The Really Useful Group is putting customer engagement at the heart of its redevelopment plans for the famous Theatre Royal Drury Lane in London.

The theatre, which has stood since the 17th century, is the subject of a £35m ($45m/€40m) refurbishment project, with plans to be submitted to Westminster Council in September.

Really Useful, which runs Drury Lane as well as a number of other West End properties, believes work on architect Haworth Tompkins’ project will start towards the end of 2018 or early 2019.

Rebecca Kane Burton, the company’s managing director, told The Stage that the redesign is an opportunity to attract new people and encourage them to do more when they visit the theatre.

Kane Burton said: “While these old theatre buildings are undoubtedly grand and imposing, that can sometimes make it difficult for people to want to cross the threshold.

“The job of their present-day custodians is to make them as accessible as possible. There are lots of different ways of doing that, such as the terrace we’ve made at the Theatre Royal, overlooking Catherine Street, where you can sit outside on a nice evening and have a glass of champagne without even seeing the show.

“I think one of the problems with the West End has been the perception that theatres open half an hour before the show, you rush in to see the show, then you rush out again at the end.

“The challenge for us is to make these old buildings more inviting and open for longer periods of time. It’s all about making everyone feel comfortable in that environment.”

As well as driving the refurbishment of Drury Lane, Kane Burton, who was appointed last year after serving as vice president and general manager at The O2, is also making progress with the launch of the group’s own ticketing platform.

She told The Stage: “One of the reasons I took the job was that Really Useful wants to build its own ticketing platform now that the 10-year contract with See Tickets has come to an end. You can’t beat that sort of direct relationship with your customers.

“Mark Guymer, who set up Sky Tickets and has an acute understanding of digital ticketing, is joining us to oversee our ticketing strategy.”

IMAGE: David Blaikie/Flickr