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Take an armchair tour of the Theatre Royal

Posted on: 3rd August, 2016


This week I’ve decided to take you all on a tour of the Theatre Royal Bury St Edmunds. We’re gathering on the steps outside the front of the theatre and first I want to draw your attention the Theatre’s symmetrical facade. It shows typical neoclassical features: an open arcade and a portico with a Doric style frieze and pilasters.

The Theatre Facade


Moving through the automatic doors and into the main foyer you step onto the original stone floor, this area was originally designed as a ‘saloon’ area, a place for the genteel occupants of the Dress and Upper Circles to be seen! These days this is where you’ll find the Theatre Royal Box Office and there is always a friendly face to greet you as you enter the building.

Through the big double doors we go and off into the Dress Circle passage, we are greeted by a gloriously curved wall and lots of fancy-looking doors. This passage was used as another space for the genteel theatre goers to socialise. Creaking open one of the many doors it’s time to discover what we can see from the Dress Circle Boxes, squeezing into a box and peering out over the edge we get our first chance to see the gem of William Wilkin’s design, the beautiful auditorium. Slender cast iron columns grace the corner of each box, supporting the Upper Circle. This view gives us a chance to appreciate the earth-brown coloured floor and the glorious painted sky, reminiscent of a Greek open-air theatre. There is a lovely frieze around the Upper Circle and this was accurately re-constructed from colour analyses from descriptions and pictures from other theatres of the period. Small fragments of the original frieze have also been discovered in the Theatre.

The view from the Dress Circle

Moving out of the Dress Circle Boxes we nip back into the Main Foyer and take a sharp left and go up the stairs past the Upper Circle and into The Gallery, the highest point at the Theatre Royal. Originally this part of the theatre would have held the most raucous elements of Georgian Theatre and if they didn’t like what they saw then apple cores, orange peel or bottles would rain down onto the stage, like I said a raucous bunch!

Just before we finish take a look at the beautiful Proscenium Frieze above the stage, at this height we’re almost level with it, it features the four seasons on the left hand side and a smattering of Greeks Gods across it. That Ladies and Gentlemen concludes your tour for today and unbelievably this is only a tiny snippet of the rich history and architecture here at the Theatre.

To find out more why not come along and take a tour in person. Our guided tours re-commence again this September on most Wednesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays, call our Box Office on 01284 769505 to book your space and get exploring almost 200 years of history! 


This article was originally published in the Bury Mercury Newspaper

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