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Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre unveils new £2.8m onsite rehearsal studios

Regent's Park Open Air Theatre's new onsite rehearsal studios. Photo: David Jensen Regent's Park Open Air Theatre's new onsite rehearsal studios. Photo: David Jensen
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Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre has unveiled new onsite studios that will enable most of its productions to be rehearsed within its grounds for the first time in its 86-year history.

The venue said its new studios complex, built at a cost of £2.8 million, would also be hired out to external producers outside of its own season, providing a much-needed addition to London’s rehearsal offering.

Previously, the theatre has had one studio within its grounds, the Robert Atkins Studio, named after the theatre’s founder. This has also doubled as a reception room in the past.

Now, the Open Air Theatre has added an additional three studios on site, housed within a new development attached to the existing studio, designed by architect Jim Reed, from Reed Watts Architects.

The largest of the new studios – Studio 1 – is double height and has sprung flooring, which will allow the venue to rehearse its bigger productions, including its musical theatre offerings. Little Shop of Horrors, which opens later this summer, will become the first production to make use of this studio.

The new complex also includes a further two studios, which can be combined into one large space, or divided off, allowing the smaller space to become an office for stage mangers during a show’s rehearsal.

The new facility also houses a green room and a kitchen, which serves food to members of the public during performances.

William Village, executive director at the theatre, told The Stage that the key for the venue was “being able to rehearse on site”, which will save the theatre the expense of hiring out rehearsal spaces elsewhere in and around London.

“We did occasionally use the original studio to rehearse smaller shows, such as To Kill a Mockingbird, but we only had the one room, so you couldn’t do something like a musical, where you need to have dance and other elements being rehearsed in other rooms,” he explained.

Studio 1, which will be used for musical theatre rehearsals, is completely soundproofed, meaning it can be used while a show is on at the Open Air Theatre.

“You can rehearse in there and have a matinee showing and there will be no disturbance. The problem with the existing studio is that it isn’t soundproofed, so you could not be in there when a show was on,” he added.

He said it was likely that all but one of the theatre’s shows each season will be rehearsed on location, with one having to rehearse elsewhere due to scheduling clashes.

Being on site will help the actors feel more connected to the stage they will be working on, he added.

Village said he was convinced that the new studios would also be an attractive proposition to external producers looking for rehearsal spaces, which will bring in additional revenue for the theatre. He explained that the theatre’s last show of each season finishes rehearsing at the end of July, and that the spaces would be available for seven months after that.

Architect Reed said 90% of the new wooden block was built from timber that had been sustainably sourced, and constructed to be mindful to both audiences within the theatre’s grounds, and those passing by on the nearby road.

The new development is the culmination of a number of capital projects at the theatre in recent years, including new dressing rooms and backstage spaces in 2017.

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