The 1900s proved a challenging time for the theatre, surviving two World Wars and technological advances that threatened the very foundations of live entertainment.
Percy Hutchinson took over as manager in 1911 and tried to restore the theatre as a producing house, creating a rep company called “The Percy Hutchinson Players” which is said to have saved the theatre from going under. During the 20s/30s, audio pictures aka “The Talkies” were introduced around the country and many small theatres were converted into cinemas – Hutchinson‘s response to this showed his passion for the history of the building “I would rather surrender my Lesseeship than be party to turning Yorks’ historic theatre into what would eventually mean an American Picture Theatre”.
However, long term, Hutchinson‘s ideas did not prove to be economic and in the 30s the theatre was taken over by a small group of prominent and public spirited citizens. Now under the leadership of York Citizens’ Theatre Trust, in 1967 the theatre was extensively modernised throughout, with new Front of House facilities and an additional staircase to all levels. Patrick Gwynne’s concrete and glass foyer extension was the first of its kind and won several awards. A counterweight flying system was installed backstage, the dressing rooms refurbished and the auditorium was redecorated in green and gold. The theatre now seated 899.
In 1978 a young and relatively in-experienced performer, Berwick Kaler, stepped on York’s stage for the first time as Dame in the pantomine Cinderella. Unknown to him, and everyone else, he would still be stepping onto our stage 40 years later!
During the 90s, work was carried out to improve public access and introduce a computerised Box Office system. In 1994 the auditorium was completely refurbished and a specially designed chandelier was installed. The Keregan Room opened after being converted from the medieval undercroft of St Leonard’s Hospital.