Project sources said the theatre, which has already missed three deadlines for completion, may not be ready for its public opening on 7 January because electrical installation work on the site had fallen behind schedule.
One source said electrical contractor ABB Steward had been unable to get access to a number of areas that should have been completed because of delays caused by other trade contractors.
The source said: “There is still a lot of electrical work to be done, but the areas are not ready for the contractor. There are still a number of ceiling lights to be installed, but the ceilings haven’t even been built yet. Mirror lights have to be installed in all the dressing rooms but most of them don’t have the mirrors. There’s no guarantee that everything will be finished by January.”
ABB Steward has already introduced a late-night shift whereby electricians work from 4pm to 11pm. It has also brought in additional labour from agencies in a bid to complete the project on schedule. This brings the number of electricians on site to 70.
Another source said: “This is not a happy ship. There are cables hanging out everywhere at the moment and a different crew of electricians seem to appear here every week. This a cramped place and everyone is working on top of each other.”
The source said that commissioning all electrical work, including stage lighting, would take up to six weeks, meaning installation work would need to be completed by the end of November to ensure the theatre could open in January.
Construction manager Schal, whose management of the project was criticised in a National Audit Report into lottery-funded arts projects in May, was unavailable for comment. The report said “serious delays” to the project had been caused by “poor programming by the construction management contractor”.
The original finish date for the theatre was in May 1998. The other deadlines were May 1999 and autumn 1999.
ABB Steward was unavailable for comment. A spokesperson for client the English Stage Company insisted that the project was still on schedule to meet its 7 January opening.
The refurbishment project, which has received £19m in Arts Council lottery funding, is almost £5m over budget. In an attempt to raise funds for the work, the Royal Court Theatre has sent theatregoers a letter from the actor David Suchet, best known for his television portrayal of Agatha Christie’s fictional detective Hercule Poirot, requesting donations.
Dated 2 November, Suchet reminds recipients that “under the partnership funding arrangement, every pound you donate will effectively unlock three pounds of the final slice of the lottery award”. Suchet urges recipients to reply by 30 November so they can receive an invitation to a behind-the-scenes tour of the refurbished theatre.