A four-point plan of new ambitions and plans for the future of Norwich Theatre Royal are being unveiled today as it sets out its strategy for the future.
Chief executive Stephen Crocker has spent his first three-and-a-half months at the helm meeting a range of groups and organisations around the region and beyond as well as shaping future proposals for the 1300-seat theatre and its sister theatre, the 300-seat Norwich Playhouse, the learning and participation centre Stage Two, and the role of the theatre in the life of Norwich, Norfolk and the Eastern Region.
Now he is making public how he sees the theatre growing and developing for its audience and the wider community in the months and years ahead.
His vision divides into four main areas – Programming, Learning & Participation, Norwich Playhouse and the Bigger Picture.
Mr Crocker is keen to continue long-term relationships with the likes of Sir Matthew Bourne with his next production Cinderella coming to the city, the National Theatre which has three productions already on sale, Glyndebourne and the Royal Shakespeare Company. The commitment to bring big West End shows will also continue into 2022 with major touring productions on the way including Miss Saigon which is confirmed for a highly-anticipated return to the Theatre Royal in summer 2018.
There will also be development of the city’s classical music programme with three international orchestras coming to the Theatre Royal across Autumn 2017 and Spring 2018, and development of the venue’s dance programme is also continuing thanks to ongoing discussions with Sadler’s Wells to bring more international work to the city.
A set of priorities have also been created for Stage Two over the next five years which will see the building focus on education, training and skills for young and old, community engagement and breaking down barriers and widening access.
Mr Crocker said: “We want to continue supporting work in the education setting because it is a characteristic of what we are known for. Alongside this, we want to expand our training and skills programme to look at how we connect people with real jobs in the industry. For over 30 years, we have run a successful theatre arts course and we want to expand this work to include the technical side of theatre-making.
“We are also very conscious of our work with communities and we will be doing a lot of targeted work looking at how we engage with people who do not normally engage with us.”
In addition, the theatre will be hosting its first dementia-friendly performance featuring The National Gilbert and Sullivan Company which will be backed up with work in the theatre’s Stage Two building and also work for those with the condition alongside the theatre company Vamos as part of a two-year programme of work at Norwich Playhouse which will include performances, workshops and training.
Links between the Playhouse and Theatre Royal are set to be strengthened in a number of ways to build on the current management links between the venues. Stephen explained: “We want to develop a programme which is complementary between the two venues. Over the summer we also think the Playhouse needs a bit of tender loving care. It will be closing for a few weeks over the summer, although the bar will stay open. In September, you will see a refreshed auditorium with refurbished seats and new carpets.”
And the new chief executive is also looking further ahead to forge even closer links with the likes of the Local Enterprise Partnership, Norwich City Council, Norfolk County Council, Norwich BID and other similar organisations to highlight the city as a cultural destination. Stephen said: “I think I am a great example of someone having to get to Norwich to truly understand the cultural richness that is here and I want to be an ambassador for that. I am very pleased that we were able to secure Philip Glass and Laurie Anderson to perform here as part of the Norfolk & Norwich Festival, their only engagement outside of London in the UK, and I want to continue that kind of programming that affirms Norwich’s place as a cultural destination.
“As Chief Executive of Norwich Theatre Royal, I am personally hugely committed to ensuring that culture is at the centre of a joined-up approach to driving forward the growth agenda for the city, county and region which will lead to developments in infrastructure and greater economic growth.”
And he wants to push for steady change to bring all his plans forward in the weeks and months ahead. Stephen said: “I think it is less of a revolution and more of an evolution. We are part of a network within the city, county and country. We need to foster lots of partnerships and some of those will take time. I would like to think that if we look back at today in five years, we will be able to see the distance we have travelled.”