November 2013: The new £2.5 million Caryl Churchill Theatre at Royal Holloway, University of London, will officially open on 13 November. Designed by Foster Wilson Architects, the 178 seat theatre is built alongside the Grade II listed Sutherland House and is an extension of the University’s leading Department of Drama and Theatre located in Egham, Surrey.
Named after world-renowned British playwright Caryl Churchill, it replaces the 30-year-old ‘black box’ theatre; a lightweight prefabricated studio extension that was added to the east side of the Regency building in the 1970s.
The new 1,171m ² flexible performance venue will allow the University to invite professional theatre companies to stage public performances on campus, as well as provide students with a well-equipped space for lectures, rehearsals and performance.
The theatre has a large roof light above the stage and tall double-height windows in the curved southern elevation, which flood the space with natural light and compliment the warm brickwork interior. Total blackout can be achieved for performances by motorised blinds and timber shutters.
Eighty-six seats are provided on a retractable rake with 36 seats on rostra at the sides and a further 56 seats on the first floor gallery. A technical control room and lighting gallery are housed in the top gallery and two large trussed grids on chain hoists provide for overhead suspensions and lighting.
A flat floor to the theatre allows a variety of seating layouts to be created using a combination of a retractable bleacher seating system and rostra. This allows the seating to be cleared completely to provide maximum unobstructed floor space for workshops and classes.
The theatre space is faced with a stock brick and has galleries of timber and steel construction suspended from the principal steel frame. With all services exposed and materials used in their natural state, the space has a robust industrial aesthetic which runs throughout the building.
Externally the new building is constructed in a Staffordshire brown brindle brick with a textured patterning. In addition to the theatre, the building also houses workshops, dressing rooms and two large rehearsal studios and is linked to Sutherland House by a glazed foyer.
The complex of buildings comprising of Sutherland House and the Caryl Churchill theatre have been renamed the Katharine Worth Building, in honour of the founder of the department 35 years ago. Guests at the inauguration ceremony in November will see the theatre in action with a performance of Tim Crouch’s acclaimed play My Arm. More on this project.
Quantity Surveyor: Currie & Brown
Structural Engineer: Conisbee
Services Engineer: Skelly & Couch
Theatre Consultant: Theatreplan
Acoustic Consultant: Gillieron Scott Acoustic Design
Main contractor: Morgan Sindall
Project photography © James Morris
Opening night photography © Nicola Hewitt-George