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Multimillion-pound refurbishment of Theatre Royal Drury Lane approved

Theatre Royal, Drury Lane auditorium from the royal box. Photo: Peter Dazeley The capacity of Theatre Royal Drury Lane's auditorium will be reduced from 2,200 to 2,000 in the redevelopment. Photo: Peter Dazeley
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The proposed multimillion-pound refurbishment of Theatre Royal Drury Lane has been given the green light by Westminster City Council.

Really Useful Theatres Group, which owns the theatre, said the scheme would “restore the Theatre Royal to its place as the most important venue for musical theatre” in London.

The council, meanwhile, said the revamp heralded a new era for the venue, creating a modern space for performers and audiences.

The refurbishment will restore public areas of the theatre, reduce the number of seats in the auditorium from 2,200 to 2,000 and create a new restaurant.

In a statement, Really Useful said the plans would also enable the venue to “accommodate the demands of the modern musical” and help it attract new audiences.

Really Useful Theatres will fund the redevelopment, with building work expected to start in 2019 at the earliest. It is estimated the redevelopment will take 18 months, during which time the theatre would be dark.

Approving the plans, Westminster City Council chairman of planning, councillor Richard Beddoe, said: “This refurbishment will raise the curtain on a new era for the theatre – preserving the character of this wonderful old building while creating a modern space for performers and audiences to enjoy.”

The West End theatre, currently home to 42nd Street, was built by Benjamin Dean Wyatt in 1812. However, the site has been in continuous use as a theatre since the 1660s, making it one of the oldest surviving theatre locations in the city.

The proposals also aim to bring the public areas of the theatre back as closely as possible to Wyatt’s original designs, following a restoration of the theatre’s Grand Saloon in 2013.

Andrew Lloyd Webber restores Drury Lane to its ‘original Georgian splendour’

Disabled access to the building will also be improved as part of the project.

Responding to Westminster City Council’s planning permission, the Theatres Trust said important buildings such as the Theatre Royal must strike “a balance that preserves the history whilst bringing the building in line with the access, comfort and safety standards that we now expect of theatres”.

Theatres Trust director Jon Morgan said: “The latest developments mark the beginning of the next chapter for the Theatre Royal, helping it meet the demands of today’s large-scale productions and the expectations of modern audiences.”

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