7th September 2021

All the World’s a (Theatre) Stage for Arena



Arena’s UK seating division designed, engineered, and installed a bespoke amphitheatre seating system for the Royal Shakespeare Company’s Lydia & Gorvy Garden Theatre, August 2021.

The Garden Theatre, in the home of Shakespeare, Stratford-upon-Avon, is a temporary, demountable, outdoor performance space in the Swan Gardens, with a bespoke Arena seating system for up to 500 people, giving great views of the stage. The theatre opened on August 17th with Phillip Breen’s production of The Comedy of Errors, playing in the Garden Theatre until 26 September.

Arena Seating’s Contracts Manager, Sherif Harding, began liaising with the RSC in March. By April, Arena was contracted and the in-house team of CAD design and structural engineers applied themselves to meeting the clients’ brief, of creating a perfectly semi-circular amphitheatre style demountable auditorium with reconfigurable seating.

RSC Head of Technical Resource, Ben Ranner states:

“In such a fast-moving project it was fantastic to be working with a team with as much knowledge and experience as all of those at Arena.  With a little under 120 days from the point of first contacting Sherif to the system being built and signed off on site, and all the hoops of procurement, planning, licencing, and building control to jump through there was little room for manoeuvre, and every step of the process was handled smoothly and without fuss.  I would have absolutely no hesitation in recommending Arena to anyone looking to undertake similar challenges, and can only thank Sherif, Paul, David and Brendan, and their respective teams, for all of their work.”

This was a tight timeline for the team at Arena for a prestigious project of this nature, with the added challenges of working on a sensitive, tight site, within building control requirements and Covid constraints.

Sherif Harding explains:

“The outdoor auditorium was based loosely on our demountable clearview™ grandstand seating system, but we designed and manufactured bespoke elements to achieve the specific shape of the design and to allow it to be easily reconfigured for a range of Covid-safe seating arrangements, with varied social distancing options.

“All of the elements above the clearview™ substructure were bespoke, to create a Covid-safe theatre. We increased the space between rows to 1m with deeper platforms and the seats were mounted on a rail system, which meant they could be re-configured or removed if a reduced capacity were to be required.

“Our Operations and Site Manager Brendan Williams was exemplary in his attention to detail, overseeing a seamless one-week installation and the result is a stunning demountable venue, which looks incredible and has been a huge success for the RSC and the audiences.”

Arena delivered a turnkey package, from design and structural engineering through to construction and ongoing maintenance. The RSC will remove the theatre for the winter and re-install it for future seasons, with potential plans to relocate this innovative theatre and take outdoor performances to audiences in different locations across the UK, which Arena will project manage alongside RSC staff.

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