Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip inaugurated the Wyvern Theatre on 7th September 1971. Located in Swindon, Wiltshire, the venue derives its name from the mythical ‘wyvern’ (a snake-like creature with two legs and wings), which was once the emblem of Wessex’ kings.
Wyvern Theatre Ltd, a branch of HQ Theatres Ltd, manages the theatre on behalf of the Swindon Borough Council. The auditorium has a unique design that ensures the 635 seats are all within 70 feet from the stage.
The building was constructed as a part of Swindon Civic Centre between 1968 and ’71; the architects behind it were Casson, Conder and Partner. It opened with a spectacular performance by the Ukrainian Dance Company. On 3rd September 2006, the theatre shut down temporarily following the discovery of asbestos traces in its roof and offices during a routine inspection. The closure wasn’t wasted, and during that time the building was refurbished, which saw the addition of new cafés, bars, décor, entrances for the disabled, as well as new seating costing about £1.3 million. It reopened on 25th September 2007.
The Wyvern Theatre is a multi-award-winning venue. It has won several awards in its lifetime, such as the Trip Advisor Certificate of Excellence in 2016, ’17, ’18 and ’19. It won the Venue of the Year Award at the 2015 HQ Theatre Awards, the Muddy Stilettos Best Theatre in the South West and the UK Theatre’s Most Welcoming Venue in the South End in 2017.
The venue has had a mascot for years – Willy the Wyvern. It is a 6-foot-tall green dragon-like creature that originally became the theatre’s mascot during its founding years but lost importance over the following twenty years. But Willy was brought back to life in 2001 and returned to the theatre. With his new appearance, he was right on time for the building’s 30th anniversary. However, Willy has retired and makes extremely rare appearances.
There have been numerous shows at the Wyvern Theatre. From musicals to pantomimes, it has staged hundreds of productions. Some of the venue’s successful shows are Bugsy Malone (1994), Annie (1995), 42nd Street (1996), Joseph And The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat (2000), West Side Story (2002), The Sound Of Music (2004), Oliver! (2008), The Wizard Of Oz (2010), Our House (2013), Hairspray (2015), Grease (2016) and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (2019).
Notable pantomimes include Cinderella (2012/13) starring Keith Chegwin, Adam King, Saskia Strallen and Alex Young; Aladdin (2012/13) starring Suzie Chard, Keith Chegwin and Ashley; Dick Whittington (2014/15) starring Nigel Havers, Lucy Kane and David Ashley; Snow White & The Seven Dwarfs (2015/16) starring David Ashley and Adam Woodyatt; Peter Pan (2017/18) starring Adam Woodyatt; Sleeping Beauty (2019/20) starring Adam Woodyatt and Michelle Collins.
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