The theatre features a seven-sided steel and glass module that squats within the building’s Great Hall. It is a pure theatre in the round in which the stage area is surrounded on all sides, and above, by seating.
Its unique design conceived by Richard Negri of the Wimbledon School of Art is intended to create a vivid and immediate relationship between actors and audiences. As the floor of the exchange was unable to take the weight of the theatre and its audience, the module is suspended from the four columns carrying the hall’s central dome. Only the stage area and ground-level seating rest on the floor. The 150-ton theatre structure opened in 1976 at a cost of £1 million amid some scepticism from Mancunians.
The theatre can seat an audience of up to 700 on three levels, making it the largest theatre in the round in Britain. There are 400 seats at ground level in a raked configuration, above which are two galleries, each with 150 seats set in two rows.