Kit Kat Club at the Playhouse Theatre

A bold and ambitious transformation of a listed theatre
Opulent theatre with stalls and balcony seating surrounding a circular stage

Project information

Client ATG
Location London, UK
Completed 2021
In collaboration with Carmody Groarke (Architect)
Services Client Advisor Lead Consultant Project Management Technical Design AV Design Acoustic Design Theatre Design
Awards RIBA National Award Winner 2023 RIBA North London Regional Award 2023

Willkommen and bienvenue to the Grade II-listed Playhouse Theatre in London’s West End.

Amidst the turbulent backdrop of the Covid pandemic, the Ambassador Theatre Group (ATG) embarked on a bold mission: the complete transformation of the venerable Victorian Playhouse into a stage that would host a new, immersive rendition of the musical masterpiece, Cabaret. Spearheading this endeavour as the lead consultant, our team brought to bear a singular vision, reimagining the space as a dynamic in-the-round arrangement reminiscent of the avant-garde cabaret culture of Weimar-era Germany.

In harmonious collaboration with the visionary Carmody Groarke Architects, the project unfolded as a sensitive ballet of metamorphosis. From the very threshold, the impact of the intervention radiates, guiding patrons through an underground journey that winds through intimate corridors, past the sanctuaries of actors' transformations, and a tapestry of bars – setting the stage before the curtain's rise.

Stepping into the transformed theatre, one is met with a radical reimagination. The traditional proscenium-arch configuration, a mainstay of theatre design, gracefully yields to the emergence of a 'theatre in the round' ethos. This daring configuration ushers cabaret-style tables to the very foot of the stage, intertwining the audience with the performance in an enchanting dance of proximity. The alteration of the seating rake, a masterstroke, enhances sightlines and can be elegantly restored to its original form post the show's triumphant run. A reduction in seating capacity facilitated these transformations, yet paradoxically granted the venue an expanded canvas for exclusive dining experiences and intermission festivities.

Expressive hand drawn sketch showing a stage surrounded by stall and balcony seating

The transformation of the theatre’s blueprint was nothing short of an inspired revelation. Tackling the complexities of existing geometry and honouring the venue's historic fabric, this visionary reimagining fulfilled the spatial potential with an exquisite flourish, harmoniously aligning with the essence of a 'cabaret' theatre, effectively breathing new vitality into a cherished establishment.

An audience in multiple tiers of seating

Undertaken with a spirit of unbridled enthusiasm, the Charcoalblue team embraced the challenge with unparalleled fervour, a testament to our commitment to conceive, craft, and deliver within ambitiously condensed timelines. In a mere twelve months, amidst the sheltering embrace of the pandemic, this endeavour unfolded, necessitating the formulation of innovative work methodologies that not only nurtured creative design strategies but also upheld the mantle of safety in every facet of project execution.

The result of this audacious pursuit is a rejuvenated theatrical sanctuary, a listed architectural gem invigorated with extended design life and an expanded embrace reaching a diverse tapestry of audiences. The Playhouse Theatre, reborn in splendour, stands as a testament to the resilience of artistry, the power of collaboration, and the unwavering dedication to the magic of live performance.

With opening night already cemented we had to take a ‘right first time’ attitude to the project. This risky approach could only be undertaken by a highly experienced design team who were able to draw on many years of designing complex theatre projects to inform their decision-making. We are absolutely delighted with the result.

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