To mark its 90th birthday, the south of England’s largest theatre has reinvigorated its technical infrastructure and vastly improved the comfort and beauty of its auditorium.
For its first renovation in three decades, the Mayflower Theatre’s primary brief was to ‘improve the customer experience’ and through the feasibility process this was distilled down to a number of issues; the seating was no longer fit-for purpose and required upgrading, the auditorium was too dark, the colour scheme was almost universally disliked, and the orchestra pit was too small in its smaller configuration and too large in its largest form.
After we established the feasibility of the project in 2015, Foster Wilson Architects assumed the leadership of the refurbishment, delivered to a very tight timeframe of just 12 weeks. We undertook full theatre consultancy services including auditorium design, seating procurement, theatre planning, stage engineering design, technical system design as well as acoustics.
“This project is very much about ensuring Mayflower Theatre remains best in class not just for now, but long into the future.”
Michael Ockwell, Mayflower Chief Executive
The 494 original balcony seats have been refurbished and the 1,654 seats in the stalls and circle have been replaced with new, wider designs incorporating improved legroom. There is now dimmable, end-of-row aisle comfort lighting which can be controlled in blocks of 10 to help guide latecomers to their seats during a performance. Additionally, there are now ample wider seats, booster cushions, service dog spaces, fully compliant wheelchair spaces, and suitable loop rails for greater accessibility. Following the refurbishment the auditorium now has a capacity of 2,325, including 22 wheelchair positions and standing room for 107 patrons.
To maintain the quality of the auditorium’s acoustics there are hard floor coverings under the timber framed seats, with carpet to the aisles and gangways. The walls flanking the pit area have an acoustic treatment to help diffuse the sound from live music. A series of movable acoustic screens in the pit provide both reflective or absorptive surfaces as well as a device to screen the sound from touring amplifiers.
We have moved the rear orchestra pit wall back to create an under-croft – not dissimilar to Glyndebourne or the new Grange Park Opera ‘Theatre in the Woods’. This makes the smaller pit layout immediately bigger, reducing reliance on the large pit formation and thereby returning the seating positioned on elevator 2 to more frequent use.
A new LED houselighting (and emergency) scheme has been installed, lifting the light levels to a more suitable brightness for reading programmes and wayfinding. In the auditorium roof void, additional strengthening has taken place to increase production hanging capacity. A provision of 50 bespoke, discrete speaker brackets and cable hooks allows for surround sound configurations.
“This project does more than simply refresh the look and feel of the space, it has niftily reconfigured the room to increase capacity, comfort, technical functionality and reduce environmental impact. Here’s to the next 90 years!”
Mark Lovell, Senior Consultant
A new connection from front of house to back of house has been created, with an improved accessible lounge, to the side of the building. Lower levels provide additional accessible features and a new archive room for the theatre to maintain and extend its archive and records.
Mayflower Theatre Trust
Building Services Engineering
Architectural Lighting Design
Denley King International
Stage Engineering Contractor
The Mayflower Theatre
Southampton’s Mayflower back in business after multi-million-pound refurbishment.