Theatre-goers will be sitting pretty

VIDEO Are you sitting comfortably? You soon will be. It has been a long time coming but a new era of comfort is finally due to arrive at Ipswich's biggest theatre.

ARE you sitting comfortably? You soon will be.

It has been a long time coming but a new era of comfort is finally due to arrive at Ipswich's biggest theatre.

After months of planning, 13 weeks of work to completely refurbish the Regent Theatre is set to get underway this month.

A £500,000 project to give the aging theatre an overhaul was agreed earlier this year, and after council chiefs gave it the go-ahead, theatre staff have been working on making a plan for the overhaul.

The work will include new seating throughout, new carpet, re-decoration of the entire auditorium and essential repair work and improvements made to the lighting and sound.

Ipswich Borough Council agreed to release funds for the overhaul after months of lobbying by theatre manager Hazel Clover.

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“It was all confirmed in January and since then we have had to really push forward on it and it is amazing now everything is coming together,” she said.

The Regent is a Grade Two listed building and the theatre has had to get approval from both English Heritage and the Theatre's Trust for all the planned works.

A final colour scheme is still being planned, but is due to be finalised in the next week.

The work will get underway once the current season of shows is brought to a close by a week long run of the Cole Porter musical High Society next week.

That show will finish on June 16 and the builders will begin removing the current seats and carpet and begin the re-decoration work on June 18.

Councillor Judy Terry, the council's portfolio holder for leisure, said she was pleased about the plans.

“It is exciting for the theatre and it is going to look great,” she said.

“I hope people welcome the investment that's going into the theatre and see how valuable an asset it is to the town. It is an historic building and this will bring it back to it's original colours and glory.

“There is something romantic about old theatres and this will help make the Regent an even more inviting place to go.”

What do you think about the refurbishment plans? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or send us an e-mail to

BEING the entertainment reporter for the Evening Star brings with it a few perks.

One of which is that I spend a many an enjoyable evening reviewing shows at both the Regent and Ipswich's other theatres.

But like so many of the Regent's regular visitors, I know that is something that could make my visits there more enjoyable - new seats. On more than one occasion I have found myself squirming my way through a show in a desperate attempt to get comfortable.

Let's be honest, the current seating at the Regent is anything but comfortable, an hour or two spent sitting in them is enough to bring on more than a few aches and pains.

And so when this week it another perk - an invite to be one of the first to try out the new seating, I was a little wary about what I may find.

But, I am delighted to report to my fellow squirmers that come the autumn we will be squirming no more. Gone are the broken springs, the rock-hard seat backs or chairs that have long since bid goodbye to any padding. Gone are the wooden panels at the top that threaten to break the neck of any theatre goer who attempts a reckless manoeuvre. Gone is the dreary, aged fabric that once upon a time claimed to be velvet but now feels more like sandpaper.

Yes dear reader, the day of the numb backside and aching spine are gone.

The new chairs are, thankfully, a welcome relief and a blessed comfort.

In fact, so comfortable that my only problem now will be ensuring I don't get so comfortable I end up having a little snooze before the final curtain.

THERE is currently eight different sizes of chair in the Regent, with widths ranging from 14 inches to 18.5 inches. Nearly all of the seats are 77-years-old and have been in constant use throughout that time.

THE theatre will lose 80 of it's current 1,725 seats, but because it is now impossible to replicate the eight seat sizes currently in the auditorium, that is the minimum number that could be lost. Theatre managers investigated a total of 137 seat styles before making their final decision.