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Rising refurb costs force Scotland’s oldest theatre to appeal for more cash

Theatre Royal Dumfries Theatre Royal Dumfries
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Owners of the Theatre Royal Dumfries have called on the local authority for an extra £50,000 to complete a planned £1.9 million refurbishment of the building.

Costs for the project have risen to £2.11 million and owner the Guild of Players has asked the Dumfries and Galloway Council for the extra money after unforeseen structural issues were discovered.

Founded in 1790, the Theatre Royal is Scotland’s oldest working theatre. It was bought by local amateur company the Guild of Players in 1959 and has been dark for the renovation project since 2013.

The main 178-seat auditorium reopened for pantomime in December. Having purchased two adjoining properties, the Guild of Players has also added a 30-seat studio theatre and reconfigured the foyer and catering areas.

According to a report to the council’s Economy, Environment and Infrastructure Committee, “the interior walls and ceilings of the original auditorium, which deteriorated rapidly as the building began to dry out, have significantly increased mechanical and engineering costs”.

The committee has been recommended to approve an extra £50,000, as a one-off grant to the theatre.

Peter Bain, the theatre’s heritage development officer, told The Stage that the Guild of Players was looking to run the theatre as a going concern. It will remain the resident company at the theatre, with an added mix of professional touring productions.

He said: “Most of the [theatre’s] infrastructure was still the same from the original Georgian architecture. Now, because of the expansion into the other building, it is all much easier to navigate both front of house and backstage.

“If anyone would like to add Dumfries to their list of touring venues then they should get in touch with us.”

The theatre is due to have an official reopening on January 17 with a one-off show: Theatre Royal – The Next 200 Years (A celebration of the Theatre Royal Dumfries, Past, Present and Future).

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