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The Forum Studio Theatre


Plans for the Gateway started in 1961, when the developers of the Forum shopping centre proposed a 200-seat lecture theatre. Chester City Council added extra funding and this developed into a 440-seat theatre, situated at the end of the shopping complex.

The Gateway has a strong exterior presence with the rear of the raked auditorium acting as a focal point and forming a canopy to the main entrance. The façades to the theatre are angular, constructed with a combination of brick and concrete panels set in aluminium frames with glass and metal-sheet cladding. Unlike other theatres built within shopping centres at the same time, the theatre is not reached not through the centre but independently, through one of the city's old gateways.

Internally the auditorium is intimate and has great warmth. The auditorium is entered next to the stage, with the seating blocks rising steeply up, providing perfect sightlines. The stage itself has a large proscenium, and the flexibility of additional apron with moveable thrusts. Below stage is scenery workshop and storage, and around the building are ancillary facilities such as café/bar, rehearsal room, wardrobe and dressing rooms. The studio theatre was added in 1998, a flexible performance space with a capacity of 100.

The Gateway is a landmark within the city. However, due to its constricted site, the theatre is limited in its ability to expand any further.

Local authority plans for the redevelopment of this part of the city saw the theatre close in January 2007, with the intention of a new performing arts centre being provided within the new Northgate development. While development of plans continued, the Gateway was reopened by production company Tip Top Productions, starting with the studio theatre, running as The Forum Studio Theatre, and later expanding into the main auditorium.

Despite its restrictions for expansion and dated appearance, this is a well-designed theatre and is the City's only cultural venue. It is important to retain the building while plans have stalled, and its use should continue to be encouraged.

Built / Converted
Dates of use
  • 1968 - 2007: January, then August 2007 continuing.
Current state
Current use
Hamilton Place, Chester, Cheshire, CH1 2BH, England
Further details
Other names
  • 1968 Design/Construction:
    Ian Hart (Michael Lyell Associates)
    - Architect
  • 1968 Owner/Management: Chester City Council
  • 1968 - 2007 Use: January, then August 2007 continuing.
  • 1998 Alteration: Gateway Manweb Studio added
    - Architect
  • 2007 Owner/Management: Tip Top Productions, managers (lessees?).
  • Capacity
  • Capacity
    main auditorium
  • Capacity
  • Listing
    Not listed
Stage type
Proscenium flat
Building dimensions: -
Stage dimensions: Depth: 13.1m Width: 10.98m
Proscenium width: 9.14m
Height to grid: 12.2m
Inside proscenium: -
Orchestra pit: None