Belfast Telegraph

Poor review for Belfast Grand Opera House 'Act 2' extension

By Allan Preston

A new planning application for the Grand Opera House in Belfast has revealed that a previous £10.5m extension had limited success.

The 'Act 2' extension to the main building was opened in 2006, but according to the Grand Opera House Trust it has failed to meet expectations.

At the time the Arts Council of Northern Ireland had contributed £2.3m to the project.

Now the trust has submitted plans for a major revamp of the Act 2 extension, along with upgrading the main facilities.

It's hoped the work can be completed before the Opera House's 125th anniversary in 2020 and the application calls it "a once in a generation opportunity to restore the auditorium to its former grandeur".

The Act 2 building currently provides the Baby Grand Space, which hosts smaller performances and functions.

It also provides extra facilities for front of house, bleacher seating and bars at different levels.

The planning application said that although the relatively new extension provides "much needed accommodation", it required work to improve ambience and customer satisfaction to "better reflect the quality" of the main auditorium.

Key issues with the current accommodation include "poor quality" public realm and entrance area with "a cluttered and confusing arrangement of services".

In addition, the trust said the internal layout led to bottlenecks at key facilities such as bars, toilets, staircases and, in particular, the auditorium entrances.

It added: "There is a lack of continuity of theme or style between the original theatre and heritage to the Act 2 accommodation and many of the linking spaces are poor quality."

The problems were also affecting income, with the application saying the Baby Grand, Hippodrome Room and Shakespeare Room are all currently under-utilised and "not fulfilling their potential".

The BBC said the trust is also plans to use part of the reworked space as a permanent exhibition on the theatre's history.

The project also proposes to revamp the main auditorium with new seats, ceiling decoration and upgraded sound, lighting and stage facilities.

It's not known how much the proposed refurbishments would cost at this stage, but it's reported a restoration levy on ticket prices since 2011 will contribute to the "significant investment".

Belfast Telegraph

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