Lancashire and the South Lakes' professional producing theatre including famous summertime outdoor production plus mainstream, oddball and cultural cinema screenings. The Round is our beautiful, new 240 seat theatre space and, coincidentally, the seating is in the round! Occasionally this space also forms a horseshoe configuration on 3 sides. The Rake is our 313 seat auditorium with raked stadium style seating and an end on stage. Fantastic full visibility is offered from all seats.
This space is also used for our cinema screenings. DT3 is our dedicated performance space for young people and can seat 112 on two sides and 69 if one side is used. The Dukes Gallery presents work by some of the region's top artistic talent.
It is open all day and entry is free, so pop in anytime. The Gallery space can also be hired for your small event, gathering or meeting. The Dukes Cafe Bar offers a wide range of delicious lunches, aromatic coffees and irresistable cakes and desserts.
The Dukes opened on November 18, 1971 after a year’s work to convert it from St Anne’s Church into Lancaster’s civic theatre. The work had cost... and also included fitting out an independent cinema – unique for a producing theatre - and public spaces including a café. The Queen, as Duke of Lancaster, had given her approval for use of the name Duke’s Playhouse, and the official opening was conducted by Lord Eccles, Paymaster General and Minister for the Arts. The first event at The Dukes was the screening of the film, Private Road, which was quite controversial for its time. Among the audience were the stars including Susan Penhaligon.
Live drama was to be at the heart of the new venue and it would be produced by mobile company Century Theatre who had agreed to become resident at The Dukes Playhouse. The first artistic director was Peter Oyston. The Dukes first production was Orson Welles’s adaptation of Herman Melville’s Moby Dick. Other plays presented during those early seasons included The Dukes first Christmas show – All the World Should be Taxed – Twelfth Night, Waiting for Godot and Arsenic and Old Lace. Lancaster City Council, which had championed the founding of the theatre and has supported it ever since, called upon locals “to show it is not the apathetic, stay-at-home backwater condemned by its critics in the past.” To foster more interest in the theatre, The Duke’s Playhouse Club was formed and in 1972, Peter Ustinov became its president and visited that summer.
The acclaimed actor and raconteur is just one in a long list of now famous names who have been associated with The Dukes over the past 40 years. Among the first to tread The Dukes boards was Harriet Walter who became a Dame in 2011- the first former Dukes actor to achieve this honour. She appeared in 14 productions from 1973-5. And Oscar-winning actress Gloria Grahame performed in The Dukes version of Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf in 1980.