As we embark on the final countdown before the newly refurbished Assembly Rooms opens its doors next Saturday, it seems like there is no better time than to look to the future of the theatre as a cultural hub in Durham and, indeed, the North-East of England.
Wandering around the city these past few weeks has been coupled with an undeniable buzz around the theatre’s reopening, both among the student body and local community. Such excitement is a timely reminder of the unflinching importance of regional theatre in ensuring that access to and opportunities in drama and entertainment are never centralised or restricted to our capital city. London’s theatre-scene is, of course, brilliant, but it is also almost 300 miles and a very expensive train ticket away. The Assembly Rooms is thus contributing to the ever-vital presence of theatre right here, right now.
The recent Gala Theatre and Durham Student Theatre production of the Lord of the Flies is a testament to the creative possibilities we can foster with a firm focus on collaboration and innovation within the community. The production saw Newcastle-based Artistic Director of Unfolding Theatre, Annie Rigby, unite with the university, another integral part of Durham, on a truly remarkable project labelled “a great success” by the British Theatre Guide.
Such relationships are undoubtedly what the Assembly Rooms hopes to continue foster in the coming months as it opens its doors to faces old and new, and to professional companies alongside its regular term-time student productions. With our two Durham-based resident companies, Elysium Theatre Company and Grim Up North, already in situ, all hands are on deck to ensure that Durham continues to thrive and make its mark on the regional theatre map.
By Elvira Parr