dream also directed by Alex Clifton.
The four shows, running from this week to August 27, 2017, will give audiences the choice of seeing three on the Storyhouse Stage or in the award-winning Grosvenor Park Open Air Theatre, now part of Storyhouse’s programming. Alice, A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Julius Caesar will transfer to Grosvenor Park for the height of summer while The Beggar’s Opera will continue inside.
The autumn touring season will bring an eclectic and experimental programme of opera, comedy, music, drama and dance to Chester. West-End hit Footloose, the musical based on the 1984 movie and starring Maureen Nolan and Gareth Gates, opens the autumn season on the Storyhouse Stage from September 5 to 9 while Blood Brothers, starring Lyn Paul, arrives from October 9 to 14.
Frantic Assembly’s celebrated physicality joins the bill from November 7 to 11 with a co-production with State Theatre Company of South Australia for its new tour of Things I Know to Be True.
More laughter will be on offer as the smash-hit musical Spamalot, inspired by the classic film Monty Python and the Holy Grail, comes to Storyhouse from October 31 to November 4. Brassed Off, the play that tells the story of the miners’ strike through the travails of a colliery brass band, is on stage in October and will feature a locally-based brass band alongside the company of professional actors.
Musical All or Nothing, which charts the story of the influential 60s mod group Small Faces, known best for hit songs Itchycoo Park and All or Nothing, will be performed in November.
Storyhouse’s inaugural home-produced family Christmas show, the first stage adaptation of Enid Blyton’s The Secret Seven, will round off the year, taking the theatre into a packed 2018.