The Crucible was built at a time when Sheffield had lost all its major theatres and had only one small venue left in operation, namely the Library Theatre. It opened in 1971 replacing the Playhouse Repertory Theatre in Townhead Street.
In 1967 Colin George, who was the founding Artistic Director of the Crucible having held the same position at the Playhouse, recommended a thrust stage for Sheffield, inspired by theatres created by Sir Tyrone Guthrie. Sir Tyrone Guthrie was an Anglo-Irish Tony Award-winning theatrical director instrumental in the founding of the Stratford Festival of Canada, the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis, Minnesota and the Tyrone Guthrie Centre, at his family’s home, Annaghmakerrig, in County Monaghan, Ireland. Tanya Moiseiwitsch, who had been involved in designing Guthrie’s theatres, was employed as the designer.
Renton, Howard and Wood were engaged as architects and the building began to take shape in 1969. It was completed two years later, in time for the opening performance in October 1971 of Fanfare an evening’s entertainment comprising children participating in an improvised scene, Chekhov’s Swan Song with Ian McKellen and Edward Petherbridge, and a Music Hall Finale with a Sheffield Brass Band.
This demonstrated the versatility of the stage, which has since been adapted to dance and musical performance as well as classical and modern theatre, and receives touring productions as well as hosting squash, table tennis and the World Snooker Championship tournament, which has been played annually in the Crucible since 1977.
The audience sits on three sides, but no-one is more than 22 metres from the performer. Consequently, although it seats 980 people the spectator has an intimate relationship with the activity on stage. The nature of the stage means that productions in the Crucible tend to use minimal scenery so as not to block sightlines, preferring instead to concentrate on attention to detail in props and costumes – vital when the audience is so close to the stage.
The Crucible is a producing theatre, which means its shows are designed and rehearsed in-house. These productions are normally overseen by Sheffield Theatres Trust.
In 2001 the Crucible was awarded the Barclays ‘Theatre of the Year Award and is a Grade II listed building.
Between 2007 – November 2009 the building had a £15 million refurbishment and during that period it opened only for the 2008 and 2009 World Snooker Championships.
1971 – 1981 Colin George
1981 – 1990 Clare Venables
1990 – 1991 Mark Brickman
1992 – 1994 Michael Rudman
1994 – 2000 Deborah Paige
2000 – 2005 Michael Grandage
2005 – 2007 Samuel West
2009 – present Daniel Evans
The Crucible marks its 40th anniversary in November 2011 and is embarking on a year-long celebration of this landmark birthday!
A new book, Crucible 40, has been published chronicling the history of this iconic theatre. Featuring photographs and memories from the Crucible’s remarkable past, the book is available from the Box Office on 0114 249 6000.