The New Theatre, Cardiff is one of the primary performance venues of Wales’ capital. It is located near Cathays Park in Cardiff city centre on Park Place.
The theatre hosts a variety of touring productions like musicals, children’s shows and plays, as well as a Christmas pantomime every year. With its capacity of 1,144 seats, the theatre is capable of hosting large-scale productions to anticipating audiences. Since 1975, it has been a Grade II listed building.
Made from brick and Bath Stone, theatrical architects Ernest Runtz and Ford designed the building under Robert Redford’s order, opening its doors to the public on 10th December 1906. At the time, the theatre had one of the largest stages in the country; 76-foot wide, 54-foot deep, with 57 feet distance between the stage and the hanging pulley grind.
Herbert Beerbohm Tree’s company conducted the first public show here - a magnificent performance of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night. They repeated the performance on 13th and 15th December, with the latter being a matinee show. In the venue’s first week, a few other plays graced the stage, including The Man Who Was, Trilby, Colonel Newcome, and Shakespeare’s Hamlet.
Many famous artists have graced the New Theatre, Cardiff. Tom Jones, Shirley Bassey, Tommy Cooper, Laurel & Hardy, Sarah Bernhardt, and Tessie O’Shea are a few of them. On 26th March 1965, the venue was the site for the world premiere of Harold Pinter’s play The Homecoming.
The venue became home to the Welsh National Opera in 1954. Still, they eventually took permanent residence in the Wales Millennium Centre. In the early part of the 1960s, audience numbers fell, leading to talk of demolishing the building. However, following a short closure, the Cardiff City Corporation leased the theatre, reopening it in September 1963. The Council bought the venue in 1969, and the following year it closed for renovation. It was also the time when the 24-year-old Martin Williams became Theatre Administrator.
In 1976, a new stage was built. A major refurbishment project took place in 1988 and ‘89. Later, in 1993, Sir Anthony Hopkins took part in the unveiling of a bronze bust of Gwyn Thomas in the foyer. The venue went through a renovation again in 2006, with improvements made to its exterior as well. It closed for a few months in 2012 to repaint the auditorium and install new seating and a lift for customers.
Today, the New Theatre in Cardiff is home to Arts Active, which is its audience and community engagement division, working with St David’s Hall. This section is also the venue for Song Prize of the BBC Cardiff Singer of the World contest. St David’s hosts the final night.
In 2020, HQ Theatre acquired the New Theatre from the Cardiff Council on a 25-year lease. A significant new investment was planned for the theatre, and all the present staff were transferred to the company.
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