Liverpool’s Everyman Theatre has been reborn as the jewel in the city’s cultural crown. This sensitive revival was awarded the RIBA Stirling Prize in 2014, the only theatre to have won the UK’s foremost architectural award.
The new Everyman Theatre launched with a bang (photo: Pete Carr).
Built in 1837 as a chapel, and originally named Hope Hall, the building was converted from a cinema to a theatre in the 1960s, then following a remodel in the 1970s became the much loved Everyman Theatre. Over the next forty years, the theatre became a home for Bohemian life in the city, playing a key part in the careers of many actors including Bill Nighy, Daniel Craig and Julie Walters. The building itself did not fair so well, and a design team including Haworth Tompkins Architects and Charcoalblue were appointed by the Liverpool and Everyman Theatres Trust to assist them in the redevelopment of the Everyman Theatre and the addition of new facilities to serve the theatre, including an education studio, redeveloped workshop, and administration accommodation.
Following extensive studies, the design team took the brave choice to demolish the existing building and create a new modern facility that aimed to capture the spirit of the previous incarnations. The new auditorium re-creates the wide thrust stage of the old theatre, but with an additional audience gallery and over-stage technical bridges designed to allow for vastly increased seating, staging and rigging flexibility. The primary stage format wasn’t the only connection to the previous building; a similar golden fabric was chosen for the new seating, and bricks salvaged from the demolition were used to create the new auditorium walls.
“[Charcoalblue] immediately understood our artistic vision and have worked alongside us as the very best critical friends making our aspirations a reality within a tight budget and an ever-changing time-scale.”
Gemma Bodinetz, Artistic Director
The new auditorium re-creates the wide thrust stage of the old theatre, but with an additional audience gallery and over-stage technical bridges.
The additional audience gallery and over-stage technical bridges designed to allow for vastly increased seating, staging and rigging flexibility.
The stage engineering system includes a modular stage floor on a demountable sub-stage structure which allows the theatre to be quickly reconfigured into a variety of formats or even removed.
Bricks salvaged from the demolition were used to create the new auditorium walls.
In addition to the auditorium, the new building also includes a ‘Theatre and Community’ studio, writer’s study, meeting and function rooms. New back of house and support facilities include a scenic workshop, rehearsal room with recording suite, dressing rooms, wardrobe workshop and administration areas. A new Bistro was created in the basement to reflect the offering in the original building, along with bars for each auditorium level in the front of house areas.
As is befitting a theatre dedicated for ‘Everyman’ (and woman), accessibility and sustainability were key to the brief. This included ensuring all technical bridges were fully wheelchair accessible and the provision of a dedicated audio description booth is provided next to the control room. The auditorium, studio, foyer and office spaces are all naturally ventilated with distinctive extract chimneys prominent on the roof. The mechanical design by Waterman group also includes rainwater harvesting, a highly efficient combined heat and power (CHP) system, air source heat pumps, a wood burning stove, high levels of insulation, variable external sun shading and exposed thermal mass to regulate internal temperatures. All of these elements combined to help the building achieve a BREEAM excellent rating – a rare accolade for a theatre.
“...the theatre is a thrilling triumph. Not just for its warm, embracing intimacy, but also for its comfort.”
Mark Shenton, The Stage
An original concept sketch of the auditorium.
Section drawing of the Everyman Theatre auditorium.
Plan drawings of the stalls and circle levels of the Everyman Theatre.
Ben and Andy present a model of the theatre to the project team.
Concept sketches of the Everyman Theatre seating, the burnished bronze colour echoing the previous Everyman building.
The stage engineering system includes a modular stage floor on a demountable sub-stage structure which allows the theatre to be quickly reconfigured into a variety of formats or even removed. The seat mounting has been cleverly integrated into the front of the decking to allow the seats to be moved as required without the need for the stage floor to be drilled. For durability when they are moved, the frame of the seat's structure was created from a single piece of metal, with a custom pattern on the rear acting as both a grill for the supply plenum and a series of fixing points for the different height stages.
Above the thrust stage is a series of technical walkways, the middle walkways can be moved or taken out to accommodate large set pieces. The movement of these large bridges complete with fold down lighting is a simple manual operation that uses the structural steelwork as a guide with a railway-style track to ensure stability and ease of operation. A similar track system is used for the proscenium panels which can be used to create a variety of width opening or again completely removed. The stage, technical bridges and proscenium panels are simply but elegantly engineered solutions to enable complete flexibility in the space.
Not all of the stage engineering systems are simple manual system though: over the thrust and flytower is a multi-axis power flying system comprising point hoists, chain hoists and linesets. Working with Charcoalblue, Stage Technologies were able to refine the prototype of their ‘Tip Toe’ point hoist to make it suitable for use in the thrust grid several meters away from audience’s head. The power flying system is essential in allowing the theatre to accommodate the wide range of shows and stage formats. Since opening the theatre have supplemented the overhead automation, with a trap lift located under the flexible staging.
Liverpool and Everyman Theatre Trust
RIBA Stirling Prize 2014
The Stage Awards Theatre Building Of The Year 2015
Interiors And Furniture Design
Haworth Tompkins With Citizens Design Bureau
Watch a time-lapse of the build here.
...the building retains a strong commitment to blurring the distinction between the space of the auditorium and that of the street...
The layout will be familiar to Everyman veterans, with the audience wrapped around the huge thrust stage on three sides, enveloping the actors and magnifying the sense of shared experience.
...a theatre that the Everyman’s loyal audience is still surely going to recognise as theirs.