In 1962, Mr G V Northcott, a local businessman, had negotiated with the Board of Directors of the Theatre Royal to try and save it, to no avail. Meanwhile, a group in the University prepared a memoradum on the viability of theatre in Exeter and retaining the Theatre Royal. This too failed to convince the Board and the theatre closed.
Later that year, the Vice-Chancellor of the University pointed out that there was a site on campus, that had been reserved for a theatre. Negotiations commenced and eventually a Trust was established with £100,000 from Northcott. Other bodies added funding and the Northcott Devon Theatre and Arts Centre was established. An architect was commissioned, and a start was made on constructing a purpose built theatre. In 1967, the new theatre presented The Merchant of Venice as its first production.
The Northcott Theatre is now a vibrant company, producing plays throughout the year and acting as host to other production companies. It also produces in July, for the Exeter Festival, a Shakespeare in the Gardens open air production.
The theatre has closed during 2007 for a major refit; it reopened on 12th December 2007 to the pantomime Cinderella. On the same day, the Arts Council announced that it would cease to fund the theatre from 2009, despite funding the refurbishment to the tune of £100,000.
Sources: Various sources including the Northcott Theatre website and The Story of the Theatre Royal by Dick Passmore. Thanks to the Northcott for the use of many photos on this page. All the photos and text in Exeter Memories are © 2005 David Cornforth and should not be used without permission.
The Northcott Theatre soon after it opened.
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