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Oliver Theatre asks for more air

One of London’s most historic theatres is bidding for speedy installation of a £1.5 million air conditioning system, based on rooftop chillers to combat rising numbers of refunds due to ‘severe overheating’.

The Theatre Royal, Drury Lane’s current success with the musical Oliver! featuring Rowan Atkinson, is being marred by a number of audience members sweltering in the heat. Temperatures have soared so high that members of the audience have had to walk out and some have demanded refunds.

In response, theatre owner the Really Useful Group has now submitted a formal application to Westminster City Council to gain approval for improvement work.

In a supporting letter for the application Mike Fitzgerald from Lee/Fitzgerald Architects writes: “The auditorium suffers severe over heating. The balcony level in particular become insufferably hot, resulting in regular demands for refunds during the show.”

The new air conditioning system has to meet the terms of with the Theatre Royal’s listed building status.
Mr Fitzgerald added: “In essence the approach is to use existing duct runs leaving the real intervention in the form of air handling and chiller units at roof level or within existing plant areas. Being at roof level they can always be removed in the future without damage to the listed fabric of the building.”

The problems with temperature had grown due in part to the significant increase in the use of stage lighting and its associated heat.