The Assembly Rooms Theatre is a historic 175-seat proscenium arch theatre in the heart of Durham City. Previously used as 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.
This October 2019, the Assembly Rooms officially re-opened 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.