RICHMOND'S Georgian Theatre Royal opens its doors this week for the start of a new season of guided tours that enable visitors to discover a fascinating world of showbiz antics from times gone by.

The Georgian Theatre Experience – which tells the story of the UK’s oldest working theatre in its original form – is one of the region’s most popular tourist attractions.

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This year’s tour season started yesterday (February 14) with guided visits running on the hour from 10am until 4pm, Monday to Saturday, until the end of October.

The tour has a 5-star rating on the popular international tourism website TripAdvisor and consistently holds the top slot of 26 things to do in Richmond.

Visitors to The Georgian Theatre Experience take a guided tour of the auditorium, dressing rooms and stage, as well as spend time in the state-of-the-art exhibition area.

This not only reveals what life was like for a Georgian actor but also conjures the sights and sounds of 18th century England in a rural market town.

The exhibition is home to the recently restored Woodland Scene – Britain’s oldest surviving stage scenery painted between 1818 and 1836 – as well as old playbills, scripts and photographs. Locals will also recognise props from recent pantomimes.

The Northern Echo: A group enjoying a guided tourA group enjoying a guided tour

Clare Allen, chief executive of the theatre, said: “We are looking forward to welcoming lots of visitors to the Theatre in the months ahead.

“Each tour is led by one of our extremely knowledgeable volunteer guides who enthusiastically bring the theatre to life with entertaining tales of those who were both on and off the stage.”

The theatre’s history is packed full of fascinating characters, including Tryphosa Brockell, the wife of Samuel Butler who built the theatre in 1788.

Butler was her third husband, 23 years her junior and she effectively ran the place until her death in 1797.

A clergyman’s daughter, she was well educated and to be managing a theatre in the middle of the 18th century was very rare for a woman.

One of the most famous actors of the 19th century, Edmund Kean, is also linked to the theatre.

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The story goes that Samuel Butler spotted the young man’s talent and paid for his stage coach ticket to London where he made his fame and fortune.

Years later, the then superstar repaid this kindness by returning to perform for a few nights in Richmond.

Other more modern-day celebrities to tread the boards of the historic stage are Dame Judi Dench, Sir Ian McKellen, John Cleese and Alan Bennett.

Insights are also given into the behaviour of Theatre audiences.

People would have been crammed into the tiny auditorium, a lot of drink would have been consumed and the atmosphere would have been raucous to say the least.

There were no toilets in the building and those in need would either have used the wynd outside or brought their own pot.

Shows could go on for many hours and it was not uncommon for food to have been thrown onto the stage.

The Northern Echo: Stepping back in time at the Richmond Georgian Theatre RoyalStepping back in time at the Richmond Georgian Theatre Royal

The tour romps through the Theatre’s dramatic 232-year-old history - through times of closure and a variety of uses from auction house to wartime ammunitions store - culminating in its re-opening in 1963 and position now as a vibrant live performance venue.

A review left on TripAdvisor at the end of the 2021 season said: “Absolutely loved this visit. Beautiful intimate theatre so thoughtfully restored.

"Really brought to life by our guide who was so entertaining and enthusiastic.

"It was her joy and enthusiasm for the theatre that also made it feel special for us too. Loved it!”

This year’s entrance costs are being held at only £5 per adult and £2 for children with tickets valid for 12 months to enable repeat visits.

The Georgian Theatre Experience can be accessed from the main entrance of the Theatre on Victoria Road.

No pre-booking is required but larger groups are advised to phone in advance.

For further information, contact 01748 823710 or visit:


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