Arts bosses are planning a major revamp of His Majesty’s Theatre to create more room for social distancing.
Aberdeen Performing Arts has lodged plans with the council detailing proposed changes to the glass extension added to the venue about 20 years ago.
Chief executive, Jane Spiers, says the alterations are needed following a bruising spell for the sector.
In a letter to Aberdeen City Council, she explains that the “enhanced foyer and circulation spaces” planned will address social distancing requirements.
She adds: “The Covid-19 pandemic has had a major impact on the performing arts, requiring forced closure of our venues for 18 months without the ability to generate income.”
HMT revamp needed ‘to remain a viable business’
After being closed for much of 2021 His Majesty’s Theatre reopened in September, with packed houses following in December for the return of the pantomime.
But the new lease of life was cruelly cut short when it was forced to close again on Boxing Day.
Mrs Spiers continues: “In order to remain a viable business going forward, we need to keep our audiences, performers and staff safe and give them the confidence to return.
“The building’s restricted open spaces for gathering makes it challenging for us to implement social distancing and provide the necessary circulation and queuing space for vaccine certification checks.”
What will the HMT revamp involve?
The theatre was built between 1904 and 1906, and has been Aberdeen’s “principal performance venue” for nearly 120 years.
The venue, owned by the council but operated by APA, was designated an A-listed building in 1973.
The five-storey glazed block which houses the box office and catering offering was added in 2005.
To create that badly needed extra space near the box office, and make more room for people queuing, bosses plan to remove the staircase and get rid of the cafe.
They will also create one “new and expanded cafe bar” on the floor above, offering impressive views over the upgraded Union Terrace Garden.
Architect David Chouman has come up with the design.
He said: “It is submitted that the proposed works have been developed with a view to minimising disturbance to the existing building’s fabric whilst enhancing its integrity as a culturally-significant performance venue.”
Future remains uncertain for the arts
Just before Christmas, APA bosses said they were “so sad to be closing our doors again” under the threat of Omicron.
Performances have been cancelled until at least January 16, while shows beyond then remain in doubt while audiences are limited to 200 under government rules.
For Mrs Spiers, the structural changes will occur after leaving the helm of the arts organisation. In October she announced she will leave the body this year.
You can see the HMT revamp plans for yourself here.