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Award-winning actress Jill Halfpenny has led a special ceremony to officially open Newcastle Theatre Royal’s £500,000 backstage refurbishment and dedicate its new Green Room to the Theatre’s long-time Friend and first ever patron, the late Richard Briers.

Jill, who is the current Friends Patron (along with acclaimed choreographer Mathew Bourne) unveiled a special plaque in the Theatre’s famous Green Room on Wednesday 23rd December to mark the year-long refurbishment works and leave a lasting legacy to one of the world’s most treasured actors.  The plaque will also recognise the major contribution made by the Friend’s committee towards the backstage refurbishment.

The Theatre began a major refurbishment of its backstage areas, including the Green Room and dressing rooms in Summer 2014. The work took a little over a year and was completed this Autumn. It is the first time the backstage area has been refurbished or decorated since 1988, when the whole Grade I listed building was redeveloped. The work is the second act in a major facelift, ‘Act One’ being the Theatre’s award winning £4.9 million auditorium restoration which took place in 2011. There has been some rebuilding work, but mostly major redecoration to drastically improve comfort, accessibility and facilities for visiting companies and their performers.

The new design specifically aims to maximise interaction between Theatre staff and the touring companies, something which was inhibited by the old layout.  The Stage Door entrance has been opened up to allow those in the waiting area to get a greater sense of the theatrical operation beyond the secure doors, and the communal spaces are now much more comfortable, relaxing and inclusive of the latest technology.  The Green Room features an ‘astro-turf’ carpet, table football and a smart kitchenette. 

An acclaimed actor of stage and screen, Richard Briers was the Theatre Royal Friends Patron from 2008 until his death in February 2013.  Briers’ cited Newcastle Theatre Royal as his favourite theatre, and his love affair with it lasted over fifty years – both returning to perform time and again and supporting and encouraging a wide range of fundraising campaigns. Richard and his wife Annie’s last visit to the Theatre Royal was at the opening of The Madness of George III when they were able to see the newly restored auditorium in all its glory.

As well as being their Patron, Briers was a great supporter of the Theatre’s Friends committee, and encouraged all their projects, the latest of which raised an impressive contribution of £7,000 towards the backstage work.

The Theatre Royal has one of the largest and most generous Friends schemes in the UK. Friends of the Theatre Royal can book new season shows before the general public, and receive 20% off tickets, as well as discounts at our bars, exclusive ticket exchange and prices which never change. To become a Friend, please contact the Box Office on 08448 11 21 21 (Calls cost 7p per minute plus your phone company’s access charge) or sign up online at

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