A theatre in Kenilworth that was closed for more than 18 months due to the pandemic has reopened with a new look.
The Priory Theatre Company used the period of closure to fully refurbish the main audience foyer space, alongside other works around the theatre.
With a new interior and bar serving some local drinks, the team say they have created a venue to welcome audience members.
The theatre said: "The main aim of the project was not only to provide a contemporary and inviting space for our patrons, but also reveal more of the original brickwork of the building and improve the connection with the views across Abbey Fields."
The new foyer area has undergone a number of changes and have also incorporated new double glazed sliding doors with an external Juliet balcony to the front of the building.
Mike Brooks, Priory Theatre committee member, said: "The transformation of the theatre foyer, along with other works that have been done across the whole building, have been a huge undertaking and we couldn’t have done it without the overwhelming support of the company members, patrons, neighbours and contractors.
"As a member of the theatre for over 15 years, it’s reassuring that at the end of this year of unpredictability, the Priory Theatre is able to emerge with an incredible space and I feel a huge sense of pride to be involved in a project that will bring enjoyment to many others for years to come.”
The redevelopment was overseen by local architect, Jonathon Holland, who have worked on projects throughout the UK and around the world for a wide range of public and private
For more information about the Priory Theatre go to: www.priorytheatre.co.ukHistory of the Priory Theatre
The Kenilworth Players, established by George Tisdale and Gordon Phelps, gave their first performance on January 13 1932 in the ballroom of the old Abbey Hotel.
Needing a more permanent space to perform, George reached out to his father, also called George but known as “Pop”, who had recently purchased a small chapel believed to of been built in 1816.
The building was only being used for storage and George was sure this would be the perfect home for the drama group.
In the autumn of 1945 work began on converting the chapel into a Theatre using timber from cases which had housed aircraft being convoyed across the Atlantic during the war.
On Monday April 8 1946, the Priory Theatre opened with Ivor Novello’s ‘Fresh Fields’ and every ticket for the six night run was sold out.
The Priory Theatre was underway. Important and indeed momentous events after that were, with one exception, progressive and inevitable.
~ 1947 – The rear of the stage was extended meaning the actors could cross behind without being seen by the audience
~ 1951 – Upper and lower foyers, toilets, a box office and dress circle were built and upholstered seating installed throughout
~ 1952 – There was a kitchen and two first floor Dressing Rooms were created.
~ 1965 – The stage had been extended again to more than double its original depth and a new foyer built at the front of the building.
~ 1968 – The Kenilworth Players became the Priory Theatre Company
~ 1972 – The company gained admission to the Little Theatre Guild of Great Britain.
~ 1974 – A Lounge Bar had replaced the Dressing Room off the Circle Foyer.
However on September 4 1976 came the destruction of thirty years hard work when fire gutted the Theatre.
Undaunted, the members set about the rebuilding, making great improvements to all areas, especially the back stage facilities.
The Priory Theatre re-opened better than ever with a Gala taking place on September 28 1978.
In 1984, George Tisdale gifted the Priory Theatre building to the members of the company, saying ‘I have never regarded it as my personal property.’
Work on the bar area was completed in the early 90s and opened by Patron Dave Willetts. With the assistance of a grant from the National Lottery through the Arts Council of England, work was completed in 1999 on further development of the foyer area and extension of the rear of the Theatre to accommodate a new property store.
Access for wheelchairs via a ramp and lift was added and an accessibility toilet in the auditorium was installed.
Unseen by the public but appreciated by those appearing on-stage, the theatre dressing rooms were given a complete overhaul in 2006 followed by a full redecoration of the auditorium in 2008, using seats donated by the RSC in Stratford.
Mike added: "Many hundreds of people have made the Priory Theatre over the years, and many more continue to make it what it is today.
"With almost 500 productions, covering all aspects of theatrical experience, we now have a theatre that the pioneers can scarcely have imagined on that January night in 1932.
"It is a theatre which, thanks to dear old George, will continue to be a huge part of Kenilworth."