Newest Review: ... the bars and there are also staff selling drinks and ice creams in all of the areas. **Contact details...** Sunderland Empire High Stre... more
See a show
Member Name: juicy_lucy
Advantages: Excellent productions
Disadvantages: Steep stairs
I have been to the theatre three times recently, to see Evita, Sound of Music and Horrible Histories, all of which were excellent productions.
**A bit of history ...**
The theatre is located in High Street West close to the centre of Sunderland. The theatre, opened in 1907, and is one of the largest venues in the North East. It has over 1800 seats and the capacity to hold 2000 people when some are standing, and is the only theatre between Manchester and Edinburgh which is big enough to house west End touring productions.
The auditorium is also one of the last remaining in the UK to have four tiers- the Stalls, the Dress Circle, the Upper Circle and the Gallery and there are four private boxes on the Dress Circle level, as well as two boxes on the Upper Circle balcony.
Externally there is a rather impressive dome on a 90 foot tower which is a good landmark when looking for the theatre. It features a revolving sphere with the statue of the Greek Muse of dance and choral song which was removed during World War II and is now located at the top of the main staircase, with a replica on the dome itself. The dome and tower have recently been refitted with a state-of-the-art LED and floodlight system that illuminates the main entrance in the evening.
There is no parking right outside the theatre because it is in a pedestrian only area close to shops and bars. However, close by, and clearly signposted there are a couple of car parks, which are reasonably priced- I think each production cost us only £2.
The theatre is easily found following the sign posts or looking out for the tower. Close to the theatre is the booking office and it's easy to get confused because the actual theatre has a smaller entrance area. What you are looking for is a double doorway right on the corner of the road. There are staff at the door checking tickets before you go in, so no random entry but beware, if it's raining you could be standing outside!!
Once inside, the double stairs sweep to the first floor, where there is a large bar going right round the room, and there are also plenty of toilets, although we haven't yet found any dryers or paper.
The stairs to the upper circle and the gallery are quite tricky to find although they are signposted but to find the signs you have to walk around past all the little niches. However, the staff are probably used to this and are very friendly and helpful.
The Grand and Upper Circle have a good amount of leg room apart from the front row but this lack of leg room applies only to people over about 5'7" so if you are less than this they are great seats for the view; if there is any restricted viewing this will be pointed out when booking, but this applies only when sitting at the sides. For one of the shows we could only get into the gallery, which is accessed via some very steep stairs. Here the view is good if you get the first row on each level but if you get the second row seats and someone tall is in front, then even the £1 binoculars won't help!!
During the interval, drinks can be bought at the bars and there are also staff selling drinks and ice creams in all of the areas.
High Street West
Administration Tel: 0191 566 1040
Administration Fax: 0191 566 1065
Email have firstname.lastname@example.org
The theatre has some excellent shows and throughout the year there is often something which will appeal to most people. Booking can be done online, by telephone or at the booking office, and it is always possible to find out if the seats are suitable for your needs.
Inside the theatre it is very "olde worlde" elegance and grandeur with the huge chandeliers, ornate carvings and size. Each time I have been there I almost get a sense of going back in time!!
The theatre is arranged so that wherever you are you can hear what's been said on stage and apart from restricted viewing seats, the view is good. The main grumble I have is the steepness of the stairs to the gallery but this is minor and I did expect this because I was so late at booking.
For the general ambience and a great matinee/evening out, if you are in the area and see a show you fancy, I would give this a whirl
Thanks for reading
Daniela x x