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Green Shoots of Optimism in Bury St Edmunds

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It’s possible to be upbeat in a downturn. Bury St Edmunds exquisite Georgian Theatre Royal has just unveiled its programme for spring 2011. Artistic director Colin Blumenau made no attempt at the launch event to disguise that ACE funding cuts and the uncertainties over town and county council make forward planning even more difficult, but he welcomed the trend towards closer co-operation and participatory initiatives between the main producing theatres in East Anglia.

Theatre Royal audiences have an appetite for many different types of shows, from classic theatre to modern plays with or without a serious theme, from cabaret-style frivolity to chamber music concerts, from the delicacy of classical ballet to the energy of modern dance. Then there’s youth theatre and other community work, hugely important and often unreported. And, of course, TRAIN, the theatre's own trainee and apprenticeship programme.

This has links with the various theatre studies and arts administration courses of several different Essex and Suffolk further and higher education establishments. There are seven of these paid internships available to suitable candidates from April next year. It is hoped that the scheme might eventually expand to include artistic internships. In the meantime, young people are being actively encouraged to involve themselves both with their own fully-staged productions and by the [email protected]£5 scheme. That’s exactly what it is – if you’re under 26 you pay only £5 for the majority of professional shows.

Variety is the word to describe these. Some mark return visits by companies about whom word-of-mouth has built up a devoted audience demanding more by their favourites. The Pasadena Roof Orchestra, Charles Ross with his one-man canters through epic stories, Hull Truck with John Godber’s plays and LipService are among these. The Pasadena Roof Orchestra plays on 29 January, Hull Truck offer April in Paris from 4 to 9 April, LipService gloss Emily Brontë} with Withering Looks on 27 and 28 April and Ross swaps the lordship of the ring for a light-sabre in One-Man Star Wars Trilogy on 29 April.

The first of the main in-house productions of this season is Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing directed by [Abigail Anderson whose previous productions of Twelfth Night and The Merchant of Venice were attractively set in the early 19th century and staged with an intimacy which caught the audience up in the drama before it. It runs from 10 to 26 February. Blumenau is directing J B Priestley’s time play Dangerous Corner with many of the same cast members; that runs from 10 to 19 March. Both shows are designed by Libby Watson. Much Ado has an original score by Pat Whymark} and choreography by [Yael Lowenstein.

Children’s shows include Yellow Earth’s Why the Lion Danced at various different local venues and Tall Stories’ production of The Gruffalo’s Child on 2 and 3 April. Watershed Productions and Polka Theatre offer Charlie and Lola’s Best Bestest Play between 21 and 23 April and I suspect that older children will also enjoy the One-Man Star Wars Trilogy.

As well as the now well-established script-in-hand rehearsed readings of neglected 18th and early 19th century plays, there’s a series of lunchtime concerts, sponsored by local solicitors Gross & Company, and other events. Between 29 March and 1 April the Theatre Royal is staging its first lunchtime play. This is Hannah Cowley’s A Bold Stroke for a Husband in partnership with Little Bear Productions and the Bridewell Theatre. It’s a 50-minute version of the 1783 full-length comedy.

On 4 February Henri Iguike’s Dance Company perform a triple bill programme Butterfly Dreaming and Ballet Black makes its house début on 4 March. George Dillon performs The Gospel of Matthew on 19 April. Sometimes I Laugh Like My Sister is a one-woman show written and performed by Rebecca Peyton whose journalist sibling Kate – a foreign producer for the BBC – was murdered in Somalia. The director and co-writer is Martin M Bartelt.


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