Burrell Foley Fisher were invited to participate in a limited competitive selection process for a new theatre venue on the site of the former Collins Music Hall, which was destroyed by fire in 1957. The brief called for an adaptable theatre space of 600 to 700 seats to address the different requirements of the Royal Shakespeare Company’s Swan Theatre thrust stage productions and in-the-round productions of the Manchester Royal Exchange, as well as end stage formats for other access. The alternative in-the-round, thrust and end stage options are manipulated using towers and seating wagons floating on air castors.
Nothing remains of the former auditorium except for an empty space (last used as a timber yard) buried deep within the site and accessed only by a long carriage passage. A new wrought language was developed for the auditorium drawing inspiration from the structural clarity of gasometers, or the encompassing excitement generated by the form of a bullring. The foyer area was to be multilayered, with a glazed roof and west wall to entice patrons along the dark passage. Tantalising views are given into the auditorium from the foyers through sliding shutters, which close when the show is ready to begin.