RHWL arts team completes CAST performance venue

CAST – a new performance venue for Doncaster designed by RHWL Arts Team for Doncaster Council and Muse Developments – has been completed and is set to open with ‘The Glee Club’ from local Playwright Richard Cameron on Friday 6 September. It adds to the already completed: new public square; civic offices for Doncaster Council; and multi-storey car park, which form the first phase of the £300 million programme to develop a civic and cultural quarter for Doncaster.

Located on Sir Nigel Gresley Square in the Waterdale area, the 7,500 sq m (80,730 sq ft) arts building includes: a main space, second space, dance space, drama space as well as café/bars and supporting public and back of house facilities.

CAST includes:

  • Main Space: a 1,200 sq m (12,917 sq ft), 620-seat proscenium arch theatre for drama, comedy, musicals, dance and small scale opera. The layout is a traditional lyric theatre style, with an orchestra pit, flytower and two levels of seating, all designed for optimum sightline viewing. The overall feel is intimate, formal and luxurious, with an emphasis on beautifully made features and locally-inspired detailing, including hexagonal chandeliers that show a cross section of Doncaster-produced steel ropes and reference to the town’s industrial prowess.
  • Second Space: this 615 sq m (6,619 sq ft), 200-seated/300-standing theatre is designed to be a flexible second space for everything from pop and rocks gigs to dance and drama. It has a warehouse/industrial feel and is a space for experimentation and creativity, with a wraparound balcony and an ‘egg crate’ lighting grid, to allow for creative and unusual lighting designs.
  • Education Suite: this 365 sq m (3,929 sq ft) space is lighter and simpler, containing dance and drama spaces and a meeting space, each with a capacity of 60. The studios are double height, with sprung and semi-sprung floors respectively, while the single height exhibition room opens up into the foyer to create an extra flexible space for events.
  • Two café/bars in the foyer, opening out directly into the public square, which will be open during the day as well as for performances. A third café/bar is located inside the building.
  • Dressing rooms for 60, a stage lift, flexible back of house, offices and administration. It is DDA compliant.

Graham Whitehead – Head of Marketing and Communications

“The architecture of the building very much complements and signifies what we’re trying to do as a new organisation. Its aim of being an iconic symbol within the town and something that Doncaster can be proud of very much reflects our own ethos. Getting to know the building over the last few weeks has been a joy for staff and public alike and I’m sure it’ll retain its sense of awe for a long time to come.”

Stewart King, Director at RHWL Arts Team, said:

“CAST is a building for everybody. From the start, our aim was to create a venue that would suit a wide range of performers – from drama, comedy, and musical theatre to live music gigs, smaller scale experimental theatre – and host a variety of community and education projects.

“The venue has been partly inspired by Doncaster’s architecture and urban context but we also wanted to reflect the building’s purpose in its fabric, and connect its interior with the square outside to help make it accessible and welcoming.

“The ‘toolbox’ design, distinctive performance spaces and high technical specifications means that Doncaster now has a state-of-the-art, landmark venue that will attract performers from across the arts world to the town’s cultural quarter.”

The glazed exterior creates a link to the town’s public space and its cultural heart – from the square visitors will be able to see people moving around in the foyers and education suite, as well as the billowing ‘curtain’ effect from the curved panelling and lights at ground level. The education suite, which cantilevers out over the glass façade, has been handcrafted from copper, bronze and brass with traditional detailing, while the flytower of the main theatre is wrapped in shimmering expanded metal sheets that shine by day and are lit dramatically at night. The east elevation is clad in reconstituted limestone, the colour and feel reflecting the town’s civic buildings, and a separate plant tower is cloaked in a metal mesh to evoke the town’s industrial sector.

The building has been designed to meet BREEAM Very Good. Its sustainable features include natural ventilation, sun pipes to bring light into the building and reduce the need for electrical lighting, a combined heat and power system (CHP), efficient water management and sustainably sourced materials.

Michael Broadhead project director at Muse commented:

“We’ve had the most fantastic team working on this building — the quality and standard of finish is second to none. Cast truly brings the culture into the quarter and to Doncaster and we’re extremely proud to be part of it.”

CAST’s name comes from the venue being at the heart of DonCASTer; it’s about people (like the cast in a play) and it has links to the town’s industrial heritage (when cast iron was used on the railways and in the structure of another of Doncaster’s iconic buildings – the Corn Exchange) and hasbeen partly funded by the Arts Council England.


Project team

  • Client: Doncaster Council
  • Developer: Muse Developments
  • Main Contractor: VINCI
  • Architect: RHWL Arts Team
  • Landscape Architect: Grontmij
  • Theatre Consultant: Charcoalblue
  • M&E consultant: Arup
  • Structural Engineer: Arup
  • Acoustic consultant: Arup
  • BREEAM consultant: Arup
  • Access consultant: Arcadis Vectra