Theatre ‘goes dark’ as £7.5m refurbishment gets underway

Michael Ockwell, chief executive of Mayflower Theatre

It’s shone a light on some of the biggest stars in theatre and music over the last 90 years.

But Mayflower Theatre has ‘gone dark’ as a £7.5m refurbishment project gets underway.

The iconic Southampton venue, which has seen the likes of Julie Andrews, Laurel and Hardy, Michael McIntyre, Take That and even The Beatles tread its boards, has flicked off the lights and temporarily closed the doors as it undergoes its biggest makeover in the last three decades.

The multi-million pound project will ensure the theatre remains best in class and continues to draw in hundreds of thousands of people to the city. Every year more than 500,000 people visit Mayflower Theatre, spending money locally while in the city and boosting the local economy.

Among the work that will take place during the 11-week project will be:
Repainting the entire auditorium, with a brand-new red and gold colour scheme
Removing all of the seats in the stalls and circle and replacing with 1,659 brand-new (and wider) seats
Reupholstering all seats in the balcony
Installing new environmentally-friendly LED lighting
Increasing accessibility, with better facilities for people with disabilities
Moving the orchestra pit to under the stage
Renovating the plasterwork

As part of the theatre’s commitment to protecting the environment, 63 per cent of waste from the refurbishment project will be recycled.

An army of contractors, many of whom are from the local area, will work day and night on the project. At the height of the construction programme there could be up to 120 different tradesmen and women on site per day.

The project has been welcomed by Southampton Cultural Development Trust, which says that Mayflower Theatre plays an important part in the city’s cultural offering.

Chairman Brad Roynon said:

‘Mayflower Theatre doesn’t just bring in huge shows and hundreds of thousands of visitors to the city every year. It also plays an important part in connecting new audiences with theatre and inspiring young people to get involved in the arts.

‘It’s therefore absolutely vital that we preserve this historic and culturally important venue to ensure it remains, and develops further, as a catalyst for the growth of arts and culture.’

Michael Ockwell, chief executive of Mayflower Theatre, said:

Closing our doors for just over three months isn’t a decision we take lightly but this work is absolutely vital to make sure the next generation of theatre-goers and performers have access to a world-class facility.

‘This is without doubt the most significant refurbishment project that the theatre has seen in the last three decades and we’re incredibly excited to get work underway.’

All permanent theatre staff will have the chance to volunteer with local charities and organisations while the refurbishment project goes on. Employees have already lent their skills to gardening at Countess Mountbatten Hospice.

Mayflower Theatre reopens on September 28, with a performance from Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo on the Friday and Saturday of that week.

The venue opened on December 22, 1928 as the Empire Theatre, becoming The Gaumont in 1950 and eventually Mayflower Theatre in 1987. It remains the largest theatre in the south of England and attracts 500,000 visitors a year. It employs 230 staff.