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Central School plans £13m refurb including new public theatre

The Royal Central School of Speech and Drama. Photo: Patrick Baldwin
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The Royal Central School of Speech and Drama is to spend £13 million expanding and improving facilities at its campus in Swiss Cottage, London, in a bid to turn it into “one of the major Off-West End sites”.

A new theatre will be built on the north London campus as part of the development, with student and occasional professional productions open to the public.

The current Studio 1 theatre, which a school spokesman described as “outdated”, will also be demolished and replaced.

Principal Gavin Henderson said: “We are living on a very restricted site. We already do a great deal of work off-site, so this will hopefully bring most of that work back in on-site. Enhancing the facilities is important in terms of staying ahead of the game.”

He said the school’s new public theatre would seat “around 150”, and compared it to the Orange Tree in Richmond and the Tricycle in north London.

He said: “It will have a three-sided balcony with a fourth side that can be put in if needed. So it could be like the Orange Tree if it was in the round, but a little bit more like the Tricycle if it’s on the three sides. It’s a Tricycle-sized space.”

Other planned improvements to the school’s estate include expanded rehearsal, performance and teaching spaces, as well as new studios for film and media training.

Henderson said the work would help cement Swiss Cottage as “one of the major Off-West End sites”.

“We will have a total of four regularly used public venues on our site,” he said. “So when you put that together, if it was dumped in the middle of a provincial city or a major town outside London, you’d say ‘Wow, incredible’. In London, we simply take so much for granted.”

The development – which is the fifth major overhaul of the school’s campus since 1991 – will be overseen by Tim Ronalds Architects, which previously restored the Hackney Empire.

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