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Sneak peek inside Chester's Storyhouse theatre of dreams

Have a look inside where the magic will happen when the curtain goes up in May

The sign is up and the red carpet is down at Chester ’s £37m Storyhouse theatre ready to sprinkle star dust on the city when the curtain rises on Thursday, May 11.

And The Chronicle was given a sneak peek tour around the new cultural centre - which also incorporates a cinema and library - as it nears completion ahead of the opening production, The Beggar’s Opera.

Overall-clad decorators are busy painting while engineers carry out technical checks.

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A sneak preview inside Chester's Storyhouse cultural centre which opens on May 11.

Everywhere there is red carpet, protected by polythene, which project director Graham Lister says is as it would have been when the original part of the building, the art deco Odeon cinema, first opened in 1936.

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Red is the theme colour throughout. There are red chairs in the modern extension where the main 800/500 seat flexible auditorium is located. And staircases leading to the different levels of the theatre are in striking pillar box red. There are beautiful wooden floors.

The place screams quality and attention to detail.

A sneak preview inside Chester's Storyhouse cultural centre which opens on May 11.

The lobby features inset wooden panelling on the walls and a marble-effect flooring, again reflecting what the Odeon would have looked like 80 years ago. All the wooden detailing and coving has been scrubbed up and left in situ.

Beautiful art deco curves are evident in the airy main cafe-bar area which merges seamlessly with the new library where books will be placed onto dark wooden shelves after being relocated from the current main library next month.

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The 100-seat cinema box, which is clad in glass, is illuminated and glows. There are projectors directed not only inwards at the audience but also outwards into the cafe-bar area so people enjoying a coffee or a wine can also take in moving images.

The cafe-bar area below and the cinema box above within the original Odeon building at Chester's Storyhouse cultural centre, which opens on May 11.

Behind the scenes is a high tech operation that includes motorised seats that fold away in the studio theatre alongside a first storey cool bar with floor-to-ceiling glazed walls that overlooks what will be the Northgate Development retail scheme.

How is the Chester Storyhouse build progressing?

Lots of testing is currently taking place. Lead weights have been hung from the battens that will hold lights, fixtures and scenery to check everything is safe. And weights, totalling 120 tonnes, were placed on the orchestra pit, which rises up from the auditorium floor, to make sure it will lift up those musicians without breaking a sweat.

Site manager Chris Hagan and project director Graham Lister in the first floor studio theatre bar at Storyhouse overlooking the bus exchange.

In the next 10 days the acoustics will be tested in the main theatre, but initial checks indicate everything is fine. Our reporter couldn’t resist projecting to an imaginary audience while standing on stage.

Scenery will be brought in through a rear loading bay into which a lorry can reverse then through a giant automatic sliding door at the back of the stage.

Project manager Graham Lister shows off the Odeon's familar art deco features within Chester's Storyhouse cultural centre, which opens on May 11.

The whole building is accessible for people with disabilities be they customers, actors or technicians.

One Storyhouse sign has already gone up on the Odeon building and two others will follow on the canopy and the fly tower – to advertise the theatre to passing motorists on the inner ring road. The signs will soon be illuminated as the anticipation of the opening builds.

Project manager Graham Lister in the revamped lobby within the original Odeon building at Storyhouse, which opens on May 11.
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