First look: New stages and studio unveiled at Blakehay Theatre following refurbishment

PUBLISHED: 10:00 17 September 2017

The refurbished studio theatre on the first floor.

The refurbished studio theatre on the first floor.

Archant

A 'flexible' studio space has been created in one of Weston-super-Mare's theatres following a seven-month refurbishment.

Blakehay Theatre.Blakehay Theatre.

The first floor and bar at the Blakehay Theatre, in Wadham Street, have had new stages installed so both areas can be used for performances and talks.

The work has been organised by Weston Town Council, which owns the theatre, and it is hoped it will place it at the heart of a cultural sector in Grove Village by tying into the town’s regeneration.

Theatre manager Sally Heath said: “It makes us a bit more flexible with what we can offer people.”

The upstairs space can be used as a smaller theatre for up to 100 people, or be divided into two spaces to be used for classes, conferences and rehearsals.

The refurbished theatre bar.The refurbished theatre bar.

The first floor studio has been linked to the backstage area for the first time, meaning the theatre will find it easier to host larger performances as groups can use the space as dressing rooms or for storage.

Sally said: “There was a stage upstairs many years ago, so we have re-opened that.

“We have the budget to buy in shows now, and one idea is to use the space for children’s theatre.

“It could be a good introduction to theatre for children.

The refurbished studio theatre on the first floor.The refurbished studio theatre on the first floor.

“We can also grow shows from 100 seats upstairs to our main stage with 200 capacity.”

A small stage has also been installed in the bar downstairs, which will continue to be used for art exhibitions.

Sally said: “It gets used quite a lot for small concerts and talks for up to 50 people, and this allows us to grow that.

“We can also use it for music and comedy, and it makes it more of an event space, rather than just someone in the corner.”

The refurbished theatre bar.The refurbished theatre bar.

The majority of the £30,000 cost has been paid for by the town council, but the theatre’s volunteers also helped to raise £2,000 for equipment for the new studio.

The Royal Shakespeare Company also donated some equipment after it cleared out one of its own theatres.

A creative hub called The Stable is opening over the road from the Blakehay, and managers are in talks to see how they could work together.

Sally said: “It is all part of the town centre regeneration.

The refurbished studio theatre on the first floor.The refurbished studio theatre on the first floor.

“It is a matter of making the theatre more dynamic and flexible for the town.”

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