North West Wales

Curtain up for Theatr Colwyn in Colwyn Bay after revamp

Theatr Colwyn
Image caption Theatr Colwyn was built in 1885 and has received major refurbishment

The curtain is ready to go up at the oldest working theatre in Wales after a facelift costing nearly three quarters of a million pounds.

Theatr Colwyn in Colwyn Bay is staging the musical Godspell for three nights from Wednesday.

Monty Python's Terry Jones, who is from the town, will be be interviewed by comic Phill Jupitus at the official reopening next month.

The venue opened in 1886 and is said to be Britain's oldest operating cinema.

Godspell, the first show at the theatre for nearly a year, will be performed by amateur group The Contrast Theatre Company.

Kate Russell, one of the creative directors, said the whole cast was "ecstatic".

"I've performed at Theatr Colwyn since I was a child so it's lovely to see they've kept the original style of the theatre, but it's got a contemporary twist to it at the front of house," she said.

"It's so light - the original arches at the front, the windows - it's just brought in so much light. It's so exciting."

The official opening ceremony is on 15 October when Monty Python star Jones, who lived in the town until he was four, returns.

Jones lent his support to the project in a visit to the theatre in April last year.

"I've got a soft spot for Theatr Colwyn because my granddad used to run the Colwyn amateur dramatic society in the 1930s," he said at the time.

Image caption Monty Python star Terry Jones is originally from Colwyn Bay

Monty Python and the Holy Grail will also be screened.

The £740,000 cost of the refurbishment has been met by the Welsh Government and Conwy council.

Money has been spent moving the bar and creating the box office, office space and community room. There is also disabled access to all floors.

The theatre had been expected to open last spring, but the revamp was delayed by a few months due to unforeseen structural problems.

Sarah Ecob, Conwy council's head of theatres, said: "We've brought the bar from the first floor down to the ground floor and we've created a new community room which we're sure will be heavily used by the local population."

"It's really exciting. It's great to come through the door for the first time and see the complete transformation of the areas.

"I just can't wait to get the public coming through the doors and show them what we've achieved."

Surviving

One of the theatre's claims to fame is that it is said to have the oldest operating cinema in Britain.

Historian Roy Schofield said: "The man who owned the theatre around 1909 was an entrepreneur called Harry Reynolds.

"When the Cinematograph Act became law, he quickly applied for a licence, and was one of the first cinemas to open.

"The Act didn't come into force until 1st January, and this place opened as a cinema on 29th. Since then, all the others from that time have closed down, and this is still surviving."

Mr Schofield said the building started as a theatre in 1886, which made it oldest surviving theatre in Wales as well.

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