Richard Pilbrow to sponsor Stage Award for Best Theatre Building

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

I’ve been a theatre designer for over 50 years. For too long I’ve been frustrated by the almost total lack of awareness of what the theatre designer today actually does. In the olden days, a few architects specialized in designing theatres—brilliant men such as Frank Matcham, who between 1879 and 1912 was responsible for over 150 theatres across Britain. Since his time, between 1920 - 1970, theatre architecture lost its way. The fan-shaped theatre inspired by Richard Wagner, the explosive growth of cinema, and “modern” functional architecture, led to a universal rejection of age-old principles, and substituted frontal ‘engineered’ sightlines and megaphone-like acoustics. These “rules” dictated theatre architecture for decades and included the National Theatre’s two large auditoria. 

Since 1978 some theatre designers have led the way toward  rediscovering the beauties of tradition, where actor and audience are brought together in intimate embrace by architecture that enfolds the artist. Boxes and balconies that bring the audience as close as possible to the performer are back in vogue everywhere.

The theatre designer is responsible for the quality of the audiences’ experience. By preparing the concept design of the theatre space and then collaborating with the architect in its realization the designer seeks to bridge the gap of misperception that so often exists between architecture and theatre.

This award is a small step toward bridging that divide.