A great theatre that sadly closed a few years ago and is now a night club. I was a Front of House volunteer between 1984 and 1990 having many great memories of the stars, shows and most importantly the wonderful staff who helped keep the theatre running, many times on a wing and a prayer…
Below there will be memories from fellow volunteers, backstage staff, audiences and with a bit of luck some of the stars! If you have any Theatre Royal memories please feel free to get in touch and/or comment below.
For a potted history of the theatre please visit…
and for the technical aspects of the building and the list of past owners please visit here
There is also a very interesting Facebook tribute page featuring many photos (mainly from the 1980’s shows) compiled and run by former employee at the theatre Andrew Ankers.
The Rocky Horror Show was the one show I loved during my time working at the theatre. I first saw it in the audience and didn’t know what to expect knowing little of it but I know a lot more now! Overall I watched the show 29 times at the theatre and only paid twice, the other times I was working as a volunteer.
Crowd control was always fun, the amount of rice you’d sweep up between shows and the vast amounts of water pistols/squeezy bottles that made it in. The latter were banned as they caused mayhem and made the stage very slippery when the water mixed with the rice. I remember one show was abandoned afetr some idiot threw a water bag filled with nails onto the stage.
They had some very good actors in the roles including Bobby Crush as Frank ‘n’ Furter! Strange to see him in fishnets and not behind a piano…
There is a potted history here of the Theatre Royal production.
The theatre put on other touring shows throughout the 1980’s including Cabaret (starring Wayne Sleep) and the Hobbit.
Ria Bright recalls her time in the production of the Hobbit:
‘We got to do The Hobbit at Hanley & Stockport, but Hanley was the special one, because the theatre was so beautiful. I played an elf & a wolf. I had to walk around with a lantern a lot. The wolf costume was tricky, because I couldn’t see out of it. I had to twist the head to the side to see anything. I had to fight with someone as a wolf & kill them.
I loved the curtain call, seeing the curtain rise to reveal how beautiful that theatre was.’
Thanks to Ria for these photos of the production:
March 2015: found this excellent and informative site on the theatres in Stoke-on-Trent, do have a look.
Interviews with former satff and perfomers at the Theatre Royal. If you would like to be featured or have a contact for a former perfomer/staff member please get in touch via papa_bear70 (at) hotmail.com
Paul Wood (worked at the theatre between 1983-2000)
When did you work at the theatre and in what capacity?
I started in April 1983 and worked as a Front-Of House volunteer until December 1993 when I was taken onto the payroll in a full-time capacity as Stage Door Keeper. I remained in that post until the closure of the theatre itself in 2000 through three different managements (with occasional periods of unemployment between each one!). I was actually on duty on the very last show ever staged at the Theatre Royal, thus therefore the last in a long line of Stage Door Keepers. I’m proud to have been there on that final night.
How did you become involved in the Theatre Royal?
I wanted to see Barry Howard (one of the starts of TV’s ‘Hi-De-Hi’) live on stage there but couldn’t afford a ticket! I then saw that the Theatre was looking for volunteers and figured that this was an exellent way to see the show after all. Cheeky, but true! However, in my defence, I did end up dedicating 17 years of my life to the place so it wasn’t a totally selfish tactic!
Which shows did you enjoy the most and why?
It was always the plays, particularly the comedies. They quite often starred a lot of big TV names from the classic comedy shows. John Inman, Trevor Bannister, Brian Murphy, Ian Lavender were just a few of the many I saw in those early days.
Any shows/performers that sent a shudder down your spine?
Seeing Billy Connelly live on stage is something I will never forget. I saw the second of a two night run he did. Many staff said the first night was the better of the two. I can only say that he must have been on incredible form that first night because the show I saw the following evening was awesome.
What performers and actors/actresses did you enjoy seeing the most and why?
As mentioned above, TV names were always a big draw for me. I was thrilled to see Colin Baker of Dr. Who fame. We also had shows from many famous comedians such as Rowan Atkinson and the legendary Ken Dodd perform sell-out shows.
Your memories of the fellow staff/volunteers you worked with?
I have countless warm memories of many people I worked alongside in those days. Some of them are still friends to this day and we often talk about the Theatre Royal. I also remember one or two lovely people that we lost at the time.
Why do you think the Theatre Royal never quite got the success it deserved?
In a word: cash. Funding was always a problem.I think a lot of it was down to Council politics. In its heyday, the Theatre Royal was the top venue in Hanley & was greatly valued. When it burned down in the late 1940s it was rapidly rebuilt at great expense. Move on several decades and there was an obvious change in attitude from the powers that be. Come the 1980s, the Council seemed to see it as more of an embarrassment. The only time the revived Theatre Royal had any decent money spent on it was when Mike Lloyd purchased & refitted the building to a high standard in the late 1990s. But market forces outside of Mike’s control were destined to finally bring the curtain down less than three years later.
If in an ideal world an investor came along, do you think the Theatre could be restored to its former glory or is it best left in the past?
Probably best left in the past. Only the outer shell resembles the wonderful building I once worked in. Most of the inside has been radically changed (not for the better!). Even if you could dig up the original plans and painstakingly restore the place piece by piece, it would not be the original Theatre we all knew and loved. R.I.P. Theatre Royal, that’s what I say!
Thanks for all your comments and please keep them coming & get in touch.