UCL’s staff and students – and the public – can enjoy performing and watching a variety of performances in the university’s historic Bloomsbury Theatre following a specialist restoration project.
Its redevelopment has created high-quality performance spaces for hosting the best of theatre, dance, music and comedy, alongside student productions, and a new events programme devised with UCL researchers to bring ground-breaking discoveries to life on stage.
As part of a cutting-edge revamp, the 1960s Brutalist landmark building – famous for its innovative comedy, theatre, music and dance – has been expertly renovated.
As well as the main auditorium of 541 seats, the theatre also houses the Bloomsbury Studio, a flexible space for up to 70 people.
Originally opened as the Central Collegiate Building Auditorium in 1968 as a home for student and university produced theatre at UCL, it was renamed in 1982 as The Bloomsbury Theatre Building to reflect its geographical location, as well as the artistic associations of the name. The theatre was able to fulfil this purpose for close to 50 years before it was closed for its final restoration.
The upgrade of its 541-seat auditorium, stage and fly-tower, will give student societies and productions the full benefits of a 21st-century theatre.
The refurbishment improved the theatre’s technical and audio-visual capabilities, including:
- New ‘follow spotlights’ now operating from projector room; previously they were located among the seats in the circle
- Improved stage lighting and audio-visual systems to enhance performances and giving performers the ability to customise the theatre and studio.
- Improved safety of modernised backstage facilities including computer controlled auditorium lighting
- New insulation to improve acoustics in the auditorium.
- A safer workshop space for training students and building sets
- A new safety curtain installed while the stage has seen a replacement semi-sprung flooring designed to reduce bounce and enhance performance
- Reinstatement of the historic paint-frame, a huge canvas on which artists create the scenery or backdrop of a performance
- Replacement of the proscenium stage’s motorized thrusts, which can be moved to expose an orchestra pit accommodating up to 60 musicians or increase the stage size
The project is on track to achieve a RICS SKA Gold, the highest possible sustainable fit-out rating. Key features of sustainability will include:
- A wide range of technologies to improve energy efficiency, including new lighting and ·controls; and a ventilation system with heat recovery
- The theatre roof hosts solar panels which supply the neighbouring Student Centre, providing ‘free’ low carbon energy
- New teak slats panelling to improve acoustics — the old slats will be reused elsewhere at UCL
The newly refurbished theatre aims to “bring London in”, not only as an audience but as users of the theatre and studio spaces. The full benefits of a 21st-century theatre will create opportunities for collaboration between academics, artists, performers, directors and companies inside and outside UCL's diverse community.
Inclusion and Access
The refurbishment has also included improved accessibility in line with wider UCL policies and standards. Providing more wheelchair spaces and lift access for audiences as well as improved access for performers the theatre will be inclusive to more people than ever before. To ensure every person feels welcome, we have included a number of inclusive and accessible features.
- Wheelchair spaces on upper as well as lower levels of the auditorium
- Accessible Studio space and back of house facilities for use by staff, students and · other performers
- Accessible stage/performance spaces
- Lift access improved where possible within the constraints of the existing concrete structure
- Improved access for disabled visitors and a wheelchair accessible dressing room at stage level
- Improved accessibility for wheelchair users including chairs with removable arms so people can easily transfer to and from their wheelchair
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