Princess Margaret Opens the Theatre Royal Plymouth in 1982

Our History

May 5th 2012 saw the 30th anniversary of the opening of the Theatre Royal. To celebrate this milestone in the theatre’s history we put together a timeline of some of the highlights from these three decades which we hope you’ll enjoy remembering.


  • HRH Princess Margaret opens the Theatre Royal. Royal Charity Gala held with Leonard Rossiter, Dickie Henderson & Gene Pitney performing
  • Jazz legend Ella Fitzgerald performs


  • Eric Sykes performs alongside Matthew Kelly in Alan Ayckbourn’s Time and Time Again
  • Warren Mitchell performs as Alf Garnett in The Thoughts Of Chairman Alf
  • The Three Degrees & Eartha Kitt perform
  • Terry Scott performs in Babes in the Wood


  • Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Song & Dance performed at the Theatre Royal. This is the first Cameron Mackintosh production to come to the Theatre Royal. Stars Wayne Sleep & Marti Webb
  • Roger Redfarn appointed as Artistic Director
  • Danny la Rue appears in Mother Goose


  • Lauren Bacall stars in Tennessee Williams’ Sweet Bird of Youth


  • Michael Bogdanov and Michael Pennington found the English Shakespeare Company, the inaugral production premieres here. The company go on to tour across the UK and worldwide


  • Buddy co-produced with Paul Elliott premieres at the Theatre Royal


  • Adrian Vinken OBE appointed General Manager
  • Des O’Connor stars in Cinderella as Buttons


  • Barbara Windsor stars in Guys & Dolls
  • High Heels in the Rubble, about the Plymouth Blitz and performed by the people of Plymouth, opened with a guest appearance from Dame Vera Lynn
  • Sir Ian McKellen appears in Richard III


  • Theatre Royal takes over operation of Plymouth Pavilions
  • Les Dawson stars in Dick Whittington
  • Edward Woodward appears in A Dead Secret


  • Act Now campaign – Arts Council funding cut threat. Over 57,000 letters of support for the theatre stuck to the theatre’s windows, convoy of 20 coaches taken from Plymouth to Arts Council Head Office where opponents of the cuts sing a song from Les Miserables and hold a torchlight procession. Campaign was a success
  • Brian Blessed performs his one-man show
  • Bill Nighy appears in Arcadia


  • World premiere of Copacabana with Barry Manilow in attendance. Gary Wilmot plays the lead role
  • Adam Faith performs in Alfie


  • Out of the Rubble performed with over 500 people from the local community to commemorate the 50th Anniversary of VE Day
  • World premiere of Jolson starring Brian Conley


  • Theatre Royal’s Young Company and People’s Company formed
  • Matthew Bourne’s Swan Lake performed. The first of many Matthew Bourne productions to be performed at the Theatre Royal


  • Cameron Mackintosh’s Les Miserables tour opens at the Theatre Royal
  • First year of a 3 year residency for the Royal Shakespeare Company in the South West – Shakespeare performed in the Theatre Royal, Drum and Pavilions
  • Russ Abbot starred as Captain Hook in Peter Pan


  • Cameron Mackintosh’s The Phantom of the Opera starts its UK tour at the Theatre Royal
  • Simon Stokes joins the Theatre Royal as Artistic Director


  • Jason Donovan stars in The Rocky Horror Show as Frank ‘n’ Furter


  • TMA voted the Theatre Royal Plymouth the Most Welcoming Theatre
  • Simon Callow stars in The Mystery of Charles Dickens
  • Hundreds of local people involved in Union Street, a story about Plymouth’s most famous street created with local volunteer researchers, performers and backstage teams with the help of a professional creative team


  • Richard Briers performs in The Tempest
  • The Green Man performed in the Drum Theatre with Phil Daniels and Danny Webb


  • TR2 opens – Europe’s first purpose built production and education centre opened by the Earl of Wessex on his own, contrary to the plaque in reception!
  • Cameron Mackintosh’s UK tour of Cats begins life at TR2 with the workshops undertaking their first major set build while the company are the first to use rehearsal rooms
  • Theatre Royal’s 21st birthday
  • Ross Kemp appears in The Taming of the Shrew


  • Launch of the new touring production of Miss Saigon
  • Refurbishment of Theatre Royal auditorium – yellow seating replaced with blue seating
  • Theatre Royal voted Best Regional Theatre


  • Philip Ridley’s controversial play Mercury Fur, a Drum co-production with Paines Plough, opens starring Ben Wishaw
  • The History Boys with James Corden and Dominic Cooper in the cast
  • World premiere of Matthew Bourne’s Edward Scissorhands


  • The controversial Jerry Springer – The Opera tour opens at the Theatre Royal
  • Yukio Ninagawa’s Titus Andronicus performed in Japanese on the Theatre Royal stage
  • First UK performance of White Christmas on the Theatre Royal stage with Ken Kercheval and Lorna Luft starring alongside Craig McLachlan


  • Drum Theatre wins The Empty Space Peter Brooke Award


  • World premieres of the international tour of Cameron Mackintosh’s Mary Poppins, Flashdance the Musical and Matthew Bourne’s Dorian Gray
  • Frantic Assembly present Othello, a co-production with the Theatre Royal and their first production to be performed on the Theatre Royal stage
  • Lesley Garrett appears in Carousel


  • Major new touring version of Pete Townshend’s rock opera Quadrophenia opens
  • Alistair McGowan stars in Measure for Measure


  • Alison Steadman stars in Alan Bennett’s Enjoy
  • World premiere of Lend Me A Tenor, a Theatre Royal co-production which goes on to play in the West End
  • Complicite’s A Disappearing Number broadcast live across the world from the Theatre Royal


  • Lovesong, a co-production with Frantic Assembly, premieres in the Drum and stars Sian Phillips
  • Complicite opens The Master and Margarita


  • Cameron Mackintosh tour of The Phantom of the Opera opens at the Theatre Royal
  • The Drum Theatre presents its own productions, The Astronaut’s Chair and Horse Piss For Blood
  • Mathew Bourne’s Sleeping Beauty has it’s world premiere on the Theatre Royal Stage
  • The Theatre Royal Plymouth is awarded the funding for it’s Regeneration Project


  • Theatre Royal Plymouth productions of Forever House by Glenn Waldron and Solid Air by Doug Lucie open in The Drum
  • Theatre Royal Plymouth co-production with Told by an Idiot and Young Vic My Perfect Mind
  • Fight Night; a co-production with Belgian theatre company Ontroerend Goed


  • Theatre Royal Plymouth productions of MAD MAN, Grand Guignol, Another Place open in The Drum
  • Co-productions include The Believers, SmallWaR, The Angry Brigade and Sirens


  • Merit, After Electra, and The Whipping Man are Theatre Royal Plymouth productions
  • The Solid Life of Sugar Water, a co-production with Graeae Theatre opens in The Drum, followed by a successful Edinburgh Fringe Festival run and UK tour, ending at the National Theatre.
  • Pardon/In Cuffs written by Valentijn Dhaenens previews in The Drum before it’s Edinburgh Fringe Festival run at the Traverse Theatre.


  • The Theatre Royal Plymouth production of James Graham’s Monster Raving Looney opens in The Drum. Followed by a 5-week run in London at Soho Theatre
  • The Man With The Hammer written by Phil Porter and produced by Theatre Royal Plymouth
  • Russian playwright Mikhail Durnenkov’s play the war has not yet started produced by Theatre Royal Plymouth opens in The Drum
  • Shon Dale Jones’s The Duke is co-produced with Hoipolloi, PBJ Management and Theatre Royal Plymouth
  • Told by an Idiot return to The Drum with Heads Will Roll a co-production with Told by an Idiot
  • Ontroerend Goed return with World Without Us a co-production with Arts Centre Vooruit Ghent, Theatre Royal Plymouth & Richard Jordan Productions, previews in July and embarks on a hugely successful Edinburgh Fringe Festival run. Winning a Fringe First award before returning to The Drum in November.
  • Billy Elliot The Musical starts its UK & Ireland tour in Plymouth
  • BIG The Musical starring Jay McGuiness makes its European Premiere
  • Disney and Cameron Mackintosh’s Mary Poppins enjoys a magical run at Theatre Royal Plymouth
  • Wind in the Willows starring Rufus Hound opens in The Lyric and has now been confirmed for a London Palladium run in 2017

2017 and beyond. . . .