Visitors are invited to tread in the footsteps of actors from centuries past as part of a guided tour offered by Britain’s oldest working theatre in its original form
The Georgian Theatre Royal in Richmond is opening its doors next week for the start of a new season of tours that will reveal a bygone world of grease paint, wigs and even theatre ghosts, as well as provide the opportunity to stand on the historic stage itself.
Over the years, there have been many famous performers who have graced this stage going back to the eminent Georgian actor Edmund Kean with more recent appearances by stars such as Jenny Agutter, Sir Thomas Allen, John Cleese and Michael Williams.
Built by actor manager Samuel Butler in 1788, the Theatre’s long and distinguished history is celebrated in its living theatre museum and popular back stage tours. This year’s tour season starts on Monday 16 February and guided visits run every hour from 10.00am – 4.00pm, Monday to Saturday, with Sunday tours between 12pm and 3pm starting at Easter.
Visitors to the museum will be able to see playbills and scripts as well as Britain’s oldest set of scenery, known as The Woodland Scene, painted between 1818 and 1836. They will also learn about the Theatre’s own fairy-tale history of abandonment and restoration.
The Theatre fell into disuse in 1848 - when it was let as an auction room - but following a public restoration appeal was re-opened again in 1963. A further £1.6 million restoration was carried out in 2002/3 and the Theatre was re-opened by HRH the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall. It is now celebrated around the world as a unique example of English Theatre architecture.
The Theatre’s museum attracts large numbers of visitors each year and is a fully accredited museum (MLA) and a Quality Assured Visitor Attraction. Last year it received the prestigious Certificate of Excellence from Trip Advisor and is currently ranked first of the town’s activities listed on the popular travel site.
A recent reviewer from Derby said: “The tour of the Theatre was one of the highlights of my trip this year. I’ve spent a lot of time in England and this was my second time in Richmond. I recommend this to anyone.”
Another visitor commented: “A fascinating tour conducted for just the two of us by a very knowledgeable guide. The historical details were most interesting.”
Entry to the museum is free but there is a suggested donation of £3.50 per adult and £1 per child. The museum is located at the side of the Theatre building on Friar’s Wynd. For further information, call 01748 825252.