I’ve been to loads of leaving dos over 30+ years, many of them my own, and they are all a balance between cool control and blubbering tears. Today saw the end of an era in Bury St Edmunds, and also the passing of a rising star with a phenomenal career ahead of her. Colin Blumeu and Polly Ingham respectively. Please excuse in any way the suggestion that Colin after 16 years at the helm of the Theatre Royal Bury St Edmunds doesn’t have a phenomenal career ahead or, indeed, is not a rising star.

As the desks are cleared and the final jokes are played it’s a perfect time to reflect on how to leave a job with dignity and sensitivity, and how we, as the ones left, re-group to find a new way forward and a new way to make the family work.

Theatre is an extraordinary business and mirrors a family in so many ways. I was reminded last weekend of the fact that an actor needs to recover from grief at the end of a production because, for three, six, eight or more weeks they have been part of a family. And on the last night, in an instant, the family unit falls apart and all that passion, camaraderie, and structure is gone. You creep out to the last tube, or your car, to an empty place (most of the time) where this particular family, in this particular time, is no more.

So how must it feel for Colin, after 16 years, to leave the Theatre Royal family. And how is it for the cast of characters in the drama of the theatre who are left behind. Some of the cast have been in their roles for six months and have been inspired by Colin in that time, and some have been there 10-15 years and have grown up with him in the soap opera which is the story of a theatre. For some they have gone through financial crisis, capital appeals, a fire on stage (which nearly destroyed the pantomime and one of the most important Regency buildings in the world), a massive tent for pantomime, a building site for restoration, a triumphant opening, a pre-economic meltdown staff restructure, and a current balanced budget... just.

They have remained loyal to the family, to the theatre, to the town.  The goodwill is palpable to anyone who knows the staff.

So today, the final cake was bought and shared around as we had tea in the garden at the back of the offices. Polly got a silly, heartfelt  gift (as is the tradition of this wonderful theatre) and Colin spoke eloquently about the need to continue to show the love for our world which we have always shown, even when it’s tough going. He talked of being calm and supportive of each other at the hardest moments, and avoiding getting angry.

I am not an actor, but I have watched Colin at work in the rehearsal room. And I know from my business colleagues that the rehearsal room is a fantastic model to explore when understanding how a business and a leader might work. Actors love working with Colin in the rehearsal room, and amidst a flurry of cake crumbs, tea cups and tears, it is clear that this particular cast of characters will miss their original director – but will go on to give performances he will be proud of in the future.

Cheers Colin and Polly – and I look forward to working somewhere, sometime, with both of you in another family saga which is called theatre.