Last Friday, we had the pleasure of hosting a re-launch evening to properly celebrate our recent refurbishment and welcome patrons old and new for the Spring Season.

After some welcome drinks and warm chatter, the crowd was beckoned into the auditorium, in all its red seat and purple ceiling glory, for an evening of both nostalgia and excitement for the future.

We were treated to an eclectic series of performances and speeches from Durham alumni, as well as current students. Indeed, the evening was a touching testament to the impact the theatre has had on generations of artists. A piano recital of Gershwin’s ‘I Got Rhythm’ by George Hetherington, 68 years after he first performed it for the Durham Freshers’ Concert in 1952, was followed soon after by Izzy Trent, performing ‘King of Kings’; two pianists united by both their craft and the place that has allowed them to express it.

George Hetherington

Arthur Bostrom similarly expressed his “debt of gratitude” to the Assembly Rooms and the opportunities it provided him 45 years ago as a member of the then Durham University Sensible Thespians, now the award-winningly successful Durham Revue. “Everything over my 40-year career as an actor all started in this theatre”, he praised, a sentiment shared by David Sproxton. His time spent as DST Techical Director, sat in the Assembly Rooms’ then tiny lighting box, has informed the lighting of the seminal Aardman Animations productions that we all know so well.

Emily Hardy

The benefit that this refurbishment will reap for current theatre-makers in Durham and the wider North-East, many of whose performances we were treated to throughout the evening, will undoubtedly be invaluable. As actor Matt Barber pointed out, its old walls have already proved “fundamental” for leading creators across arts industries, and one of the key focusses of the project was to preserve this rich history, whilst also giving it a new lease of life. The possibilities now seem truly endless.

Athena Tzallas and Gayaneh Vlieghe performing Sparks

As Matt went on to commend, “the wealth of theatre at Durham (with an average of 5 productions on every week) is absolutely extraordinary”, and we are incredibly proud to be providing a base for artists in the north-east. We hope that everyone who walks through our front or stage doors can somewhat affirm Sir Thomas Allen’s point of view that “being here is perfect… it’s magnificent” (and we have a green room, on top of everything else!).

Sir Thomas Allen

A huge thank you, once again, to everyone who made the evening so special, as well as the many groups and individuals who have made the refurbishment possible. We hope you can join us again at some point during our Spring Season to see the bountiful benefits of 14 months of hard work, all steadfastly driven by the captain of our ship, Kate Barton.

Mischief, undoubtedly, managed.

By Elvira Parr