The Performing Arts Centre was BHM’s third major project for the School and the jewel in the crown of the master plan. Accomodating the very ambitious brief on a tight, sloping site closely bordered by mature trees was a challenging proposition which ultimately gave rise to an exciting and luxurious set of internal and external spaces.
The main auditorium seats 300, including balconies. The wide, blue leather seating can be fully retracted to reveal a semi-sprung oak floor. Oak diffusion panelling lines the walls. A raised stage features a tall suspensions loft and capacious wings leading onto the scenery workshop and 100 seat drama studio. A motorised orchestra lift can be set to form a thrust stage, flat floor or orchestra pit, or can be taken all the way down to access below-stage storage. A large series of traps were also provided.
The lighting gantries were designed to maximise safe access for pupils, and all suspensions, lighting and audio-visual equipment was to professional standards. While the primary emphasis was on drama, the auditorium was designed to cater for music, lectures, film, assemblies, events and examinations.
The building boasts two floors of spacious bars, WCs and function rooms incorporating antique prismatic light fittings from Paris, a glass floor and a balcony overlooking Richmond Park. Backstage areas include comfort cooled changing rooms, showers, staff offices and a delightful green room within a glass box cantilevered over the stage door.
The building has been a hive of creative activity from the first day, hosting plays, concerts, pantomimes, music lessons, National Theatre Live, BBC (Election Night) Question Time and many other glittering occasions.