Two theatres in one

Hampstead Theatre, London

When a project fell short of funds, Theatreplan’s ingenuity saved the day


The new, purpose-built Hampstead Theatre was to be the first all-new theatre in London since the National and Barbican Theatres. Originally planned as two auditoria, one for new work and the other for the transfer of successful productions, this ambition could not be realised due to a funding shortfall.


However, an ingenious design by Theatreplan resolved the issue. We created a single auditorium with a small balcony that could be used to increase capacity without a loss of intimacy.

A series of seating wagons lock together in different combinations to allow for the auditorium to be changed from a more traditional end-on configuration with a raised stage, to thrust or traverse layouts where the audience is level with the performance area. The forestage can be raised – or lowered to allow for an orchestra pit – thanks to the demountable stage floor. The main section of the stage can also be raised or lowered to change the relationship between performers and audience.

The stage lighting, sound and communications infrastructures as well as the flying system were made adaptable too. There is also a tensioned-wire grid over the auditorium to provide easy access to technical facilities.


Our work has provided London with a venue that is uniquely flexible amongst the capital’s theatres. All who have directed and performed in the new space have praised the close actor-audience relationship that this concept has made possible.


RIBA Award


“I was unprepared for the warmth and intimacy of the auditorium, which is clad in wood with long, curved, rising rows of high-backed red plush seats. A perfect little playhouse, with its adaptable stage.”
John Levitt, Save London’s Theatres Campaign

  • Seating capacity: 325
  • Project venue type: Theatre 
  • Project build type: New build 
  • Location: UK 
  • Completion date: 2003 
  • Project value: £8.5 million
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