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We went on the Theatre Royal Bury Edmunds tour and this is what we thought



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Many people from Bury St Edmunds have visited Theatre Royal, whether it's to see comedians grace the stage or watch the seasonal staple that is the pantomime.

But how many know of the history?

The Theatre Royal's Theatre Tour, which started in early April and will run until the end of August, is set to educate those that come along about the 'trials and triumphs' of the last remaining working Regency playhouse in the country. To find out more about this historic building, SuffolkNews headed down one rainy day to delve into the theatre's vibrant past.

Our tour guide for the day was Rory O'Brien, duty manager for the theatre who started out as volunteer in 2010. He explained that the tours have been running since 2005 after the restoration of the theatre. It then became important to educate people about the work that had been done and the history.

We began this tour in the Greene Room, not the room where actors rest in between scenes, but the bar area aptly named after the theatre's owners - Greene King.

It was here that we learnt about William Wilkins, the theatre's architect, who bought a piece of land in Westgate Street in 1818, and in 1819 the theatre opened - then known as the New Theatre.

SuffolkNews reporter Tamika Green joined in the Theatre Royal Bury St Edmunds tour - (from left to right) Becca Woollam, marketing assistant media at the theatre; Tamika Green; Rory O'Brien, and Carol Tricker. Picture: Mark Westley
SuffolkNews reporter Tamika Green joined in the Theatre Royal Bury St Edmunds tour - (from left to right) Becca Woollam, marketing assistant media at the theatre; Tamika Green; Rory O'Brien, and Carol Tricker. Picture: Mark Westley
A sculpture of the theatre's architect William Wilkins. Picture: Tamika Green
A sculpture of the theatre's architect William Wilkins. Picture: Tamika Green

From the Greene Room we shuffled through the levels of the Grade I listed building to the upper circle, the dizzying heights of the gallery and down into the earthy-toned pit where the working class would have been seated.

Rory reeled off many interesting facts about the theatre, notably how it is much loved by the likes of Dame Judi Dench and Sir Ian McKellen, and how theatre director, Sir Peter Hall helped save the theatre after it was used to store beer barrels from the 1920s to the 60s.

On the importance of locals learning about the building's history, Rory said: "People from Bury should book on to these tours because the theatre is part of the town's heritage. It's much loved by the people of Bury, but also professionals.

"One of the reasons why it is so loved is because it looks like a real theatre because it's from that Regency period which carries a particular style of theatre and represents that link between Georgian theatre and the Victorian type theatres."

One of the dressing rooms at the theatre. Picture: Tamika Green
One of the dressing rooms at the theatre. Picture: Tamika Green
A view from the stage - the pit, the upper circle and the gallery. Picture: Tamika Green
A view from the stage - the pit, the upper circle and the gallery. Picture: Tamika Green

Overall, the tour was a fascinating day out, packed with anecdotes and stories of the theatre's past. It offered up the chance to get behind the scenes and see the theatre in a different light.

Full-price tickets cost £10, while National Trust members pay £5. Tickets for children under 12 cost £5.

The Theatre Tour will run at 11am every Wednesday and Saturday until August 27. The tours stop for two weeks in July but resume again on August 6.

Other top picks at the theatre include:

An Afternoon in Conversation with Judi Dench on May 29 - streaming tickets available.

As You Like It on June 1 to June 4.

Hamlet the Comedy on June 22 to June 24.