Mercury Theatre, Essex

The Mercury Theatre in Colchester, Essex, produces diverse and exciting programmes of unique, insightful and incisive theatre. Although the theatre itself is nearly 50 years old, the foundations of the company began in the 1930s after the formation of the Colchester Repertory Company was established in 1937 by Robert Digby and Beatrice Radley.

In 1968, the Colchester New Theatre Trust was formed to find a potential site for a new theatre and to oversee construction. The Mercury Theatre, designed by Norman Downie, opened on 10th May 1972, after a successful fund-raising campaign, supported by a large grant from the Borough Council.

The Mercury is described as ‘an artistic powerhouse in the East’ – a vital, vibrant, welcoming centre of culture for the people of Colchester, Essex and beyond. The theatre takes its name from the Roman messenger god, Mercury, whose job it was to connect people.

From the initial concept and designs back in 2016, together with its partners Colchester Borough Council and Colchester Borough Homes, the theatre has made every effort to ensure that its building is as environmentally friendly as possible. The theatre is also committed to working in partnership with Colchester Borough Council to implement its Climate Emergency Action Plan (January 2020) and help to build on its successes to ensure that Colchester leads the way in environmental standards for residents and visitors alike.

Its policy is to maintain a working environment that, where reasonably possible, strives to promote energy efficiency, recycling of waste materials and the use of recycled products in the pursuit of creating an economic, efficient and environmentally friendly workplace. It will strive to not only comply with all relevant environmental legislation, regulations and requirements but where it can exceed these requirements.

Dextra played its part in that journey by working with its customer CES – Colchester Electrical Services, and consultant Stephen Watts to design and supply lighting for the theatre’s redevelopment and refurbishment programme driven by its Environmental Programme. This included the refurbishment of the existing building as well as a new extension.


The main focus of the lighting specification was to achieve a high BREEAM rating using a combination of LED lighting and controls system while creating a visually interesting environment for both staff and visitors. Dextra overcame several challenges with the extension to the existing building with shallow ceiling voids and existing structure, such as ducting that needed to be worked around.

Also, a decision was made to offer the E:cue control system, specified by LEDextra, as this system offers the option to add in DMX colour changing products at a future date.

The Theatre Green Room required a halo effect from a ceiling mounted product in the Green Room, the Discalo LED was the perfect choice and four standard and one AT3 version of the product were installed to help deliver efficiency as well as improving the aesthetics.

Meeting the need for a cost-effective amenity type fitting for the stairwells in the building, 24 standard Amenity Decorative LED’s and 57 of the AT3 version were supplied as C83 for front of house and C84 for back of house. The Amenity Decorative LED is manufactured from injection moulded polycarbonate with an opal diffuser and comes with a range of optional coloured ring attachments and semi recessing kits.

Outside, wall-mounted around the whole of the exterior of the theatre building was the Amenity Exterior Grille. With 15 standard and 26 AT3 versions installed.

Also, from the same family of products, Dextra’s Amenity Plus LED Square was used as a wall-mounted product on the project in the back of house corridors and the front of house store rooms and toilets, with 32 standard and 24 AT3 versions supplied. In this case, various lumen outputs were used to suit the scheme, all white body with opal diffuser, including a split of R25 and R25C and non-sensored depending on the requirements, as well as C83 for front of house, C84 for back of house.

To deliver the clients need for a suspended and continuous run product, the Element LED was installed in the theatre’s creative learning space and rehearsal room. 74 of the standard version and 16 of the AT3 were supplied along with a mix of 1260mm and 1500mm for different rooms. The Element LED is suitable for suspended installation in both continuous run and standalone formats with bidirectional output, 40% up, 60% down. This versatility is combined with a shallow body profile and glare compliant diffuser providing a sleek appearance and compliance with the glare regulations of BSEN 12464 for use in offices and schools.

The Modled office helped deliver the requirement for an office-compliant product in the first-floor offices of the building, with 31 standard and 13 AT3 supplied. The Modled office has been designed specifically for applications where monitors are used in areas such as classrooms and offices. By using a central microprism optic with high transmission opal diffuser surround the Modled Office is designed to comply with the latest BSEN 12464 glare requirements for both the 3000 candelas per metre squared limit above 65 degrees and UGR19.

In the basement and plantroom an IP65, anti-corrosive, sensored product was required with the Eco Impervia LED the ideal choice in these locations. The R25E and R25C sensors were supplied, with 22 standard Eco Impervia’s and 27 AT3’s. The Eco Impervia range offers a wide range of lumen outputs, diffuser choices and sensor controls to allow this product to be specified in multiple applications.

Outside the exit doors there was a need for an autotest emergency product that was also cost effective and delivered high performance. The AME LED was chosen for this use and 9 AT3 versions were installed. The AME is a IP65 LED Self-Contained Polycarbonate bulkhead, with a robust polycarbonate body and lens and electronic control gear.

Alongside this, 9 AT3 EXI’s were used as an emergency exit signs and 33 HBE LED’s-acting as suspended emergency exit signs.

To get over the problem of the shallow ceiling void’s in the front of house corridors, 19 standard and 13 AT3 BTEC LEDs were supplied with the Osram DALI remote sensor. The BTEC Downlight is ideal for customers who need a premium quality downlight with high quality LEDs and drivers as well as excellent efficiency for a rapid return on investment. With a spun aluminium housing and injection moulded cable retention, the BTEC Downlight provides a seamless single piece white aluminium reflector and bezel.

In the basement office and control-room corridor the need for a basic but effective industrial-type product was met by the installation of 7 standard and 5 AT3 Ecopak LED’s. The Ecopak range of battens has offered quick and simple replacement of existing luminaires with energy efficient sources for many years and has enjoyed a great deal of success with several of Dextra’s blue-chip clients. The Ecopak LED brings these same benefits combined with the increased energy efficiency and low maintenance of an LED source giving even greater return on investment.

Elsewhere in the box office, 2 Graduate LED’s were supplied to help meet the need for a linear, office compliant surface product. Further to this, the Coldbay was installed in the Stage Dock following a requirement for a high-level, sensored product. Supplied with the R11AW sensor and autotest emergency versions, 2 of these were used on the project.

In the Auditorium, a standalone emergency product was needed where specialised stage lighting was used. The LED4S was ideal for this and 10 of these were installed. The LED4S incorporates a Lithium Iron Phosphate battery, giving greatly extended lifetime over traditional Nickel Cadmium and Nickel Metal Hydride products.

“The Mercury are so happy with the Dextra lighting we had installed. The look along with the energy efficiency makes our refurbished building exactly what we wanted it to be”