AD Round Up – July 2017

What a pleasure was Pinter’s Old Times. It delighted and intrigued in equal measure, illuminating the text. In the interval on the night I attended, the audience could be overheard debating the first half. It is a great playwright that can bring this about. My thanks to William Wilkinson and his brilliant cast and crew for an immaculate and pellucid production.

Hot on its heels – with I have to say a spectacular turn around by Kim Green our Theatre Technician and Dave Barclay’s awesome crew – we were ready within days to host the Spa Theatre Company Juniors once again, this time in their vibrant production of High School Musical. I think we could have lit the stage just from the energy of the children and the sheer enjoyment they have of performing together.

And now for something completely different……….

Next up is Rachel Adam’s debut in the director’s chair with her production of Friedrich Durrenmatt’s play The Physicists. A great hit at the RSC in Peter Brook’s 1963 production and a sell out revival at the Donmar in 2012 brought this play to our attention. It has more than a little of an Ortonesque feel to me; a playful, satirical look at science and the fine line between insanity and genius. With some insane – or are they – central characters, there will be much to entertain you and provide food for thought.

We have been holding multiple readings and auditions over recent weeks to cast the autumn and winter season of plays. The readings are a recent introduction as a way of getting to know a play and giving all comers the chance to have a read. May I use this column to clarify that you certainly don’t have to attend the reading to come to the audition or the other way round. The readings are simply an opportunity to hear the words come off the page and are open to everyone.

As we bring the curtain down on this season, we shall be starting a major project of taking out all the seats in the auditorium for refurbishment over the summer. The unveiling of the new auditorium will take place when we open the Autumn Season with William Wilkinson’s production of Chekhov’s The Cherry Orchard.

Now is your chance to sponsor a seat, pick your own favourite row and number and have your name on it for the next 10 years. This will be a wonderful contribution to the arts. With no funding, we rely on our enterprise to keep Leamington’s live theatre alive!   Maybe you could buy a seat for a friend or family member or for yourself? Even a part contribution would be so welcome. Do consider helping us fund this vital update to the seating. Just drop onto our website and follow the link. We shall offer our thanks with a free ticket for a play and by inviting you to a special launch event It is time to Take Your Seat!

Have a wonderful summer and we look forward to welcoming you back in September for the start of the new season.

We shall have nine productions in the Main House, new work in the Studio and some musical one nighters to tempt you.

SUE MOORE

ARTISTIC DIRECTOR

AD Round Up – May 2017

It’s official; I am wild about Wilde and fortunately our audience agreed.

We had a lovely response to our production of The Importance of Being Earnest. Approaching 1,300 patrons were treated to some of the most sparkling verbal wit ever written. Several felt compelled to write and applaud the show. Whether luxuriating in paradox or simply in the ridiculousness created by the plot that Wilde has set in motion, the play is at its best when it is portraying supposedly serious things in an extremely trivial manner.

Our thanks go to David Fletcher’s talented cast and crew for staging this brilliant, inventive and gloriously funny play.

Next up we have William Wilkinson in the director’s chair with Pinter’s Old Times. I last saw this play by Pinter, the supreme artist of the unspoken, in 2013. This mesmerising piece which slowly draws you in and explores the mercurial nature of memory, has a dreamlike quality and I was so very tempted to direct it a few years ago. The professional production I saw took the decision out of my hands when the rights were not available, so I directed Betrayal instead. I am so delighted that Bill is now to stage the ‘one that got away’.

Following hot on the heels of the Pinter we shall be welcoming back Spa Juniors with their production of High School Musical. Those of you who saw their terrific production of Into The Woods last year, will know not to miss this young, vibrant company.

Rachel Adams and her cast are underway with rehearsals for The Physicists and we are delighted to welcome her to the director’s team. More about this in my next blog.

In the meantime, I am delighted to announce that our new season will start in September with William Wilkinson’s production of Chekhov’s The Cherry Orchard. This will be followed in late October by the debut of another new director to us, Mike Rolfe, who will direct Noel Coward’s The Vortex. I cannot quite believe that we have never staged this Coward, so am particularly thrilled that Mike, who has spent a career as a director of drama in television and film, will be working with us. I am also delighted to announce that Tim Willis will be back in the director’s chair for our December production of Gypsy. The revival of this musical with Imelda Staunton in the lead captivated the country and I am sure this will be a real draw for our audience.

I also want to announce a new approach to introducing plays to our potential casts and crew. We shall be holding readings of plays prior to the play’s audition. This will give those who may be interested in auditioning the chance to hear the play in its entirety and to hear from the director their initial thoughts on staging. It is also an opportunity for anyone who may be interested in being part of the production as designers or crew to come and get to know the play. Finally, it also gives those who may not have the time because of their day job, or who no longer feel they can commit to a production, the chance to practice their art and come and enjoy a script coming off the page. This is a read through for all comers, so do all come!

Details are on the website of all the readings and auditions over the next two months – and there are many!

Sue Moore

AD Round Up – April 2017

Well………it’s Goodbye from Tim and it’s Hello from Me! Enormous thanks to Tim, who leaves a company at the top of its game, producing consistently high quality show after show. Long may this continue to characterise what we strive for at the Loft.

First of all, I need to thank everyone for such a fabulous welcome. I have been overwhelmed by the generous comments of people as I start my term as Artistic Director.  You would think I was a newcomer, but since I have been a member here since 1970, with nearly 50 productions under my belt, most people have asked what has taken me so long? Well, as you know, I am a shy retiring flower☺

I was appointed at a busy time, one week ahead of the opening night of the production of Temple that I was directing. This super play, reflecting a significant moment in the history of the previously unshakeable St. Pauls Cathedral,was artistically acclaimed, delivered by a wonderfully talented cast and crew. My thanks to everyone who worked with me to being this new play, so soon after its London run, to a Leamington audience. This is the kind of work we should be staging in amongst the classics of theatre.

Next up we have two productions in our two distinctly different performance spaces.

By the time you read this, Director, Greg Cole will have brought his own company’s production of ‘I didn’t think I was a racist, but I killed a Romanian’, to the Studio. With the news that the playwright was to join us for a Q and A after both performances on the last day, this will no doubt have proved to be a popular draw. ‘Is This Seat Taken’ production company will, I am sure, have had their seats taken.

I didn’t think I was racist, but I killed a Romanian   |     Photographer: Richard Smith

The studio has its own quite different feel from the main house and will be an important part of our overall offering in the season to come. Audiences and performers alike love this space.

Next up in the main house we welcome David Fletcher directing a classic piece of English theatre and one which has delighted generations of theatre-goers – the incomparable The Importance of Being Earnest. With a different kind of set design and music specially composed for this production by Jonathan Fletcher, I am looking forward to seeing a fresh look to this well known classic.

If there will be a theme to my time as AD it will be stolen from Shakespeare ‘The Play’s the thing’. Filling our performance spaces with great story telling and great writing. I have set up a new team of people to work alongside and quite understand that I have a significant job ahead. Too much for one person, particularly when I want to direct too, so I am delighted that Gus MacDonald will be working as my Associate so that we can run things together.

So far we are planning new plays, classic theatre and plays with music in the mix. We shall return to staging nine Loft productions in the main house and more studio productions too. I am also delighted that we shall be welcoming two new directors this year; one in July and one in November.

With a new artistic team to work alongside me, we are already well on our way to having planned next season. Details will be unveiled in future blogs as everything is confirmed.

 

Sue Moore

suemoore@loft-theatre.co.uk

The Loft Theatre Appoints a new Artistic Director

After six years at the helm leading the Loft Theatre as Artistic Director, a period of consistently excellent achievement on its stage, Tim Willis is stepping down as leader to concentrate on directing shows and acting whenever an exciting role comes his way.  The job is very demanding of one`s time and energy and six years is a sensible point at which to step back and take stock,  commented Tim.   He has found the job very rewarding and he moves on with the thanks and good wishes of the Trustees.

On 4th March the Board of Trustees appointed Sue Moore to take the reins as Artistic Director of the Theatre.  Sue has been Associate Artistic Director since last summer, working closely with Tim, and the take over should be seamless.

Chairman, William Wilkinson expressed his great pleasure that Sue will be leading the Company into the future.  He remarked upon her extensive knowledge of theatre; she knows what is exciting out there in the wide world that Leamington audiences deserve to see performed to the highest standards that the Loft is capable of rising to.  He added that she will build on the substantial reputation the theatre enjoys and she has the great advantage of knowing the Loft, its people, its audiences and is identified with the Theatre completely from many years of active participation in its output..  The Loft is fortunate in securing her commitment, concluded Wilkinson.

6th March 2017

Temple – March 2017

Gus MacDonald’s production of Arthur Miller’s All My Sons provided the perfect start to our 2017 Main House programme. Following on from the success of Gus’s last production, Juno and the Paycock, we were once again treated to an evening of actors performing at the top of their game. This production will be remembered long into the future and sums up exactly what the Loft Theatre is all about – the delivery of quality drama by a top drawer cast who are equally matched by the seemingly bottomless pool of new talent currently providing our backstage and technical services. There is only one drawback – the question of why less than 1000 people chose to come along and spend their evening watching this wonderful production. It is hugely frustrating, and the team deserved to play to far bigger houses!

Next up we have Sue Moore’s production of Temple, a relatively new play by Steve Waters about the 2011 anti-austerity protests and the impact of the Occupy London movement on the clerical hierarchy of St Paul’s Cathedral. The play premiered at the Donmar Warehouse in May 2015 with a cast that included Simon Russell Beale, and will likely leave you debating the issues it so cogently raises.

Temple Press 4

Temple, featuring Phil Reynolds   |     Photographer: Richard Smith

 

Following on from Temple, in early April we welcome Is This Seat Taken Productions to the Douglas Ford Studio with the world premiere of Steve Heath’s I didn’t think I was A Racist, but I killed a Romanian – a thought- provoking play directed by the hugely talented Greg Cole, and a study of how some justify and rationalise their perception of ‘The Other’!

Work is now well under way with our 2017/18 season, which sees the Loft returning to its more familiar format of 9 Main House shows. Following a summer of refurbishment – this time in the auditorium – the season will open in September with William Wilkinson’s production of the Anton Chekhov classic, The Cherry Orchard, and will be followed by a production of Noel Coward’s, The Vortex (see elsewhere in this programme and on the website for details of 2 nd April audition), which is to be directed by Michael Rolfe, who will be making his Loft Theatre debut. Unfortunately, due to the refurbishment work, we are unable to host our neighbours, Heartbreak Productions, this year, but I am hopeful that this will only be a ‘gap’ year, and that they will be returning to our stage sometime very soon.

Those who attended the recent AGM will be aware that after 6 years in post, I have decided to step down as Artistic Director in the near future, and once a seamless transition to my yet-to- be-named successor can be agreed. Having just delivered the record-breaking Oliver! and with increasing commitments away from the theatre, I am going to heed the old saying of “quit while you’re ahead”! It has been a huge pleasure to be the artistic lead for this wonderful theatre, but it is now time for somebody else to take the reins. As this may be my last column, I would like to take the opportunity to thank you all for your support over the years. It has been hugely appreciated, and in the not too distant future, I plan to continue working here again as both an actor and also director. But just for now……

Thank you and good night!

Best wishes

Tim                                      m – 07818 032752              ad@loft-theatre.co.uk

All My Sons Programme – February 2017

Our Christmas production of Oliver! smashed our previous Box Office record and provided a hugely entertaining closer to our 2016 Main House programme before the well-earned Christmas and New Year break. Featuring no less than 25 actors aged under-16 – not to mention two delightful Bull Terriers – the hugely talented cast of both experienced Loft actors and newcomers to our stage delivered a well-received, artistic and critically acclaimed commercial success that attracted an audience of well over 2200 people. As the show’s director, it was a real privilege to lead the team, and I cannot thank each and every team member enough for their efforts, which are hugely appreciated!

Just finished we had Gus MacDonald’s production of Arthur Miller’s, All My Sons. Last seen in London’s West End in 2010, the play has been adapted for the big screen on two occasions and is frequently regarded as Miller’s own criticism of the American Dream – as well as his first successful play – and one of the reasons why he was called to appear before the House Un-American Activities Committee during the 1950s, when America was gripped by anti-communist hysteria! Based on a true story that is as pertinent today as it was when it was first presented, we were up for a real treat from a strong Loft team.

Photos taken by Richard Smith – All My Sons (February 2017) Main House, Loft Theatre

All My Sons Print_003 All My Sons Print_005 All My Sons Print_004

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Life at the Loft is slowly getting back to normal after the festivities. Aside from All My Sons, Sue Moore and her team have also started work on our upcoming March production, Temple. We have also hosted a visiting production, The Austerity Games, presented by Tell Tale productions, and held two auditions – firstly for our September production, the Anton Chekhov classic, The Cherry Orchard, and then for our next musical offering in June, Dogfight. With casting virtually complete on both shows, please look out for details of our next audition, which will be for our July production, The Physicists, directed by Rachel Adams.

Spring will soon be upon us and we can look forward to busy, exciting and challenging times here at the Loft with work on our 2017/18 season now well under way.

Please do get in touch if you have any ideas or thoughts you want to share, and may I also offer my thanks for those of you who have accepted the invitation – your frank and honest views are both welcomed and appreciated. Keep them coming!

A Belated Happy New Year to you all!

 

Tim                                                            m – 07818 032752     ad@loft-theatre.co.uk

2017! New Year Message

A belated Happy New Year to you all! How quickly the weeks go by, and yet it is a full calendar month since curtain down on our record-breaking and critically-acclaimed Christmas production of the evergreen family favourite, Oliver!

Oliver! smashed our previous Box Office record and served to show just how far the Loft has progressed as an organisation since 2009, when an article in a national newspaper no less, reported that the theatre “…has stopped using under-18s in its plays because of the burden of the Government’s child protection measures…”! Fast forward 7 years and the biggest selling show in the theatre’s history is delivered featuring no less than 25 actors aged under-16 – not to mention two delightful Bull Terriers! They were all – along with their adult counterparts (and not forgetting the backstage, production and front of house teams) – a joy to work with, and a credit to themselves, their friends and families, and of course the theatre. They are also a very welcome and vital element if the Loft is to continue to flourish long into the future! I should also mention that those measures are in place for a very good reason………

Business is slowly getting back to normal after the festivities, with rehearsals for our February production, All My Sons, well under way, with the Temple team due to start rehearsing this coming Sunday (22 January). We have also hosted a visiting production, The Austerity Games, presented by Tell Tale productions, and have two auditions to look forward to later this month – firstly for the Anton Chekov classic, The Cherry Orchard, on 22 January, and then for our next musical offering, Dogfight, on 29 January. Full details appear elsewhere on the website.

See you back here for Gus MacDonald’s production of All My Sons in February!

Best wishes

Tim

Winter Round-Up

October saw our first Loft Theatre Main House show of the season, William Wilkinson’s production of John Osborne’s The Entertainer, and featured some stunning central performances. The play has lost none of its potency, and is as relevant today as it was when it was first presented in the late 50s – it is no surprise that legendary theatre critic, Michael Billington chose to include it in his book, The 101 Greatest Plays.

Next up we have one of the biggest shows the Loft Theatre has ever tackled with our Christmas offering of Oliver!, which features both animals and children in abundance and has completely dispelled the urban myth of who you should never work with! With over 1100 tickets already sold at the time of writing – more than two weeks before opening night – booking looks to be essential to guarantee seats. This production features one of the largest on stage teams ever assembled here at the Loft with a company that boasts no less than 9 musicians and 42 actors (including dogs!). What is particularly pleasing is that the show marks the return of young performers in numbers to our main stage after a two-year break, with 26 of our actors aged between 8 and 15 years old, as well as the return of (two) Saturday afternoon matinee performances! Don’t forget you can also catch our latest one-nighter, A Brief History of Christmas, on the middle Sunday of the run.

Oliver! will be followed in early January by the returning TellTale team who present The Austerity Games for two nights. In April we will also see a visiting production in the Douglas Studio directed by Greg Cole. Full details will shortly be posted on the website.

Work on the end of the current season and the first half of our 2017/18 season is now well under way and I am delighted to announce further additions to our programme. Firstly, Nathan Dowling will be directing the modern cult musical, Dogfight, in early June, and our 2017/18 season opener in a newly refurbished theatre will be the long-planned William Wilkinson production of Anton Chekhov’s classic play, The Cherry Orchard. I can also reveal that our closing production of 2017 will be one of the great American musicals, Gypsy, which features music and lyrics by Jule Styne and Stephen Sondheim respectively. Auditions for both Dogfight and The Cherry Orchard can be found either in the Oliver! programme or elsewhere on the website.

2016 has been another challenging and exciting year of change here at the Loft, and I am looking forward to more of the same next year, although on a personal level I am planning on being just a little less busy after directing three shows this year. I am hugely appreciative of the support I have received from the Artistic team, particularly Sue Moore, who has been a ‘rock’ in her new role of Associate Artistic Director, the Board of Trustees, and our ‘engine room’, the members of our technical and front of house teams who work tirelessly behind the scenes to complement what is happening on stage. They all clearly remain committed to the delivery of a viable, balanced and varied programme of quality theatre in line with our available resources. In closing, may I wish you all a happy festive period and a healthy and prosperous 2017. Please do get in touch if you wish to discuss your ideas, raise any suggestions or just comment on what is happening at the theatre.

Tim | e – ad@loft-theatre.co.uk

Welcome to the autumn

Our production of Stephen Sondheim’s iconic musical thriller Sweeney Todd provided a hugely entertaining closer to our 2015/16 season before a very busy summer ‘break’ and much-needed refurbishment to the front of house areas! The talented cast of both experienced Loft actors and newcomers to our stage delivered a well-received, artistic and critically acclaimed success that attracted an audience of well over 1,500 people – our biggest seller of the season,  mirroring Scrooge from the previous season! Clearly there is a demand for the musical offering, although experience suggests that currently the mainstream rather than rock musical are the biggest crowd-pullers.

The 2015/16 season saw ongoing change at the Loft and served to underline that we will need to match output to resources and deliver an ever more flexible programme if we are to offer more choice to the citizens of Leamington Spa. And talking of resources, shows – particularly the big ones such as Sweeney Todd and the forthcoming Oliver! – don’t happen without superb input and support from our backstage teams, the theatre’s engine room. The Theatre is indebted to you all for your ongoing efforts.

We opened our 2016/17 season with the launch of our new Youth Theatre, Act One, and no less than six visiting productions, as we welcomed firstly  Made in 48 Hours, who broke their own box office record and saw £1,700 paid to their chosen charity. This was followed by our neighbours from Spencer Yard, Heartbreak Productions, who concluded their national tours of Shakespeare’s The Tempest, the original murder-mystery Murder on the Terrace, Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest and David Walliams’ Ratburger, with five well-received performances in the Main House. This was quickly followed by two  performances of the Criterion Theatre’s production of Bette and Joan in the Studio. Variety in abundance!

Although most of our 2016/17 season was announced before the break, I am delighted to announce the following additions to our programme. Firstly, Tell Tale Productions return to the Main House in January with their own, and very topical,  production of Austerity Games. Tom O’Connor will direct Dawn King’s play of mystery, Foxfinder, in the Studio in early April, with David Fletcher making a return to the director’s chair later that month when he directs Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest. I am also delighted to announce that Ladies in Lavender has now been rescheduled for early June, with Spa Theatre Juniors returning the following week. Last, and by no means least, we welcome a new  director to the Loft Theatre, Rachel Adams (last seen in Three Sisters). She will close the season with a play soon to be announced. Busy times! Please see the website and elsewhere in this programme for further details of all these shows and more.

Next up in the director’s chair, we welcome back a returning William Wilkinson with his production of John Osborne’s modern classic The Entertainer, which will be followed up in early November by the GreenMatthews team who commemorate the 100th Anniversary of the Great War with their musical tribute The Men Who Marched Away.

In closing, please allow me to remind you that you are all invited to our new season launch party on 1 October – hope to see you there!

Tim Willis