John Thompson

Newcastle theatre gets go ahead for £1.5m development

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The People’s Theatre in Newcastle has been given the go-ahead for a £1.5 million redevelopment.

Newcastle City Council has awarded planning permission for a new studio space and glazed entrance with upgraded wheelchair access.

The theatre, on the Coast Road in Heaton, has nurtured local talent such as Ross Noble and Auf Wiedersehen Pet’s Kevin Whately, and regularly hosts comedy plays.

The development was welcomed by Newcastle comedian and actor Christian Steel, who cut his teeth at the theatre.

Steel told Giggle Beats: “The People’s Theatre is and has been the start of many professional people’s careers, taking you and introducing you to every aspect of theatre grass roots from budgeting a play, auditioning, rehearsing, costume set design and acting.”

“It gave me the confidence that got me my first professional theatre job working with Mike Mould and his Bruvvers theatre company – he developed and made The Cluny what it is today.”

Newcastle City Council approved the theatre’s ambitious plans, after listening to concerns from a small number of residents who live close to the theatre about parking, and a noise levels when performances end.

Responding to the allegation of increased noise, Steel said: “I can’t imagine the streets being noisy after coming of a show at the People’s: it’s not that type of crowd.”

“People go to support a very important institution that’s loved and a large part of many people’s lives over the years. “

Although the council received some objections about late finishing times, most plays finish well before 10pm.

Community campaigner Mick Bowman, who has consulted with many residents in recent months, pledges to monitor the situation and work with council officers to monitor noise and parking levels.

The theatre’s fundraising drive was given a boost last month when it was awarded £5,000 by London-based Theatres Trust, which works to protect performance venues across the country, through its small grants scheme.

The entrance to the theatre will be relocated from its current position on the Coast Road in order to improve wheelchair access.

As with previous seasons, comedy continues to play a key part in the theatre’s current programme, which includes a production of the stage adaptation of Yes, Prime Minister.