Theatre nearing completion

Part of the massive refurbishment programme nearing completion

RSC and Pirtek

Ian Cochran and Ashley Cotterell of Pirtek

Ian Cochran, Ashley Cotterell

The completed RSC and Swan Theatres

Pirtek Takes Centre Stage

On 24 November 2010 the iconic Royal Shakespeare and Swan Theatres in Stratford-upon-Avon reopened after a three and a half year redevelopment as part of the Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC) £112.8 million transformation project that involved Pirtek Birmingham supported by Pirtek Redditch. The building now features a brand new 1,040 seat thrust stage auditorium, 36 metre high tower, new exhibition spaces, Rooftop Restaurant and Riverside Café with terrace, restored 1930s features and improved public areas including the new Weston Square.

"It was certainly one of the most unusual projects we have tackled. We have had two MSSTs working solidly at Stratford for two and a half months, that's over 500 hours. We started in August and completed at the end of October. Although we tendered for the work and won the contract on price, the RSC was also impressed with our insurance cover, comprehensive health and safety procedures, and in-house training programmes that meant that every engineer supplied to the project, was fully qualified,” says Pirtek Birmingham Licensee Andy Connell. “We pitched against five other companies, presented a work schedule and plans to comply with the requirements of the project, but it soon became clear as work progressed, that we could improve many of the practical, operational and even aesthetic elements of the hydraulic work. Apparently we were the only company prepared to do the construction work on site, rather than manufacture off site and install later. "

In fact, this flexibility proved invaluable as Peter Bailey, Deputy Technical Director for the RSC explains, "As the main construction and upgrades had already been done, the permanent hydraulic systems had to be installed to fit round the structures. There were no drawings or designs at this stage, so our engineers ended up taking photographs of each area of the site and then indicated to Pirtek where we wanted the pipes to run and what they were to power,” he says. “Effectively we need two hydraulic rings, one for each theatre. The rings had to run from the powerhouse compressor plant, into the basements of each building, where they were split into six outlets in the Royal Shakespeare Theatre and a further three in the Swan. The system powers the accumulators and rams that control everything from moving the scenery to operating the smallest items on stage, such as opening a window. As Pirtek was prepared to work on site, it allowed a flexible approach as plans could be amended and a better solution could be found if a problem was encountered at the time."

The project involved the installation of 166 metres of 38 mm steel pipe, together with 134 metres of 42 mm and 126 metres of 25 mm pipe. Pirtek Birmingham demonstrated that, by routing through the powerhouse walls and keeping the pipes inside, ugly external fittings could be avoided. "I have to take my hat off to our MSSTs, Ian Cochran and Ashley Cotterell. They worked in very cramped, difficult conditions, often making suggestions that were advantageous to the customer, but that would entail extra work for themselves,” Andy Connell says. “However, when the site agent commended our work and complimented our staff on their neat and tidy work, it made it all worthwhile. I also have to thank Pirtek Redditch for providing backup during the project. They made sure our existing customers received our normal rapid response service."

With all the pipework in place and the system just awaiting the compressor to be fitted, Peter Bailey has the final word. "We are a happy customer and are very pleased with the work that Pirtek has done. They were able to address the complexities of the project and the client, as well as the building, and have risen to the occasion,” he concludes. “There were a considerable number of people and bodies to satisfy, as the site is of national importance. I'm happy to say Pirtek fulfilled all our requirements."

The building reopened to the public on 24th November for preview events to test all the new facilities before the first full Shakespeare performance is staged in February 2011.

For those wishing to see a show and enjoy the end result of Pirtek’s handiwork, you can find more information on or by phoning the RSC’s ticket hotline on 0844 800 1110

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