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History of the Malvern Festival Theatre

The Festival Theatre, together with the adjacent cinema and concert hall, was until recently managed by the Local Authority, but in April 1996 the management reverted to a a charitable Trust, with the aim of operating all the buildings that comprise the Malvern Theatres as a unified centre of entertainment with improved facilities for concerts, film and drama.

Day-to-day management of the Theatres which now comprises the 'Forum' concert hall (capacity 1000), Theatre (capacity 800) and the Cinema (capacity 400), together with programming, is the responsibility of the complex manager who reports to the Trustees. The Theatres have a full-time technical staff and shares staff for administration and other matters between the three auditoria.

Front of house staff are provided by the Theatre Association. The Association also acts to provide financial assistance to the Theatre when required for the purchase of, for example, specialisedtechnical equipment, furniture etc. Membership of the Association is mandatory for all members of the Players.

A mixed programme of drama, music, ballet, opera and variety forms the basis of the professional content. Several amateur operatic groups also use the Theatre since it is the only auditorium of any size in the area.

The Malvern Festival is based upon the Malvern Theatres and brings major works of drama and music to the town.

Opened on 1st July 1885, the new "Concert Hall and Theatre" was considered to be an elegant centrepiece to the fashionable spa town that Malvern had become. The first production performed in the new building was an amateur production of "School" by T W Robertson. Various eminent companies played the Theatre including the D'Oyly Carte Opera Company. The noted Victorian composer Edward Elgarplayed for amateur productions as a member of the pit band.

The Theatre was refurbished in 1928 with the addition of a circle and raked stalls, as the base for the original Malvern Festival under the direction of Sir Barry Jackson. Since that time, continuing improvements have resulted in an auditorium which today seats 800 patrons in comfort with an unobstructed view of the stage from all seats. The acoustic quality of the building is considered to be excellent by the actors and musicians alike. Modern licensed bars and restaurant provide for the interval needs of the patrons. All front of house duties are carried out by volunteers, mainly recruited from the Theatre Association.

Much recent modernisation has included the installation of modern sound and lighting facilities capable of coping with the wide range of shows presented. The stage is over 30' wide and 27' deep, is raked (2" in 5') and has a removable forestage extension over the orchestra pit. A total of eight large dressing rooms, some with integral bathrooms, will accommodate companies of up to 40 artists in comfort. The dressing room block, which was built in 1948 in anticipation of the continuing popularity of the Festival has excellent views from all rooms of the Malvern Hills and the Severn Valley, and has what must be one of the most conveniently situated entrances of any provincial theatre, being at the front of the building - no tradesmen's entrance or subterranean dressing rooms for artists who appear at Malvern! The Theatre has recently reopened after a further major refurbishment with the aid of a National Lottery grant and financial assistance from the local authority. This will position it to continue to provide entertainment for the people of Malvern into the next century. The major changes include:- Integration of the front of house facilities with those of the adjacent 'New Space' concert hall and cinema.

Reseating the auditorium.

Replacing the theatre's traditional hemp grid with a modern counterweight system.

Improving the auditorium and dressing room facilities for people with special needs.