Out with the old and in with the blue...hundreds flock to Lowestoft’s new-look Marina Theatre

A MAJOR �250,000 investment in the future of Lowestoft's Marina Theatre has been hailed by management and visitors the Edwardian venue.

With the main auditorium completely refurbished and restored along with major technical improvements in the past six week, along with the opening of a new caf� and box office facility last Friday, the new look opened in style with a concert by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, followed by an open day on Saturday which drew hundreds of people eager to look behind the scenes.

The Marina Theatre Trust, who took over the management of the theatre last December, has been running the refurbishment project over the summer which has been complimented by a brand new ground floor caf� and box office facility in its recently acquired premises next door to the venue.

A stunning mix of blues with decorative features in gold complimented by dark blue seating and new carpets was unveiled as a capacity audience arrived for Friday evening's concert.

The restoration of the auditorium has included a full refurbishment of the seating - incorporating Probax Technology, as used in Lotus cars - redecoration and new carpeting, technical and ancillary works.

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Last Friday afternoon about 200 schoolchildren from across the area were the first to see the new auditorium as they had an opportunity to observe the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra rehearse for the evening's concert.

At 7.30pm trumpeters of the world famous RPO sounded the Marina fanfare, specially composed by Gareth Wood to mark the beginning of the orchestra's association with the venue eight years ago.

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Chief executive Martin Halliday then welcomed the audience, orchestra and guests including Lowestoft Mayor Nick Webb, Waveney District Council Chairman Peter Collecott and council leader Colin Law, to the new look auditorium and invited Trustees David Blyth and Joe Larter onto the stage.

Thanking them for their respective roles in both auditorium and caf� projects, he also acknowledged the teams of contractors, volunteers and theatre staff who had worked so hard to get everything completed in time.

Trust Chairman Hazel Clover then thanked Martin and his team at the theatre and acknowledged the support received from the council towards the cost of the auditorium project. Ian Maclay, managing director of the RPO then received rapturous applause as he announced an extension to the orchestra's residency at the Marina into 2013.

Then one final surprise of the evening was sprung as Mr Halliday invited long serving Friend of the Marina, Mike Holroyd, onto the stage to cut the giant red ribbon spanning the gleaming gold and blue proscenium arch.

After paying tribute to Mike's role in support of the work at the theatre over the past ten years and during the refurbishment project, he cut the ribbon and declared 'Welcome to the new Marina!'

On Saturday the celebrations continued with several hundred people attending a special open day, extra tours had to be added to cope with demand as people of all ages got to see the new d�cor as well as a glimpse behind the scenes including dressing rooms and a chance to stand on stage.

The Trust sourced contractors and worked with top architects to ensure that the unique character of the auditorium has been preserved for future generations. In addition the majority of works were commissioned from companies based within Norfolk & Suffolk. Further support was given by the theatre staff and volunteers from the Friends Of the Marina.

The last major investment in the Marina Theatre was almost 25 years ago, in the past ten years the Marina has dramatically improved its programme with more than one million people attending its popular mix of major West End and touring shows, ballet, drama, opera, top comedians, full scale professional pantomime, community events, films and live music.

Installation of a digital 3D cinema system will also be completed this autumn.

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