Theatre

A Roman outdoor theatre is finally getting a permanent stage - and a bar

The Roman Theatre of Verulamium has gone nearly 2,000 years without a bar. Now that's being fixed

roman theatre

Located in St Albans, it's the oldest active theatre in the country. Image: Matt Brown/flickr

A unique Roman outdoor theatre in St Albans will finally get the thing it’s been crying out for over the past two millennia: a bar.

The Roman Theatre of Verulamium in St Albans, Britain’s only Roman theatre with a stage, will also get a permanent stage and a dressing room thanks to £104,000 in funding from Big Issue Invest, the investment arm of the Big Issue.

Back in 140AD it played host to religious festivals, gladiatoral showdowns and animal shows. Now, it’s much more sedate.

Theatre company OVO, which has received the investment, hosts the Roman Theatre Festival which has staged productions there since 2014.

A reconstruction of the theatre in its pomp. Image: Carole Raddato/flickr

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The festival will be boosted by a long-term lease, meaning its future its secured. This year’s edition saw OVO performing A Midsummer Night’s Dream, The Importance of Being Earnest and Little Women.

When it’s not playing host to plays, the theatre is open to the visitors and has an accompanying museum.

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Adam Nichols, CEO of OVO, said: “We are incredibly pleased to have secured this investment from Big Issue Invest. We are very much looking forward to being able to run our Roman Theatre Festival for even longer and safeguard it for our local community and visitors.”

Ben Tiplady, Investment Associate at Big Issue Invest, said: “It is an absolute pleasure to be able to support a brilliant community-based arts organisation like OVO. 

“At Big Issue Invest we want to support social enterprises to grow their trading revenue and increase their social impact – the expansion of the Roman Theatre Festival is a shining example of that. I am very excited to watch them continue to grow and offer cutting edge entertainment and outdoor theatre.” 

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