Thursday, November 19, 1998 Published at 16:03 GMT
Manchester theatre bounces back
The first production will be Stanley Houghton's Hindle Wakes
North of England Correspondent Kevin Bocquet visits Manchester's Royal Exchange Theatre as it prepares to re-open after the IRA bomb attack two years ago.
When the IRA bombed Manchester in 1996, they devastated not only its commercial centre, but also one of its cultural gems.
Joanna Lord who was working in the theatre box office at the time said: "The worst thing about it was that you didn't hear the bomb - you felt it first.
"It was a huge 'pop' then you felt the force ... and the last thing was this bang. I didn't see the damage until it was on the news. I just cried, it was awful."
Michael Williams, the building manager in charge of the reconstruction work at the Royal Exchange, said: "Bomb blasts come in two waves, you have the pressure waves which compress everything and then you have the vacuum that comes after it and that did an enormous amount of damage to the structure of the building.
"Strangely enough, it didn't look that bad, but it took a year to investigate what actually had happened to the building before we could start."
The theatre itself is contained in a kind of capsule, with the actors performing in the round.
It is supported from only four points to enable the structure to move and is also suspended on pillars which have lorry shock absorbers.
The refurbishment cost £31m and includes the installation of state-of-the-art audio and lighting equipment.
Now the theatre is preparing to re-open to the public for the first time on 30 November.
Rehearsals have begun for a production of Stanley Houghton's Hindle Wakes - the same play which was being shown at the time the bomb went off - it willl be performed on the night of the re-opening.
Once it was feared that the whole Royal Exchange building might have to be demolished. But not only was it saved - it is now the home of what many consider the most advanced theatre in the country.
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