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Charcoalblue helps transform Liverpool's Everyman Theatre

Charcoalblue helps transform Liverpool\'s Everyman Theatre
Charcoalblue helps transform Liverpool\'s Everyman Theatre

UK - Liverpool's Everyman Theatre, whose acting alumni includes Pete Postlethwaite and Julie Walters, has undergone a complete structural and artistic renovation thanks to the Everyman creative team, architects Haworth Tompkins and theatre consultants Charcoalblue.

In 2005 the Liverpool and Merseyside Theatres Trust enlisted Haworth Tompkins and Charcoalblue to consult on the complex and ambitious project.

Having just celebrated their 10th Birthday, Charcoalblue's managing partner, Andy Hayles, observed that for nine of those years the Liverpool Everyman and Playhouse Team has been their most determined client.

"When a project takes this long to get through funding hoops and complex site negotiations, the sense of achievement experienced when opening such a sensational building is particularly poignant," says Hayles. "The client and design team have become close; indeed I've known most of them longer than two of my own children! There is no doubt that Gemma Bodinetz, Deborah Aydon, Robert Longthorne, Jeff Salmon and Sylvia Hebden have earned every one of the plaudits that the building has and will receive."

Deborah Aydon, executive director of the Everyman and client on the project from inception says: "Charcoalblue and Haworth Tompkins have achieved what should have been impossible: creating a new theatre that feels instantly familiar and welcoming both to long-term aficionados and to first-time visitors."

Ian Stickland, senior consultant at Charcoalblue, continues: "The key brief was to build a new space that captured the soul of the old theatre without the existing constraints. The new theatre had to be technically state-of-the-art, inherently flexible, fully accessible yet instantly recognisable as 'The Ev'."

"At the opening we were amazed how many people describe the auditorium as a renewal of the old space," adds Hayles. "In fact it's entirely brand new!"

Gemma Bodinez, artistic director for the venue concurs and is delighted: "Just one day into technical rehearsals for the opening production and the new Everyman already seems like an old friend."

However, this is no surprise given that the first stages of the project required a detailed interrogation of the existing theatre's geometry. This was followed by meticulous model-building, physical mock ups and 3D computer visualisations. The result is a space that has a similar thrust stage size to the old theatre, but features an added balcony that brings audience members much closer to the stage.

Featuring removable seating and with the majority of the flooring comprising modular decking, the new auditorium boasts an all-new flexibility. This arrangement allows for unrestricted creativity on the part of directors and designers.

Charcoalblue has also given the seats some careful attention. Working alongside the Everyman creative team, Haworth Tompkins and seating manufacturers Kirwin & Simpson, Charcoalblue designed a seat that was comfortable, sturdy, lightweight and instantly familiar with the shape and fabric based around old cinema-style seats.

Technically the theatre benefits from practical technical bridges (including a pair of rolling bridges) situated above the thrust stage and a shallow flytower. This enables automated 3D flying over the whole stage area along with full stage lighting and audiovisual systems.

"Demolishing a much-loved building is always risky," states Stickland. "The biggest challenge with Liverpool was to capture the spirit of the original building, squeeze it into a very tight city-centre location and make the budgets work during a recession. We dealt with these challenges by testing every design decision thoroughly and working closely with our colleagues and client. We spent time endeavoring to understand and capture what people loved about the old theatre, while ensuring that we installed technology which will offer the very best value for money."

The total construction cost of the new Everyman is £13 million. Funding came from the Arts Council England and a host of foundations and charitable trusts, as well as donations made through the £1m Everyone for the Everyman public fundraising campaign.

On March 1 the theatre celebrated its new incarnation with a parade and event on Hope Street followed the next day by a 'Housewarming'. Gemma Bodinetz's production of Twelfth Night then christened the new auditorium and stage on Saturday March 8, 2014.

"There is no denying that the new Ev is one of my favourite theatres," says a delighted Hayles. "It combines the sumptuousness and surprises of the Royal Court, with the soulfulness and economy of the Young Vic. I urge you to visit - 4,000 visitors attending this weekend's Housewarming Event can't be wrong!"

18th March 2014

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