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With its sweeping auditorium, orchestra pit, counterweight fly system, proscenium arch and stage, as well as intelligent LED lighting, the brand-new Screen On Stage next-level cinema experience and state-of-the-art surround sound system, the Theatre at Lighthouse is every inch the modern performance space.  

Its boards have supported some of Britain’s finest acting talent including theatrical knights including Ian McKellen, Antony Sher and John Mills among others, as well as Dames such as Sian Philips and Harriet Walter. It has played host to the annual family pantomime every year since Poole Arts Centre first opened its doors in 1978 – and even in the grip of the pandemic last year it staged a week’s run of Happy Ever After, our in-house Christmas production created with CBeebies legend Chris Jarvis. 

Much has changed in that time and it’s 19 years ago this month that the old Towngate Theatre (pictured) closed for the final time as the building underwent the £8.5 million refurbishment from which Poole Arts Centre re-emerged as Lighthouse, Poole’s Centre for the Arts.

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In keeping with the Concert Hall, Cinema, Studio and Function Rooms, the Towngate assumed the more utilitarian name Theatre. With a capacity of 669 seats, the aisles were moved to the edge of the single central seating section we see today. 

The first play in the Theatre, Oxford Stage Company with Thea Sharrock's production of Caryl Churchill's Top Girls, opened on 9 October, and was followed in that first season by Steven Berkoff’s stunning Messiah: Scenes from a Crucifixion, Gilbert and Sullivan’s Patience and, appropriately, The Lighthouse mystery opera by Peter Maxwell Davies. 

(NC)

Published 5 July 2021