A Royal Transformation

Words by Hannah Mumby
A-Royal-Transformation A-Royal-Transformation

Deep in the heart of New Plymouth’s West End Precinct lies the city’s latest cocktail and function space. It is plush, luxurious and the perfect place to experience a night of right royal theatre treatment. 

The TSB Showplace’s Theatre Royal Lounge has recently been transformed from its previously adequate structure and service, to a lavish, speakeasy-style space that puts the customer experience front and centre. 

TSB Showplace Acting Venue Manager David Liggett says going to the theatre is all about the experience, and an upgrade to the feel and flow of the lounge has been a long time coming. 

“Improving the space for guests was the most important part of this process. If people are coming here for a night out, they want to come in, relax, enjoy a drink or an ice cream, and have a full, luxurious theatre experience. 

“We believe we have created that and we’re absolutely over the moon with how it has all come together.”

The Theatre Royal Lounge is located in the basement of the original Opera House building. Its early days were spent as storage space, before the 70s and 80s saw it become an after-show meeting place and bar for the New Plymouth Operatic Society. With the development of the TSB Showplace in 1998, the area was repurposed as a lounge attached to the newly built Theatre Royal.   

As you enter the refurbished room, memories of the dated ambience and salmon colour of 1998 are quickly forgotten thanks to a welcoming mix of deep green walls and feature wallpaper, gold carpet and a new, central bar layout that provides accessibility and efficient service.

“When the paint went on we all gasped, then when the gold carpet went down, we all gasped. But once we got the full picture and saw it all come together, we couldn’t have been happier. We’ve had so much amazing, positive feedback about it already.”

While those involved had initially planned to revamp the area with an industrial feel, that vision was soon swept aside and BOON was called in to create a show-stopping design. 

Architects Murali Bhaskar and Shaun Murphy collaborated closely with the New Plymouth District Council and venue staff, to develop a space that Liggett says, blew them all away.

As the recent stage manager of Priscilla Queen of the Desert and having many ties to the TSB Showplace, Murphy says he did feel a small amount of pressure to deliver. 

“That personal connection definitely adds a bit of pressure, but it’s always nice to bring your professional life and hobbies together.” 

While repositioning the bar to promote flow and access between the theatre and lounge, Murphy says part of the brief was also to create a number of functional areas that could be utilised for different events of varying numbers. 

“We moved the bar to make it flow better, particularly when there is a big show on. It now keeps the access area to the theatre clear for people looking to go straight to their seats, whereas it used to get quite cluttered. 

“One of the other key things was the creation of small pockets where people can retreat from the hustle and bustle of a pre-show, or have a bit more of a private atmosphere,” he says. 

Sheer curtains can be used to separate booth seating and slightly larger areas throughout the space, offering versatility when it comes to how individuals can use the area.  

As well as pre-show entertainment, the Theatre Royal Lounge is open to hire for special celebrations such as cocktail parties, weddings, corporate hosting and events, or Christmas functions.

BOON Interior Designer Alison Gwerder finessed the space with blue velvet couches and plush pink bar stools, statement wallpaper and brass fittings, giving the overall lounge a feel of deluxe comfort and style.

And while the majority of the old lounge appears to be long gone, there is one feature that remains in what is a noteworthy nod to the building’s vivacious history. 

“We have retained the heart of the space,” says Liggett. 

He refers to the poster wall full of artists, musicians and shows that have graced the iconic building’s stage since the 60s. 

Along with strip lighting that has been inserted along the top of the wall, the dark green surroundings give the iconic poster wall added prominence. 

Liggett says the entire project was a team effort between New Plymouth District Council, BOON, Southcoast Construction, Opus and many others who communicated superbly to ensure the TSB Showplace could remain a working venue while construction was happening.

As the venue fast-approaches 100 years as the hub of New Plymouth’s cultural precinct, it’s clear the popular building deserves its enhancements. Along with its recent exterior paint refresh and lightbox that illuminates the venue’s updated logo, Liggett says ongoing work is likely both front and back of house, in the coming years.   

As part of NPDC’s vision for Zero Waste 2040, the TSB Showplace has also introduced branded globelets made from recycled plastics as an initiative to reduce single-use drinking cups throughout the venue. 

“We’re looking forward to keeping the momentum going and constantly enhancing the experience for our patrons,” says Liggett.

To receive more information about venue hire, or to make an inquiry, please email tsbshowplace@npdc.govt.nz

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