Mayflower Theatre Southampton Has £7.5 Million Facelift

Mayflower Theatre, Southampton is the third biggest theatre by capacity in the UK outside London and the largest theatre in the south. This year its marking its ninetieth year in style with a £7.5 million refurbishment.

The renovation project, which started construction in June 2018, was extensive, with the theatre seeing a completely new colour scheme introduced throughout. Mayflower Theatre has seen a radical transformation from the previous green coloured scheme, to regal red and gold representing the heritage of the theatre. Furthermore, most of the auditorium seating has been refurbished or replaced and the orchestra pit on the Grade II listed building has been moved to below the stage area. Accessibility into and around the theatre has also been improved.

London lighting design practice, 18 degrees, were appointed as the sole lighting designers for the refurbishment project. The lighting was an important part of the renovation, not only did it need to bring the theatre forward in terms of technological advancements, but it also needed to complement the new interior look and feel and create a comfortable environment for theatre goers.

 The all new LED lighting scheme was specifically designed to offer discreet ambience, as well as functionality. The light levels were increased to make wayfinding throughout the venue much easier, and the use of only LED lighting ensured a more conscious approach environmentally for the venue, as well as a longer term, efficient lighting solution.

 The colour rendering of the light used within the auditorium area was carefully considered and extensively tested to specifically match the colour of the paint, carpet, fabric and seating. ‘This is without a doubt the most significant refurbishment project that the theatre has seen in the last three decades. For us, this project is very much about ensuring Mayflower Theatre remains best in class, not just for now, but long into the future’, Michael Ockwell, Chief Executive, Mayflower Theatre commented.

 The renovation, spanning 2047 sqm, saw a total of 209 new downlights introduced into the ceiling area to provide ambient lighting. It was key to ensure these downlights provided an even distribution, so theatre goers could enjoy a show without the distraction of light spilling onto their seating area. 289 new linear lights were also integrated into row ends to provide illumination during performances, used to navigate late comers or those who need to leave their seat during a performance. The linear lighting, positioned within the arm rests and handrails, was totally concealed, only offering illumination into the aisles.

 Controlling the 365 lighting fixtures around the auditorium needed a state-of-the-art control system to ensure Mayflower Theatre could control the lighting individually or in groups. Working with Charcoalblue, 18 Degrees designed and commissioned the control system so that every light can be individually controlled, either via touchscreens and buttons, or via the lighting control desk.

Christopher Knowlton, Director and Designer at 18 Degrees enthused ‘It has been an honour and a privilege to work on such a high profile and exciting renovation project. From initial concept we were delighted to be able to work with Mayflower Theatre and design team to develop a lighting design for their next generation theatre.’

 ‘We worked incredibly hard to create the right levels of light for the venue, a balance between theatre goers being able to read their programmes, to then being able to enjoy the wonderful performances in front of them – and being able to enter and exit the auditorium safely during the performance if necessary’.

 ‘We carried out extensive on-site trials to ensure we got the colour rendering spot on, which included sections of the walls being painted, and the use of protype seating. We are delighted with the end results and hope future visitors to the theatre will also enjoy the experience as much as we did in designing it!’.


Project Team

Client – Mayflower Theatre

Principal Architect – Foster Wilson Architects

Project Management – Denley King International

Theatre Consultants – Charcoalblue

Mechanical & Electrical Engineers – Milieu Consult

Cost Consultants – Ridge

Main Contractor – GF Holding

Electrical Contractor – Concept Electrical

Lighting Control – Push The Button

Photography Tom Lee