Our Story

The Assembly Rooms is a historic 175 seat proscenium arch theatre in the heart of Durham city. Previously used as a ballroom, it has undergone extensive redevelopment and is home to Durham Student Theatre as well as associate local artists. We host numerous touring productions as part of Venues North, as well as programming shows by our associate artists. 

The Assembly Rooms Theatre was first used as a ballroom after being built in the eighteenth century, and was redeveloped as a theatre in 1869, after Durham’s Theatre Royal burnt down in a fire. It hosted its first performance in 1891 with a production of Il Travatore, and was subsequently used by Durham Amateur Operatic Group in the early twentieth century from its first production of H.M.S Pinafore in 1908. In 1903, the theatre hosted a showing of W. S. Porter’s film, ‘The Great Train Robbery’, which is believed to have been the first film shown in Durham. In 1930, Durham University acquired the theatre, and it underwent further renovation in the 1950s in order to host theatrical performances once again.

Thanks to generous funds from the Gillian Dickinson Trust, the theatre was completely refurbished from 2007-9, including a complete redecoration of the auditorium, the refurbishment of all existing seats, and the inclusion of a modern box office. Since then, we have received ongoing support from the University, as well as our sponsors and patrons, that allow us to maintain this historic building and continue to host theatrical performances.

In October 2019, the Assembly Rooms officially reopened its doors after 14 months of renovations, thanks to a £2.4 million investment from the university. The refurbishment has allowed us to restore the theatre’s 150-year-old ceiling, improve disabled access to the building and auditorium, as well as completely redecorate and repair our dressing rooms, bar, box office and facilities.

The Team

Alice Aucott – Theatre Manager

Alice is our theatre manager and manages everyone and everything that happens in our building. She oversees our resident theatre societies and also manages student theatre at Durham University.

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Anna Hayward – Theatre Development

Anna is our Theatre Development Coordinator. She assists the different theatre companies with logistics, and publicity, and provides a helping hand with everything else as well!

Anna is the Internal Hires Coordinator at the Assembly Rooms, which means she looks after the DST stores and hires out costumes, furniture, props and tech to theatre productions and  societies that require it. She loves getting to know a wide range of DST members and production teams, that she meets each week.

Ellen Olley – Internal Hires

Ellen is the Internal Hires Coordinator for Assembly Rooms. This involves looking after the storage collections and hires out costumes, props, and tech to any theatre companies and other societies.

James Fox-Robinson -Technician

James is our lead Theatre Technician. He comes from a background in set design and lighting but has experience in all aspects of theatre. He works with student technicians to help everyone be creatively and safely involved in the tech process.

Ben Lycett – Marketing Assistant

Ben is the Marketing Assistant for the theatre. He oversees all of the social media accounts, runs the website and does graphic design for our printed programmes for each season of shows. 

Jaqui Carr – Caretaker

Jackie is our wonderful caretaker who works hard to keep the theatre looking in tip-top shape. She has worked at Assembly Rooms for almost 19 years, and loves interacting with all the different productions that are staged in the theatre.

Resident Theatre Companies

We pride ourselves in looking after northern theatre companies who become our associates in the building. Check them out!

Durham Student Theatre

The Assembly Rooms Theatre is home to Durham Student Theatre’s 30 theatre companies. Ranging from musical theatre to sketch comedy, from classical to contemporary, we aim to programme a variety of shows throughout the academic year for our wide audience to enjoy. More information on each of them can be found here.

Durham Student Theatre (DST) is the home of theatre at Durham University. Durham has one of the most exciting student theatre scenes in the country, with over 100 productions annually and 30 active theatre companies. To learn more or find out how to get involved, visit www.durhamstudenttheatre.org!

Elysium Theatre Company

Founded by Jake Murray and Danny Solomon, Elysium Theatre Company aims to present Northern premieres of plays from around the world, new work of our own and exciting reworking of classics across the region.

Jake Murray was associate artistic director at Manchester’s Royal Exchange Theatre for several years before becoming co-founder and artistic director of Panache Theatre Company – designed to present classy theatre in stately homes and overseas.

The company launched itself with a staging of Days of Wine and Roses in the Assembly Rooms Theatre in September 2017 and has been going from strength to strength ever since.

More information on them can be found here.

Grim Up North

Specialising in immersive productions, Grim Up North was founded by Sam Lupton.

They are the company behind Escape Rooms Durham. As well as working as associate producers in London, they are based up North and work on a variety of projects, premiering them in the Assembly Rooms before they transfer.

You hear more from them here.