Derngate Theatre
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Derngate Theatre

Royal & Derngate
Main entrance
Address1 Guildhall Road
Northampton, Northamptonshire
Coordinates52°14?10?N 0°53?37?W / 52.2362°N 0.8936°W / 52.2362; -0.8936
OwnerNorthampton Theatres Trust
DesignationGrade II listed (Royal)
Capacity583 (Royal)
1,200 (Derngate)
90 (Filmhouse)
Current useIn-house productions
National touring productions
Opened1884 (Royal)
1983 (Derngate)
2006 (Royal & Derngate)
2013 (Errol Flynn Filmhouse)
Rebuilt1887 C J Phipps (fire)
2005 (refurbishment)
ArchitectC J Phipps (Royal)
Aedas RHWL (Derngate)
Royal & Derngate website

Royal & Derngate is a theatre complex in the Cultural Quarter of Northampton, England, consisting of the Royal Theatre and the Derngate Theatre. The Royal Theatre, established as a producing house, has a capacity of 583 seats and since 1976 has been designated a Grade II listed building;[1] the Derngate Theatre seats a maximum of 1,200 and is a multi-purpose space in which the auditorium can be configured for a variety of events including theatre, opera, live music, dance, fashion and sports. The Errol Flynn Filmhouse, an independent cinema built to the side of the complex, opened in 2013.

The Royal was built by theatre architect Charles J. Phipps and opened in 1884. Ninety-nine years later in 1983, the Derngate, designed by RHWL, was built to the rear of the Royal. Whilst the two theatres were physically linked, they only formally merged as one combined organisation in 1999, run by the Northampton Theatres Trust. In 2005, both theatres closed for an 18-month £14.5m redevelopment, which saw the merging of both venues into one construction, the building of a creativity centre, and the total refurbishment of the two venues. The complex reopened as Royal & Derngate in October 2006. From its reopening, Laurie Sansom was Artistic Director;[2] under his tenure, The Stage hailed Royal & Derngate as The Regional Theatre of the Year (2010) in its inaugural Stage 100 Awards for "its artistic quality and connections it has with local audiences."[3]James Dacre took over as Artistic Director in 2013. The theare was awarded the UK Theatre Management Award for Best Presentation of Touring Theatre for its Made in Northampton co-produced work in 2015 and the UK Theatre Award for Best Touring Production in 2016.[4] It was shortlisted for the Regional Theatre of the Year Award again in 2016.[5]

In addition to staging and producing entertainment, Royal & Derngate also provide a programme of creative projects in its Underground space, homing its Youth Theatre and giving the local community the chance to get involved in performing, writing and to find out more about what goes on behind the scenes.


On 16th November 2018, Jo Gordon was announced as the new Chief Executive of Northamptonshire Arts Management Trust and its venues, Royal & Derngate and The Core At Corby Cube. [6]


Entrance to the Royal on Guildhall Road in May 2013

The Royal Theatre was the first building of what now exists as the Royal & Derngate complex. The Royal, then called the Theatre Royal and Opera House, was built for John Franklin by Henry Martin and designed by renowned Victorian theatre architect Charles J. Phipps with mural artist Henry Bird.[7] It opened on 5 May 1884 with a production of William Shakespeare's Twelfth Night.[8] On the theatre's opening, The Stage newspaper reported:

No element of success was wanting to contribute to the superb triumph that crowned the opening of this new theatre; the audience which thronged every available part of the house, comprised the rank and fashion of the town and county, while the charming Thespian temple, fresh from the hand of the scene painters, gleamed everywhere with light and colour. The artistically designed scenery, the dress circle brilliant with blue and gold, the crimson rested chairs, together with the soft and delicate beauty of the ceiling and mural embellishment, were the theme of audible admiration from all parts of the house.

The theatre suffered damage from fire in 1887, and was restored by Charles J. Phipps who also built the Savoy Theatre in London. Its proscenium stage was also widened in 1889. In its first four decades, productions of George Edwardes' musical comedies operas, pantomimes, burlesques and melodramas were most popular, but since becoming home to the Northampton Repertory Players in 1927, the Royal Theatre has run as a producing house ever since, now supported by a workshop and wardrobe. The Royal has, since 1976, been designated a Grade II listed building.

Actor Errol Flynn made early appearances on the Royal's stage before embarking on his film career. For several months in 1933, he was part of the Northampton Repertory Players at the Royal.[9] In January 1977, scenes for the Doctor Who serial The Talons of Weng-Chiang were shot inside the theatre.[] The serial was set in Victorian London and an authentic atmosphere was wanted for the theatre scenes. According to director David Maloney on the DVD commentary, it was chosen because it had the nearest original fly gallery to London.

The Derngate Theatre was added to the rear of the Royal on the site of what was Northampton's former bus station. Following its conception by Northampton Borough Council, RHWL designed the new theatre and building work started in the early 1980s. It opened on 4 April 1983 with an evening performance by singer Jack Jones.

Recent years

In 1999, the Royal Theatre and the Derngate Theatre became a combined organisation, run by the Northampton Theatres Trust. In 2005, both theatres closed for an 18-month redevelopment. The total cost, £14.5 million, was received from various outlets, including £1.6m from the Heritage Lottery Fund, £2.6m from the East Midlands Development Agency and Northampton Partnership and almost £1m from partnership funding by the theatres' development team.[10] The redevelopment merged and totally refurbished both venues. A creativity centre was also built. 100 staff were made redundant but were all offered the opportunity of re-employment once the complex reopened.[10] Initially, the refurbishment work was to be in three month periods annually. However, there was a need to remove asbestos in both venues and to repair rotten flooring in the Royal. It was decided to shut the venue for over one year.[10]

Most money was spent on making the theatres "more comfortable for the audiences" with new seats and air conditioning.[11] The 1980s orange décor of Derngate was replaced with lighting techniques allowing changes the colour of the interior. The Royal was returned to its original Victorian splendour.[11] Other improvements included the creation of a joint foyer with a new main entrance. A creativity centre for education and community work was added together with an atrium-style performance space, a new rehearsal room and better changing rooms for actors.[11]

During the 18-month closure, productions were moved elsewhere: the Comedy Club moved to the Roadmender, as did the youth theatre and education work. The classical music season went to Spinney Hill Hall at Northampton School for Girls while dance moved to The Castle theatre in Wellingborough.[11]

A view of the Royal & Derngate complex from Swan Street in 2013. In 2015 an hotel was constructed in the car park in front of the building obscuring this view.

The complex reopened as Royal & Derngate in October 2006.

Royal & Derngate is now the main venue for arts and entertainment in Northamptonshire. The Royal auditorium seats 530, the Derngate seats 1,200-1,400 people and the 2013 film theatre 90. The venue offers a diverse programme: drama, dance, stand-up comedy, classical music, children's shows, opera and pantomime. It also hosts the February degree conferment ceremonies for the University of Northampton each year. The venue has produced critically acclaimed shows including Sondheim's Follies, J.B. Priestley's The Glass Cage, The Prime Of Miss Jean Brodie and Roald Dahl's James And The Giant Peach, as well as collaborating with Frantic Assembly on productions of Frankenstein and Othello. World premieres have included Arthur Miller's The Hook, Aldous Huxley's Brave New World and a new play about Marvin Gaye, Soul by Roy Williams. For Christmas 2016, Royal & Derngate will be presenting the European premiere of Broadway sensation Peter And The Starcatcher.

Recent success

Royal & Derngate welcomes over 300,000 audience members each year to see work in both stages and in the Underground space. 20,000 people a year also take part in over 700 creative projects. Over 20,000 people attended a free outdoor spectacular Crackers? by The World Famous at Delapre Park and a further 80,000 people enjoyed Made in Northampton productions (productions made in-house at Royal & Derngate) on tour throughout the UK.

In 2009, to celebrate its 125th anniversary, the theatres' season included a celebration of Britain's most popular living playwright, Alan Ayckbourn, a brand new show created with the funny company Spymonkey, and a Young America season featuring two rarely seen plays by Eugene O'Neill and Tennessee Williams about young people in love. Royal & Derngate also toured co-productions of Kneehigh Theatre's Brief Encounter and with Fiery Angel, The BFG. In addition, Royal & Derngate played host to some of the biggest touring shows in the country, including the UK premiere of English National Ballet's Angelina Ballerina's Big Audition and Rambert Dance Company also returned since the redevelopment.

The following year, the Young America season, transferred to the National Theatre in London, winning a TMA Award and being nomination for an Evening Standard Award. In 2010, Royal & Derngate developed a new charity to provide not-for-profit management services for the complex; it also established another charity to operate Corby Cube, a new theatre in Corby.

In 2011, as well as the West End transfer of End of the Rainbow, which was nominated for 4 Olivier Awards, Royal & Derngate was named the Regional Theatre of the Year in the inaugural Stage 100 awards. In 2015 Royal & Derngate was shortlisted for Regional Theatre of the Year in The Stage Awards and won the UK Theatre Award for Best Presentation of Touring Theatre. In 2016 the venue won the UK Theatre Award for Best Touring Production.

Made in Northampton productions

Made in Northampton is the name given to productions that have been produced in-house at Royal & Derngate. Since re-opening, Royal & Derngate has worked with various writers, creative teams and companies to produce these shows to a lot of critical and commercial avail.

Other recent highlights have included the premiere of Nicholas Wright's adaptation of Pat Barker's Regeneration in a co-production with Touring Consortium Theatre Company in 2014 and the premiere of Mike Poulton's adaptation of A Tale of Two Cities.

The Made In Northampton 2015 season included world premieres of Arthur Miller's The Hook in a co-production with Liverpool Everyman & Playhouse and Aldous Huxley's Brave New World in a co-production with Touring Consortium Theatre Company. The programme also included a co-production of King John with Shakespeare's Globe and Patrick Hamilton's classic thriller Gaslight.

Highlights of its Made In Northampton 2016 season include major tours of Peter Whelan's The Herbal Bed (Winner of Best Touring Production in the UK Theatre Awards), King Lear starring Michael Pennington and Spymonkey's The Complete Deaths, along with the world premiere of Soul, a new play by Roy Williams about Marvin Gaye and the European Premiere of Peter and the Starcatcher.

2014 season
Show Duration Director Notes
A Tale of Two Cities, adapted by Mike Poulton 21 February -- 15 March James Dacre World Premiere

Composed by Rachel Portman

The Body of An American by Dan O'Brien 27 February -- 8 March James Dacre European Premiere

A co-production with The Gate Theatre

Nominated for Evening Standard Award

Every Last Trick, adapted by Tamsin Oglesby 18 April -- 10 May Paul Hunter World Premiere

A collaboration between members of Spymonkey and Told By An Idiot

Moominsummer Madness, adapted by Phil Porter 22 May -- 1 June Dani Parr and Peter Gianville World Premiere

A co-production with Polka Theatre, in association with Little Angel Theatre

Pat Barker's Regeneration, adapted for the stage by Nicholas Wright 22 August -- 20 September Simon Godwin World Premiere

A co-production with Touring Consortium Theatre Company

Cat on a Hot Tin Roof by Tennessee Williams 1 -- 18 October James Dacre A co-production with Northern Stage and the Royal Exchange Theatre
Merlin by Ella Hickson 26 November 2014 -- 4 January 2015 Liam Steel World Premiere

A co-production with Nuffield Theatre

Errol Flynn Filmhouse

Errol Flynn Filmhouse
Errol Flynn Filmhouse - part of Derngate Theatre Complex, Northampton, England.jpg
Errol Flynn Filmhouse is attached to Royal & Derngate
AddressDerngate, Northampton, NN1 1UD
LocationNorthampton, England, UK
OwnerNorthampton Theatres Trust

The Errol Flynn Filmhouse is a cinema located in the Cultural Quarter of Northampton and is named after the actor Errol Flynn. Flynn spent 18 months as an actor in the nearby Royal Theatre during 1934 and 1935 before heading for Hollywood. The cinema has a capacity of 90 and is attached to the theatre complex. The cinema opened on 20 June 2013, Flynn's birthday.[12][13]

Due to the success of the Filmhouse, a second screen has been added to the site [14]


The first film shown was Behind the Candelebra. With the first public screening being Summer in February.[15]

See also


  1. ^ Historic England. "THEATRE ROYAL (1039681)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 2016.
  2. ^ "London Theatre News, Reviews, Interviews and more - WhatsOnStage". Retrieved 2016.
  3. ^ "Town theatre wins national award". 6 January 2011. Retrieved 2016 – via
  4. ^ "Northampton's Royal & Derngate scoops prestigious UK Theatre Award". Retrieved 2016.
  5. ^ "Royal & Derngate nominated as regional theatre of year in The Stage awards". Retrieved 2016.
  6. ^
  7. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 28 September 2011. Retrieved 2010.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link) Henry Bird and his Theatrical Mural on the Ashcroft Theatre Safety Curtain, Croydon
  8. ^ Pevsner, Nikolaus (1961). The Buildings of England – Northamptonshire. London and New Haven: Yale University Press. p. 334. ISBN 978-0-300-09632-3.
  9. ^ Connelly, Gerry (1998). Errol Flynn in Northampton. Domra Publications. ISBN 978-0-9524417-2-4.
  10. ^ a b c "Accounts". Retrieved 2016.
  11. ^ a b c d "Dramatic changes at the Royal and Derngate". BBC. Retrieved 2016.
  12. ^ "Northampton's new Errol Flynn Filmhouse cinema to open next week". Northampton Chronicle & Echo. 12 June 2013. Italic or bold markup not allowed in: |publisher= (help)
  13. ^ "Cine-files: Errol Flynn Filmhouse, Northampton". The Guardian. 24 September 2013.
  14. ^ "Second screen for Errol Flynn Filmhouse - Errol Flynn Filmhouse". Errol Flynn Filmhouse. 27 July 2015. Retrieved 2016.
  15. ^ "Errol Flynn Filmhouse: Northampton cinema set to open". BBC. 12 June 2013.


  • Guide to British Theatres 1750-1950, John Earl and Michael Sell pp. 170-71 (Theatres Trust, 2000) ISBN 0-7136-5688-3

External links

  This article uses material from the Wikipedia page available here. It is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0.



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