Just an hour from London and highly accessible, the Mercury Theatre has stood proudly on its current site since 1972, with the main house and studio theatre offering a combined capacity of 586 seats. Born out of the Colchester Repertory Theatre in 1937, the current Made in Colchester Company, under Artistic Director Daniel Buckroyd, produces high quality productions that have toured nationally, and in the case of this year’s Spamalot, internationally! The theatre is at an exciting stage where, whilst acknowledging it’s successful past and present, the future holds an extensive £8.9 refurbishment and development of the theatre that will strengthen and enhance its position as a major regional theatre.
CELEBRATING THE PAST.
As the Mercury looks forward to the future, it has also launched a project to safeguard and archive its past, Mercury Voices. Thanks to an £80,000 grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund, a professional archivist will be employed to work with the theatre over two years to create an archive of records and artefacts dating back to 1938. An oral history project will record memories of the Mercury from across the community, and the project will culminate in exhibitions and performances inspired by the archive. The Mercury’s archive materials are currently stored ad hoc across several sites. The project will see key items transferred to the safekeeping of the Essex Record Office. Colchester and Ipswich Museum Service will be supporting the project ensuring that the history of the Mercury and of the town is integrated into their future work of preserving Colchester’s history for generations to come. Colchester Recalled Oral History Group will advise on recording memories of the Mercury from across the Community and its role in the cultural life of Colchester through the decades.
The Mercury would like to hear from anyone who has memories or artefacts – old programmes, posters, even props and costumes! Anyone with a memory of the Mercury should contact firstname.lastname@example.org and their details will be passed on to the archivist. Mercury Voices will be a two-year project, culminating in exhibitions and performances inspired by the Archive and the community’s memories. The archive will then be accessible online for the very first time and available to access for free for future generations.
Community involvement like the above is crucial to the Mercury’s work, and, in addition to the Made in Colchester Company, many local groups, both professional and amateur, stage work in the two auditoriums. The Early Careers Training Programme supports new talent in a programme that encourages risk taking and features a series of workshops with visiting professionals to encourage theatre makers to think about and approach their work differently. The Made in Colchester programme, together with the Community and Education team and apprenticeships, incubate and nurture new talent in all areas of theatre.
Mercury Rising will raise £1.9m to complete an £8.9m extension and refurbishment of the Mercury Theatre – transforming and safeguarding the building for future generations.
Mercury Rising is an exciting project that will modernise and transform the much-loved theatre, safeguarding its future for the whole community. Planned improvements include:
- Transforming the foyer so it’s a bigger, lighter space which is open all day
- Redeveloping the main auditorium with extra seats
- Making all areas fully accessible for the first time
- Creating a new café to create a hub for people to work and meet friends
- Building completely new rehearsal and community spaces equipped to support the best new talent
- Revamping and extending the backstage facilities so even better theatre can be created.
During the refurbishment, the theatre will be working in alternative spaces throughout the town, so an exciting, (and as yet undisclosed), 2018/19 season is anticipated! If you haven’t visited the Mercury before, then there is no better time, as you will then be able to appreciate the difference when the grand reopening arrives!