The seats and steps have been ripped out and the walls are bare – the refurbishment of Alnwick Playhouse is well under way.
Having closed in August after three performances from Shakespeare’s Globe on Tour, contractors Northern Bear were appointed.
They took over the site in September and wasted no time in getting started.
There is a lot of knocking down, stripping out and digging holes to be done before they can begin rebuilding.
One of the immediate challenges was finding access for delivering and removing materials to the site while trying to minimise disruption to the town.
In addition, due to the limited storage space, ie only the building itself, materials need to arrive on an as-required basis.
However, having worked on the highly successful redevelopment of Tyneside Cinema in 2014, Northern Bear certainly have experience of working on a restricted site.
The first job is the extensive internal demolition plus the mechanical and electrical strip out.
Significant structural alterations are necessary in many parts of the building in order to accommodate the design created by North East architects JDDK. This will involve the removal of several loadbearing walls, beams and columns.
Similarly, major structural work is required for the installation of a new goods lift, which will travel over three floors from the basement through to the stage on the first floor, and which will allow staff to load shows onto the stage via a lift for the first time.
The heating at the Playhouse was previously provided by four boilers, all of which were obsolete and operating well in excess of the normal life expectancy.
These have now all been removed and one new energy-efficient central boiler will serve the entire building.
With the help of the local community, the auditorium seating was gone by the time Northern Bear took over.
The steps were quickly removed, stripping the area back to the concrete base so work can now begin on designing the new layout, with the much-needed extra legroom audiences have been asking for.
The success of the public appeal is vital to ensure Alnwick Playhouse has an auditorium fit for the next 20 years – you an help by making a donation – more details on the website at https://www.supportyourplayhouse.co.uk/
Over the coming weeks fund-raising events are set to take place in aid of the Playhouse appeal, which stands at £650,229 of the £800,000 it needs for its part of the refurbishment.