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Designs for the New Everyman Theatre in Liverpool Unveiled

Everyman Theatre Liverpool - front of house

Designs for the new Everyman Theatre in Liverpool have been unveiled and, at a cost of £28 million, such a project underlines just how buoyant the city’s theatre scene is. Work on the venue will include a complete demolition of the current theatre, before work on rebuilding from scratch commences in spring, 2011. The job is will be completed in the summer of 2013.

Included in the plans are a brand new,  400 seat auditorium, youth theatre facilities and a writing hub to encourage new writers to complete their work. There will also be a recreation of the theatre’s extremely popular downstairs Bistro, a street cafe and a new balcony installed above the main theatre bar which will overlook Hope Street below.

However it is far from out with all of the old and in with all of the new, as two mainstays are set to remain; the iconic Everyman sign and, importantly, the theatre’s “Thrust” stage will still give audiences and actors a sense of intimacy with the play they are either watching or performing in.  The new stage however, thanks to the technical advantages offered by the new building, will be more versatile than the current performance space, which offers a wider range of productions from more innovative touring companies and for writers to be bolder and braver than the theatre can currently accommodate.

‘The last refurbishment of The Everyman took place in 1977 and now, through the enormous success Liverpool enjoyed as Capital of Culture in 2008, the time is right for the city to have a theatre that accentuates the city’s proud history of producing world class theatre by providing a world class environment in which plays old and new can be staged,’ said Deborah Aydon, The Everyman’s Executive Director. ‘It is very important that we reach out to the youth of the city. Although we have worked with some 90,000 members of youth projects over the last five years, it has never been about quantity but always about the quality of work, as we are constantly thinking of the long term future of theatre in the city and are keen to build on the inclusivity The Everyman and the local community have established.

‘With this in mind, we recognize that the current building is only just about accessible to disabled audience members and cannot accommodate disabled performers at all.  Therefore rather than going out to simply meet legislative requirements, we’ve decided to go much further and the new building will allow us to meet that aim. The technical aspects of the current theatre are also very limiting and in terms of safety and efficiency it is really lacking. In fact our technical team have to work miracles to stage what they do to such a high standard. We also currently have no rehearsal or workshop facilities, so this new theatre will be supplying the resources The Everyman and Liverpool needs to continue to bring the very best work to the city.

‘Work on The Everyman’s sister theatre,  The Playhouse, will begin shortly after the completion of The Everyman and funding for these projects was first granted by Arts Council England in 2000, so to get to this stage has taken ten years and shows our commitment to giving Liverpool two great theatres to rival any others in the country and to provide the audiences, performers and crews  the theatrical facilities they deserve. ‘

Everyman Theatre Liverpool from CathedralAlthough the theatre will still take up its position on the corner of Hope Street, near the Catholic Cathedral, the new building will be pushed further back to accommodate an outside seating area and will, to all intents and purposes, be unrecognizable to the brick fronted edifice that occupies the site today.

‘You don’t knock down a theatre such as this casually,’ explained Artistic Director, Gemma Bodinetz. ‘What we did first was to look at what works and what is loved and were keen to consult with our audiences, artists, writers and actors so that they could have their say as to what they believe the future of The Everyman should include over a period of months. With this in mind, we have asked Haworth Tompkins, who have also recently redesigned The Young Vic, to carry out the design of the new Everyman and what we have been presented with is something that will be quite breathtaking. It will be warm and inviting so that those people who currently walk past will feel comfortable walking in and so get a sense of the magic that is live theatre, before even entering the auditorium.  Aesthetically at the moment, The Everyman is perhaps a little bare and uninviting. The new building will remedy that and further enhance the splendour of this area of the city.

‘The new facade will announce the theatre, but will also keep its sense of intimacy. There will now be a three-storied foyer, with daylight flooding through glass and so bring out a sense of activity and community spirit.

‘That sense of activity and involvement is why we have decided to keep the Thrust stage, around which the audience sits in a horseshoe. The arrangement does have issues but these will be resolved in the new seating plan which will revert to being on two levels. This, we are keen to stress, will not dilute the atmosphere the auditorium brings to a play and that has a quintessential beauty of its own within which to work, but will instead improve the audience’s sightlines and, also, their ability to hear every word of what is being said on stage, no matter where they are seated. 
‘The Bistro and the iconic emblem that is the sign will also remain, because we are acutely aware that the theatre must never become grander than the people of Liverpool want it to be. The Bistro is essential to the people’s love of The Everyman and we would be mad to try and reinvent a forty year old, established restaurant in which customers thrive in an ambience of discussion and where great writers have gathered to mull over their work. In fact, Roger McGough reminded me that he met Adrian Henry and Brian Patton in the Bistro and so went on to create history.
‘Then there is the punk sensibility of, and the confidence that is inspired by, The Everyman logo, which is definitive about what this theatre stands for and what it encompasses on so many democratic levels of inclusion.

‘What’s beautiful about this place are the memories, the histories and the stories that people have about it. What we want, more than anything else, is for those stories to be remembered fondly and for new stories to be created, in a theatre of which Liverpool can be truly proud.’

 

 

  
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If you would like to comment on this interview with the Everyman Theatre, Liverpool in May 2010, please feel free to contact me - GUESTBOOK

“Writing gets me away for a while' from this world and into one where I, alone, can make or
break the rules as I see fit.” - Chris High 2003.
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