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The Haymarket Theatre opened in 1973 directly opposite the site of Matcham’s former Palace. It is situated at one end of a two storey shopping precinct, the theatre being itself on the first floor. Unless one arrives by car, where direct entry can be made from the multi storey car park, pedestrians must negotiate a long flight of steps to the spacious foyer which consists of box office, waiting areas and bars on two levels.

Three-storey, red-brick, in stacked angular masses with bands of windows, the top storey projecting over the footway on tall columns. A tall fly tower is seen from certain positions in the street below. Externally it is not easy to identify the theatre. Its location originally had some advantages because there was adequate parking and the theatre was fully integrated into the town centre scheme. The disadvantage however, is that any expansion or change can be made only by ‘colonising’ other commercial areas within the Haymarket’s ‘footprint’. Furthermore the shopping precinct itself is now dated and needs redevelopment.

Auditorium seating is on two levels. Since the stage is described as a proscenium and thrust (although the proscenium part is not immediately obvious) the steeply raked seating fans out to a wide angle. The stalls area is divided into three sections. The central portion, facing the stage consists of 13 rows. Two other sections are on either side, each holding 10 rows but the front two are set forward of the centre section.

The circle is designed in five separate sections. That facing the stage and the first two on either side have five rows each. The two sections nearest the side walls also have five rows but are set forward, so that the front rows appear to be suspended below the centre.

The auditorium has an intimate feel with a warmth and spatiality unusual for a building of this period. It is said that, in order to achieve intimacy, the architect attempted to create a distance from the front of the stage to the rear of the auditorium no greater than that found within the Phoenix. At first this resulted in plans for one level of seating only which would have made it financially less viable.

The main stage, semi-thrust, is raised about a couple of feet from the stalls floor and is flat. The original orchestra pit could accommodate 50 musicians. The natural acoustics are not universally good. The many lighting bridges and bars over the auditorium are partly concealed with horizontal boarding.

The first floor position makes the get-in awkward. Everything has to be hoisted from the ground floor. There is a generous amount of workshop and scene dock space, these being connected to the stage via a large folding door. The fly tower can accommodate 52 sets of double purchase lines. At the rear of the last line and at stage level, is a rear stage extension which can accommodate approximately 10 extra hemp lines. This space can be used to hang cloths etc when extra stage depth is required, but anything hanging in this space cannot be flown. Below the thrust part of the stage is an area which can be hydraulically raised or lowered to any desired position.

The studio theatre, entered from the circle foyer, has a flat open stage.

With the construction of the Curve in 2007-2008 the decision was made to close the Haymarket Theatre. A consortium is currently refurbishing the venue and plans to reopen it.

Built / Converted
Dates of use
  • 1973 - 2007: Theatre
Current state
Current use
Belgrave Gate, Leicester, Leicestershire, England
Further details
Other names
  • 1973 Design/Construction:
    Building Design Partnership (BDP) with City Architect’s Dept
    - Architect
  • 1973 Owner/Management: Leicester City Council, owner, continuing
  • 1973 - 2007 Use: Theatre
  • 1973 - 2007 Owner/Management: Leicester Theatre Trust Ltd, lessee
  • Capacity
    1973: 728
  • Capacity
    1992: 752; Studio 120
  • Capacity
  • Listing
    Not listed
Stage type
Building dimensions: -
Stage dimensions: Depth: 11.58m Width SL: 10.62m SR: 10.40m
Proscenium width: 14.63m x 7.92m height
Height to grid: 17.28m
Inside proscenium: 16m
Orchestra pit: Original 50