Innovative refurbishment for Victorian masterpiece

Grand Theatre and Opera House, Leeds

Revolutionary theatrical installations transform this magnificent Victorian landmark for twenty-first century productions

Challenge

With its mix of continental styles, the Leeds Grand Theatre and Opera House was considered a major milestone in Victorian theatre design. The 1878 building has listed status, always a challenge when refurbishing. The aspirations were ambitious: with the first full power flying in a UK theatre outside London on the theatre’s wish list, together with a huge get-in elevator and quickly changeable orchestra pit.

Solution

Collaborating with architects, acousticians and building service engineers, Theatreplan has helped to transform the Grand for twenty-first century audiences. As well as developing a pioneering full power flying system, installing a 40-tonne, six-metre rise elevator and an orchestra pit that’s changeable within 30 minutes, the complete refurbishment is an example of revolutionary theatre engineering. A new metal grid floor has been installed six metres above the wooden original and quiet, direct-lift hoists provided on each side of the fly tower mean the loading gallery can be removed. In turn, this means a flying control desk can occupy the full width of the fly gallery.

The innovative vehicle lift can raise a 40-tonne road tractor and trailer six metres above the street. It levels different trucks and trailers with a new scenery bridge that provides access to both the stage and rehearsal areas. The time it takes to change the orchestra pit has been reduced by a factor of ten, by deploying movable seating units on air bearing and mechanised orchestra pit rails. And the full power flying system is the major advance in reducing the time it takes for fit-ups and get-outs. The technical innovations have also improved working condition and health and safety.

Result

Transforming the Victorian Grand Theatre and Opera House was a project of considerable complexity and ambition, but the results are outstanding. Today the theatre is the home of Opera North as well as a receiving venue for spectacular musicals, dramas and theatrical events.

Accolades

“Theatreplan were fantastic collaborators. The benefits of the new facilities have been applauded by performers, orchestral players and technicians alike. It’s a welcome return to our home-base and complements Opera North’s incredible new season.”
Ric Green, Technical and Operations Director, Opera North

  • Seating capacity: 1550
  • Project venue type: Theatre 
  • Project build type: Technical upgrade 
  • Location: UK 
  • Completion date: 2006 
  • Project value: £20.7 million
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