When it comes to seeing a show, the best theatre venue in the east of England, let alone the city of Norwich is, without question, the Norwich Theatre Royal. However, it’s not your only theatre option.
Theatre in Norwich
Norwich Theatre Royal
The Norwich Theatre Royal stages more than 400 performances and welcomes well over 400,000 people through its doors each year with a stellar programme of opera, ballet, touring comedy acts, classical drama and contemporary writing. The theatre occupies a great location in the heart of the city, and just one street away from the Chapelfield Norwich shopping centre. It has over 250 years of history hosting shows for the people of Norwich, seating 1,300 people in a grand auditorium where there isn’t a bad seat in the house.
The Theatre Royal you see today is actually its third iteration. It was built in the 1930s, modernised in 2007 and has attracted some excellent productions, including a five-week run of Cameron Mackintosh’s Les Misérables.
That’s not all, though. There are a handful of other great options for anyone interested in seeing a show while staying at one of our Norwich hotels. Take The Maddermarket Theatre for example. For nearly 100 years, it’s been a local favourite for small-scale productions and regularly welcomes highly-regarded touring companies from around the country. A trip to The Maddermarket Theatre is like stepping back in time. It’s housed in an 18th-century chapel and was founded by Nugent Monck; a friend, disciple and contemporary of William Poel who pioneered the return to performing Shakespeare’s plays in the Elizabethan style as they were intended, in full and with less emphasis on scenery.
Naturally, you’ll frequently find productions of Shakespeare at The Maddermarket, although its annual programme of 12 in-house plays has expanded to cover a broader spectrum of works. Meanwhile, visiting companies and artists fill it out with opera, classical music, concerts, comedy acts, dance performances and contemporary theatre productions.
The Norwich Playhouse is another one to look at. It’s a wonderful, friendly 300-seat theatre less than 500 feet from our Norwich City Centre (Duke Street) hotel. As well as boasting a reputation for being one of the best comedy venues in East Anglia, it attracts theatre companies from around the world and puts on a daring programme of quirky and offbeat shows. The theatre strikes the magnificent balance of looking intimate but feeling spacious, and there’s no risk of the seating gradient being too shallow. You could have André the Giant sitting in front, yet you’d still have a good view of the stage.
A couple more venues are worth a mention too. The Sewell Barn Theatre is one for the purists. The small auditorium has three sides of raked bench seating surrounding a stage that couldn’t possibly put you any closer to the action. It’s the home of the Sewell Barn Theatre Company, an amateur group that performs to a professional standard in productions ranging from Shakespeare to Alan Bennett, Seamus Heaney and Martin McDonagh – the writer and director of In Bruges, Seven Psychopaths and Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri.
Last of all is the Norwich Puppet Theatre in the medieval church of St. James the Less. Not a one-trick pony, this unique venue consists of a 175-seat raked auditorium, 50-seat Octagon studio, workshops, an exhibition gallery and licensed bar. It was founded in 1979 and to celebrate its 30th anniversary, it auctioned off a number of puppets decorated by famous celebrities like Ian McKellen, Cath Kidston, Michael Sheen and Heston Blumenthal. The shows themselves are produced by the Norwich Puppet Theatre Company, which is world-renowned within its craft.