IT’S curtain up for revamp work, as a major three-year refurbishment of Oxford Playhouse begins.
Contractors began by stripping out two theatre bars on Monday as part of £680,000 plans to modernise the Beaumont Street venue.
The work – to take place each summer for a month – will also replace the air conditioning system and well-worn auditorium fittings.
Interim director Polly Cole said she was thrilled work had started at the theatre, now closed until August 18.
She said: “We are really excited, it is lovely to see all the facilities starting to get a facelift.”
The downstairs foyer bar will be refurbished so it is “lighter and brighter”, while leather stools will be replaced by fabric.
The upstairs circle bar will be moved to the centre of the circle, like in the 1970s, so there is a “better flow” of thirsty patrons.
Ms Cole said: “It makes more sense for it to be in the centre because you come up both sides.
“It will also be larger so we can serve more people.”
The bars and auditorium were last updated in 1996, since when a busy flow of bums on seats has worn out fittings.
She said of the auditorium, known to many for its annual panto: “The seating is worn, the fixtures are collapsing.
“Some of the seats collapse so we have to check them between shows to make sure they are fit for purpose.
“The carpet is horrendously worn. It is currently held together with gaffer tape.”
Yet she assured loyal theatregoers: “The look of it will be very similar, it will change slightly.”
Next summer work will be done on the theatre’s air conditioning and the year after that, work will start on the auditorium.
The project was given a boost this month when the Arts Council gave £486,284 to the theatre, run as a charitable trust.
Theatre leaders will make up the rest.
Ms Cole said: “We are working very hard and our audiences are being extremely supportive.
“They come to shows, they make donations, we are very lucky to have such a supportive audience in Oxford.”
Other Arts Council support amounts to about 10 per cent of the theatre’s annual turnover.
Ms Cole said: “In comparison to other regional theatres we are extremely lucky.”
Events will return to the theatre with the family show Charlie and Lolas Extremely New Play from August 21 to 23.
The building was opened on October 20, 1938, as a repertory theatre after a four-year appeal to raise £25,000 for its construction.
An estimated 150,000 people go to the theatre every year.