#Theatre4Exeter – My thoughts on the Rose Theatre in Kingston

Following the publication by the Express & Echo of my letter on how I saw the financial viability of a 1200-seater city centre theatre, I have been amazed by how many compliments I’ve received. But others have questioned my views and suggested alternatives.

One such was asking why that city centre theatre couldn’t emulate the Rose Theatre in Kingston – a conversation of an Odeon Cinema – and one of the options mentioned by the Theatre for Exeter Development Group.

Here are my thoughts on the subject:

The overwhelming majority of voices I’m hearing is for a competitor to Plymouth’s Theatre Royal – with an auditorium seating in excess of 1200 and presenting the touring productions of musicals and theatre that constitute the programme in their Lyric Theatre. There are other models – costing considerably less, but I believe not meeting the *demands* of those currently calling for this large city centre theatre.

The Rose in Kingston is an interesting model – 900’capcity circular auditorium inspired by the shape of an Elizabethan theatre, but by no means looking backwards.

The thrust stage juts out into the auditorium, giving a new perspective to the relationship between performer and audience member. This alone would rule out the major shows the majority of correspondents in the E&E are calling for.

But it does reflect the kind of theatre I would like to see.

So to the construction costs – yes only £11m!

However, we don’t own the Odeon, so someone would have to find the money to buy it in the first instance. And that’s if the Odeon would consider selling someone the building.

It’s worth noting that the 2012/2013 annual accounts of the Kingston Theatre Trust (which manages the Rose) show the venue made a loss of more than £200k – this despite continued funding of £500k from Kingston Council and a further £380k from Kingston University.

However, I will acknowledge that there may be other models of financing and funding that might work – that’s why I need to see a viable business case.

If I were to play devil’s advocate (and second guess the final report), it is probable that the conclusion of Theatre For Exeter Development Group will be that a 1200-seat theatre is economically unviable, and it will recommend a venue with a capacity 750 – 1000. Will this placate those calling for a rival to the Plymouth Theatre Royal – NO.

Could I back this with an accompanying 10 year action plan as proposed by the T4E development Group – a qualified YES I was (and have been all through this debate) careful not to say NEVER to a city centre theatre. With an ailing and failing Pyramids, we need a swimming pool (actually, it’s really a leisure complex!) NOW.

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