Sheffield’s theatreland converges in the heart of the city, the regally and aptly named Tudor Square. The Crucible, its Studio theatre and its next-door sister the Lyceum, together with the Library Theatre, form the country's largest theatre complex outside of London.
The Crucible and Lyceum are sibling venues, both Grade II listed, but couldn’t be more different. One’s a concrete build that’s very much a product of the 1970s, hosting world championship snooker and forward-thinking theatre, while the other’s a refurbished fairy tale Edwardian palace, which has become the home of contemporary dance and musical theatre in Sheffield.
Since the Crucible was renovated and reopened in 2010, the addition of its colourful facade has kept the far end of Tudor Square well lit by night. It's an alluring place, inviting people walking along Surrey Street to stop off and pay it a visit. A starry ceiling welcomes visitors into the auditorium and, when the show starts, nobody sitting in any of its 980 seats is ever more than 22 metres away from the action. This three-sided design makes for some of the most intimate and atmospheric performances we've ever seen.
The Crucible’s programme is well known for its seasons dedicated to modern playwrights. In recent years, Harold Pinter, Michael Frayn and Sarah Kane have been celebrated in turn, under the artistic direction of Daniel Evans, with a string of plays, workshops and in-depth talks. It's not all about the modern, though: some of the best versions of Shakespeare plays have been staged at the Crucible in recent years, like the 2011 production of Othello with the Wire's Dominic West and Clarke Peters.
We're pretty lucky in Sheffield to still have the Lyceum with us. After closing its doors in 1969, the Edwardian theatre survived a stint as a bingo hall and a long and uncertain period, lying empty, before a dedicated group of theatre lovers purchased the building in the 1980s and managed to restore it, with the help of Sheffield City Council. Reopening in 1990 almost 100 years after its first grand opening, the Lyceum is the now the only theatre outside of London designed by the famous theatre architect W.G.R. Sprague, and the last remaining example of an Edwardian auditorium in Sheffield.
From the front, the Lyceum is a candy-coloured palace, and, inside, the gold swirls of its proscenium arch and its elaborate fittings add to that fairy tale feel. Today, the theatre is big on West End musicals, panto and opera. It's also home to most of the city's dance productions: it's quite something to watch some of the world's best contemporary companies strut their graceful stuff amidst the Lyceum's gold leaf splendour.
If vaudeville, burlesque and fringe is more your kind of thing, check out the Library Theatre’s programme for their eclectic range of productions. Situated in the lower part of the art deco Central Library building, the stepped auditorium seats 260, so wherever you sit, you’ll be sure of a good view. And just down the road, The Montgomery is a good place to catch a show from a local performing arts group.
For reviews of current shows, see the What's On pages on Our Favourite Places.