Children egged on by Theatre Royal

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One of Britain's oldest-surviving theatres has opened a custom-designed children's venue in an attempt to encourage more youngsters on to the stage and into audiences.

The Theatre Royal Bath chose its 200th anniversary yesterday to launch The Egg, an oval-shaped auditorium within a former cinema.

The £3m project is next to the existing Theatre Royal and has 120 seats, as well as a café, workshop space and craft rooms.

It has been designed with the help of a group of children selected from local schools, who were trained to consult with their peers on details of the project.

The youngsters even had a say in the choice of architects and the café menus.

Innovations include doors that have knee-high glass panels so that smaller theatre-goers can see where they are about to go.

There is also "the cooler" - a sound-proofed room where parents can sit with a noisy baby or disruptive toddler and continue to watch and hear the play without annoying others.

The theatre will run workshops for children and teenagers, as well as staging performances where youngsters will be involved in everything from directing to stage lighting.

Danny Moar, chief executive of the Theatre Royal, said: "This will provide theatre for children and by children. It is a theatre that children can operate."

The first theatre in Bath appeared in 1705, but it wasn't until 1768 that it was awarded a royal patent, the first outside London.

In October 1805, the Theatre Royal opened for the first time with a performance of Richard III.

It rapidly became one of the most fashionable venues for actors and audiences, with such luminaries as Ellen Terry, Henry Irving and Sarah Siddons performing there.