Step beyond the velvet curtains, venture backstage, and join us on a journey of theatrical discovery like no other. We’re truly fortunate to have Norwich Theatre Royal in our Fine City, and it’s wonderful that they have an Open Day where everyone has the chance to learn more about the inner workings of the theatre.
Get ready to dive into the magic of the Norwich Theatre Royal Open Day and relive our behind-the-scenes tour, where the spotlight shifted from the stage to the secrets that bring every performance to life.
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About Norwich Theatre
Norwich Theatre plays a prominent role in the arts scene, proudly holding the distinction of being the largest in the East of England. The organisation is dedicated to providing entertainment, education, and inspiration, and they host a diverse range of captivating live shows and creative activities. Their mission is to make culture accessible to everyone, regardless of background or age.
Operating as an independent not-for-profit charity, Norwich Theatre receives no consistent public funding. Instead, its operations are fuelled by a blend of ticket sales, grants, fundraising endeavours, membership initiatives, and other commercial ventures.
While Norwich Theatre Royal is their largest venue, they also run The Norwich Playhouse, Stage Two, Norwich Theatre Beyond, and the innovative Norwich Digital Stage.
Read about all the different theatres in Norwich.
About Norwich Theatre Royal
Opened in 1758, the Theatre Royal stands as an enduring symbol of Norwich’s rich artistic and cultural heritage. This majestic establishment, now the third iteration at its present location, has weathered the test of time. However, its history hasn’t been without setbacks; a devastating fire in 1934 forced its closure for a daunting 15 months, and more recently, the grip of the Covid Pandemic also prompted its temporary shutdown.
Boasting a seating capacity of 1308, this opulent venue has hosted some of the biggest names and productions in touring theatre. Alongside this, they present a few original productions, the biggest being their popular annual panto.
What is Norwich Theatre Royal Open Day?
The annual Norwich Theatre Royal Open Day is a fantastic family-friendly event, offering a free day of entertainment and exploration. From exclusive behind-the-scenes tours to a large array of activities including costume try-ons and face painting, the Open Day promises a delightful experience for everyone to enjoy.
We first attended the Open Day in 2019. It seems to get bigger and better each year. In 2023, we were invited to go on the guided tour.
Norwich Theatre Royal Tour
Our backstage tour at Norwich Theatre Royal kicked off right inside the theatre itself. We snagged seats in the stalls and our guide, Orin, shared an overview of its remarkable history along with some other interesting facts.
Stepping through the Pass door and up the stairs, we found ourselves standing on the grand stage. It’s definitely larger than it looks from the seats. Here, the intricate mechanics of the fly system were unveiled, an essential element of theatre production.
On one side of the stage you could see the towering beanstalk from the recent “Jack and the Beanstalk” production in 2022. On the other side the cue desk held its ground, and you could learn more about the unseen coordination behind the scenes.
We shuffled over to the dock area, which was like a playground of costumes. You could even try them on if you wanted to. Here we learned how much work goes into unloading gear and sets for visiting gigs. Most shows fill multiple lorries and it could take days to get everything in place.
Then came the jackpot: the dressing rooms. We peeked inside two of them. One was decked out for a big-shot actor and the other was all set for a panto dame, complete with wacky costumes. Our ears caught snippets of cast announcements and in the hallway the walls were decked with photos of past performers with one exception.
We made our way downstairs to the orchestra pit. First, we walked through a room full of crates and lights. Norwich Theatre has 504 regular lights and 154 of those eco-friendly LCD ones. Big thumbs up for thinking green!
Down in the orchestra pit, we learned that they can adjust it to fit different-sized orchestras. On the ceiling we could see the trap doors. They’re like secret weapons during panto time.
They even let us check out the orchestra’s dressing room. Music vibes filled the air, like what you’d hear on show day when the musicians are in the zone. You could imagine it gets cosy in there with all the talent.
We sneaked a peek into the Green Room – the hangout spot for actors, especially on show days.
Today, it was quiet except for the theatre dog taking a breather.
Right around the corner, we spotted the Stage Door – where the actors roll in and out. If you’re looking for autographs, find a spot outside this door post-show.
Then we walked over to Stage Two, which is a creative space that opened in 2016 and fits 120 people. It’s where we saw “Time and Tide” last year, but it was buzzing with family-friendly fun for the Open Day.
We wrapped up the tour in the small car park where we could get a better view of the towering fly tower. Those plants up there? They’re not just for looks. They are used at the theatre’s restaurants. Talk about eco-friendly – there are solar panels on Stage Two and a beehive is on the way.
Our tour behind the scenes at Norwich Theatre Royal was like peeling back the curtains on a world of creativity. We got to see some of its hidden corners and learn about all the work needed to make the magic of theatre come alive. They definitely go above and beyond to make theatre accessible and try to do it in an environmentally-friendly way.
If you didn’t get a chance to go to their Open Day, keep an eye out for the event next year. With all the different activities, we could have easily spent the whole day there! In the meantime, be sure to check out the upcoming shows here. Don’t wait too long to get your tickets, as some shows sell out far in advance.