The 600-seat proscenium theatre is large enough to attract high-profile acts and performers
UK - Doncaster's new performance venue Cast is now open featuring a suite of four performance spaces with stage engineering, stagelighting, sound, and AV systems designed and specified by Charcoalblue.

Working alongside specialist architects, RHWL Arts Team, Charcoalblue's brief was to deliver a full technical solution for the spaces, to a predetermined budget and programme, that adequately equipped them for a broad range of users from local drama groups to national productions.

RHWL Arts Team developed the design of the fixed form, 600-seat proscenium theatre which is large enough to attract high-profile acts and performers, and the flexible studio theatre which caters for up to 200 people seated, or 400 standing, and facilitates a wide range of uses thanks to its flexibility of the integrated systems design.

Dance and drama studios complete the suite of performance spaces. Two first-class rehearsal/meeting/education spaces, and a bar and café, were also created.

"Fundamental to the successful delivery of Cast was our willingness to be pragmatic in approach, tailoring our design responses to ensure that whilst meeting the very specific needs of the developer, theatrical function remained at the core of the project," says Charcoalblue's senior consultant Paul Crosbie. "With the building procured on a Design and Build basis, our presence on the main contractors' novated design team ensured that theatrical function remained at the core of the project and was not compromised as part of the design and construction process.

"A substantial part of our role in projects of this type is to ensure that the voices of cultural clients and end-users are brought to the table and are not drowned out by 'the construction machine'."

In the theatre, Charcoalblue designed a variable proscenium system comprising a flown header and sliding side-masking panels, together with an orchestra pit elevator and seating wagon system capable of increasing the stage depth or alternatively adding 31 seats to the stalls capacity.

Charcoalblue also designed the over-stage counterweight flying system, and the flytower, high-level galleries, immediate adjacencies and power supplies to the theatre to facilitate future conversion to a powered flying system.

Following the appointment of VINCI Construction, Charcoalblue joined the VINCI team and worked alongside the selected specialist sub-contractors - Centerstage Engineering and Northern Light - to ensure the successful delivery of the theatre packages.

It's hoped Cast - a theatrical term that can also, appropriately, be found 'at the heart of DonCASTer' - will play a pivotal role in the town's new civic and cultural quarter, raising its profile on a regional and national level. The venue will be open day and night and is expected to attract around 270,000 visitors a year, acting as a catalyst for regeneration in other parts of the town centre.

The £22m project, built on behalf of Doncaster Metropolitan Borough Council, opened in September 2013 and has launched a diverse programme including comedy, family shows, and music.

Charcoalblue's Paul Crosbie concludes,"Once again I have been fortunate enough to lead an excellent Charcoalblue team in delivering a cultural building with the potential to raise the profile of its home town on both a regional and national level, whilst adding something new and exciting to the country's theatrical landscape."

(Jim Evans)

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