Huge new plans to transform historic Cheltenham theatre into modern performing arts hub

Ambitious plans to transform the historic Cheltenham Playhouse theatre have been submitted to the borough council today.

The Playhouse in Bath Road, Cheltenham, wants to modernise the building to create a huge atrium, allow lift access to the first floor and will relocate the public entrance and box office.

The theatre said the redevelopment aims to help it become ‘a community performing arts centre for the 21st Century while uncovering much of its fascinating past.’

huge new plans to transform historic cheltenham theatre into modern performing arts hub 1 - Huge new plans to transform historic Cheltenham theatre into modern performing arts hub

The Playhouse first started operating as a theatre in 1945 and its former life as the Montpellier Baths goes back to the early 19th Century when it was central to Cheltenham’s spa heyday.

 

The board of trustees said central to their plans is a redevelopment of the building to make it more flexible and fit for purpose as a ‘vibrant hub for a wide variety of performing arts.’

huge new plans to transform historic cheltenham theatre into modern performing arts hub 2 - Huge new plans to transform historic Cheltenham theatre into modern performing arts hub

The existing Joan Cross lounge will transform into the atrium with a glass ceiling

The existing auditorium, built over the old swimming pool, will be unaffected.

The plans include:

  • Creating an atrium with lift access to first floor facilities;
  • More flexible areas to provide additional rehearsal and performance spaces for music, comedy, small-scale theatre productions, etc;
  • Returning the public entrance to its original site to provide level access;
  • Relocating the box office to the venue’s Edwardian lounge;
  • Improved accessibility for disabled users;
  • Create better changing rooms and improved spaces for hire;
  • Create a permanent exhibition of the building’s past
huge new plans to transform historic cheltenham theatre into modern performing arts hub 3 - Huge new plans to transform historic Cheltenham theatre into modern performing arts hub

The existing green room will have a new larger, more central stage

Chair of Trustees Malcolm Ball said: “We want the Playhouse to become a hub for the Bath Road vicinity that will enrich and contribute to a vibrant Cheltenham town centre. It will be a hive of activity that will be a lively and happy place to visit and participate in.

 

“We have been working on plans for the Playhouse for nearly two years and we’re excited that we’re ready to apply for planning permission.

huge new plans to transform historic cheltenham theatre into modern performing arts hub 4 - Huge new plans to transform historic Cheltenham theatre into modern performing arts hub

The Playhouse plans to turn the current theatre bar, once the waiting room for the baths, into a new larger, brighter foyer and box office

“2020 will be the 75th anniversary of the building being converted into a theatre and this is the perfect time for the Playhouse to enter the next phase of its amazing history. 

“Its rich heritage isn’t that well known: few of our audience members know that when they are enjoying a performance in our main auditorium they are sitting above a 19th Century swimming pool.

huge new plans to transform historic cheltenham theatre into modern performing arts hub 5 - Huge new plans to transform historic Cheltenham theatre into modern performing arts hub

The current corridor under the seating. The right hand side be replaced by the exhibition. The left side will include a glass wall to see into the swimming pool

“We have worked with specialist heritage architects and renowned archaeologists to ensure our redevelopment plans are sensitive to the patchwork of historic developments going back more than 200 years, and we want to make this past as open and interesting as possible for the benefit of visitors.”

 

In recent years the Playhouse has become a venue for a wide variety of local and touring performers, including live music, comedy, dance, poetry, burlesque, improv and film.

Malcolm added: “The profile of those performing and visiting the venue has evolved considerably over the years and changes need to be made to the venue to secure its future and ensure it is still relevant for generations to come.

huge new plans to transform historic cheltenham theatre into modern performing arts hub 6 - Huge new plans to transform historic Cheltenham theatre into modern performing arts hub

It used to be Montpellier Baths

“However, the building’s layout doesn’t make it easy for patrons to experience the wide range of performances now available, or for us to offer flexible spaces to performers and other hirers. 

“Our proposals aim to expand the buildings’ remit and greatly improve the visitor experience of everyone using the venue, including better access, updated décor and an improved food and drink offering.

huge new plans to transform historic cheltenham theatre into modern performing arts hub - Huge new plans to transform historic Cheltenham theatre into modern performing arts hub

The swimming pool under the stage at the Playhouse

“We have been liaising regularly with council officials about our plans for redevelopment and they have been supportive in principle of our approach. If planning approval is given and funding is in place, we believe the work will take ten months to complete.”

The Playhouse, which is a Grade II listed building, is owned by Cheltenham Borough Council and leased to a registered charity led by a board of trustees and supported by over 100 volunteers.

Back to: UK News

Help us share

You may also like...

HAVE A QUICK QUESTION?

Simply fill our short form and we will contact you back asap.

[contact-form-7 id="758" title=""]
X
CONTACT US