Shaftesbury Theatre Renovation

I was lucky enough to get invited along to the Shaftesbury Theatre to see what had been happening there and check out the renovations.

The Shaftesbury Theatre is a grade 2 listed building and is the largest independent West End Theatre. A huge amount of work has happened at the theatre and impressively the building was only closed for 12 weeks whilst the work was ongoing (in addition to the forced closure for covid). This meant that the work has been ongoing whilst Memphis, Motown and &Juliet has been running. For example much of the work mentioned about the flies below was done whilst Memphis was running so the fly floor, above the stage had to be sectioned off during Memphis to ensure that the theatre could keep running whilst the show was ongoing. There has been a huge amount of work done to the building and even more planned. I checked out the following:

The 1911 Stalls Bar
  • The work that had been done in the auditorium to include state of the art air conditioning/heating. I also learned about future plans to change all of the seating which means that eventually you can remove all of the seats for wheelchair spaces. There are currently 13 wheelchair spaces in the stalls. The new seats also mean increased leg room and comfort – all without loosing capacity in the theatre.
  • Toilets – you can’t mention a theatre refurb without talking about the toilets. More ladies toilets have been introduced on every level. There are now 29 ladies toilets, 23 gents toilets and 2 accessible toilets.
  • The new 1911 stalls bar. The bar is 26 meters long and I recommend a trip down there if you are at the Shaftesbury as there is a wonderful display about the theatres history. The bar is also served with lifts to make it accessible.
  • There is also a new hospitality space named the Taffner Suite after Don Taffner Snr, the original owner of the theatre. This is under ground and came about due to acquiring the land under the road and moving the utilities. Having space such as this means that this is an additional revenue stream which in turn helps keep ticket prices down. There is also plans to add a similar hospitality suite in the circle.

The Fly Floor
  • The flies have been improved considerably. Previously they could only support 12 tonnes but this has been improved to 35 tonnes. 4 legs now support the fly towere and they can carry a load of 200 tonnes each, and in turn thy are supported by 22 piles in each corner of thr stage which goes down 18 meters. On the fly floor itself the height has been improved from 1 meter to 2.5 meaning more effective working conditions. In addition the centre area can be lifted out and equipment hoisted out. There has also been vents added above the flies which helps mitigate any fire risk. All of these changes means that the theatre can cope with all demands thrown at it, from high winds to heavy scenery.
  • The theatre was the first steel framed theatre built in the West End in 1911. This avoids the needs for columns in the auditorium which can be a problem for sight lines. This did mean that they had to think about how best to utilise the structure of the building for the works. There has been a huge amount of work undertaken to the dome which sits above the auditorium. New ties have been installed and replaced with metal wire support which goes into plates which are then set into the dome. The walkways within the dome were also upgraded and connected to the roof structure. A steel frame was then put onto the roof and this rests on the supporting outside walls.
  • Accessibility has also been improved for performers which include things such as adding a wheelchair accessible dressing room.

Future plans for the theatre include linking up to Camden’s new Princes Circus and the theatre will have an outdoor food area which opens onto this.

I’m excited to see what the finished theatre looks like!!

If you liked this article you might also like my review of & Juliet.

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