For theatre... online, non-professional, amateur
Ariel Company Theatre Triumphs Back on Stage

Ariel Company Theatre Triumphs Back on Stage

All photos: Stephen Candy

By R. Huntingdon

In a year, or two, that has had a significant impact on the industry, I took my seat with excited trepidation, after what seemed an age since I had enjoyed any live entertainment. The front cover of the programme shares ‘Welcome back to Junior Musicality 2021’, and I am reminded that the children and young adults about to enter on stage have not performed to an audience since early 2020. If I felt nervous for them, they must be feeling it tenfold.

But, by goodness you would not have known it! The 70+ cast hit us with a bang, in perfect harmony, for the Newsies opening medley, strong, confident and ready to show the audience what we had all been longing for, pure musical theatre indulgence. As the first act progressed, I had to pinch myself to remind me this was not a show, rehearsed and fine tuned for months. The cast, aged between 8 and 18 years old, had put this together in just five days and credit must go to all of the performers and production team for the high standards achieved.

With over 33 brilliant, fully harmonised and choreographed numbers, it would simply be too difficult to cover all of them, but particular highlights include 38 Planes from Come from AwayRight Hand Man from Something RottenMy New Philosophy from You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown and Run Freedom Run from Urinetown. The younger performers impressed with their energy and precise moves in Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious from Mary Poppins and had the house roaring with laughter with their brilliant characterisation in Life’s a Happy Song from The Muppets. I try to avoid picking out individuals, as every performer contributed so well, however I am compelled to mention Lara Nunns for her beautifully sung and played So Big/So Small from Dear Evan Hansen and Sophie Williams’ With You from Ghost. Both of which had me in tears. This was remedied by the hilarious characterisation of Noah Dawson as Beetlejuice in That Beautiful Sound and the whole cast in their foot tapping, life affirming rendition of the Rocketman finale, which sent us away joyous and ready to watch it all over again.

Sadly, I’ll have to wait for the next Ariel production but, at last, it might be something we don’t have to wait quite so long for again.

An outstanding job by all involved, thank you for sharing it with me.

Post-COVID Re-Opening of Our Theatres – Little Theatre Guild

Post-COVID Re-Opening of Our Theatres – Little Theatre Guild

By Eddie Redfern, Little Theatre Guild’s National Liaison Officer

Eddie Redfern

As we come out of lockdown and start to return to rehearsals and putting on plays, have you considered what effect the last 15 months has had on your members both Onstage, Backstage and Front of House? Have all volunteers and workers been fully briefed on the new COVID secure environment training and systems? Are you asking cast, crew, set builders, technicians and all volunteers to take regular lateral flow tests, during rehearsals and performances? These are free and available from Pharmacies or direct from the NHS.  Has everyone been briefed that ‘The Show Must Go On’ syndrome is no longer a realistic and valid reason for turning up if they have any COVID symptoms, irrespective of their role?

Onstage and Backstage:

We might recognise that some cast members will be apprehensive about returning and rehearsing. But have we considered the lack of muscle memory for speaking out loud and projecting their voices. If you don’t do it already in rehearsals, is it worth doing vocal warm-ups and some warm-up exercises to get our actors rehearsal ready? This will assist them to get back to full performance readiness.

What about our set builders, the majority of whom are retired and have not built any sets for 15 months? I know at my own theatre the team dismantling the previous, unused set, was knackered far sooner than they expected. Again lack of exercise and muscle memory; do they need longer to build the set than 15 months ago? Have they been reminded of the health and Safety requirements? Have they had any refresher training on use of equipment, for example electric saws.

Has the Stage Manager and crew been briefed on COVID secure working, are they fit enough to move props and scenery. Are props being sanitized before and after use? Do they need additional assistance to get back to normal? What about our lighting and sound technicians. Have they been reminded of health and safety practices, especially lighting technicians who may not have been up high ladders for 15 months or more.

Front of House:

In this I include FoH manager, Stewards, Bar staff, Box Office and Tea and Coffee teams. Are they comfortable to return? Are they comfortable with the COVID secure procedures, with the likelihood of additional cleaning requirements, such as door handles and touch points once audience are in the auditorium? Have the bar staff been briefed to minimize the handling of glasses and increased hand sanitation during bar service? Is the preparation and service of ‘interval drinks’ any different? Box Office, have you moved to electronic ticketing? How will you manage manual tickets to avoid excess handling? Have you placed a screen between Box Office and customers, if you did not already have one? (My own theatre has installed a bank-style two-way communications system, and electronic ticketing. This stops people putting their heads through the box office hatch!!). Have you amended your first-aid procedures to ensure safety of both first aiders and the person needing assistance?

Is your theatre really covid secure?

Have you ensured additional ventilation? Have you adjusted your cleaning routine, with a higher frequency, or level of cleaning? Have you taken steps to mitigate contamination of auditorium seating? Do you have one-way systems in place, for as long as they are needed within the regulations? How are you ensuring dressing rooms, green room and kitchen areas backstage are clean?

Finally, I look forward to hearing how you have all managed as you re-open and pray that your audiences return in droves, so that we can do what we do best and produce live, entertaining, educational drama and theatre!





The star line up has been confirmed for the first concert of the series for Monday Night at the Apollo – which will be performed in front of a socially distanced audience at the Apollo Theatre on Shaftesbury Avenue on Monday 24 May, and simultaneously live-streamed to viewers at home via the theatre discovery platform Thespie, which is dedicated to bringing the best live and recorded theatre to audiences around the world.

Aimie Atkinson (Six, Pretty Woman), Cassidy Janson (&Juliet, Beautiful), Lucie Jones (Waitress, Rent), Cedric Neal (Chess, Mowtown the Musical) and Julian Ovenden (South Pacific, Downton Abbey) will join on-stage for an intimate night of music and theatrical chat, featuring ovation worthy performances of songs from their favourite genres. Host Greg Barnett (Miss Littlewood, Swallows and Amazons) invites his audience behind the curtain to catch these castmates as you’ve never seen them before. Sharing their most cherished memories and experiences from their careers, alongside performances of music personal to them, West End royalty celebrate the craft and industry they’ve so dearly missed.

Monday Night at the Apollo has been conceived of to support the theatre industry, and a percentage of profits will be donated to Acting for Others, an organisation made up of 14 individual theatrical charities.

Tickets are on sale now for all three concerts: Monday 24 May, Monday 14 June and Monday 5 July. The producers will continue to review each date as it approaches and react according to government guidelines at the time. Line ups for the second and third concerts will be announced soon.

Producers Greg Barnett and Hugh Summers said, “We’re excited to be announcing the first of our all-star line-ups for ‘Monday Night At The Apollo’.  We have five of British Theatre’s best performers joining us for this night to celebrate the re-opening of our wonderful industry and we simply cannot wait to be out on stage performing in front of a live audience. We are thrilled that all three performances will also still be live-streamed to viewers at home via The industry faces huge challenges in its recovery and we still hope to be able to raise funds for the charity ‘Acting For Others’ to support the thousands of freelancers who continue to be hit hardest as our sector begins to slowly reawaken. Theatre and its audiences know how vital it will be to support each other on the road to recovery and in these seemingly crucial final months, we ask your support, kindness, and most of all your theatrical presence, as we embark on our journey back to the stage. Public health and the safety of our audiences are still our utmost priority and the performances will adhere to the current government guidelines.”

This concert series is musically directed by George Dyer, and produced by Greg Barnett and Hugh Summers for Wild Mountain Productions Ltd.

Janie Dee to star in new digital production of Terence Rattigan’s ‘All On Her Own’

Janie Dee to star in new digital production of Terence Rattigan’s ‘All On Her Own’

Jack Maple & Brian Zeilinger-Goode for MZG Theatre Productions will produce a brand new digital production of Terence Rattigan’s one-woman play, All On Her Own, starring award-winning actress Janie Dee and directed by Alastair Knights, with Jack McCann as assistant director and original music by Lindsey Miller. The show will be available to stream for eight performances only via from 16 to 21 February 2021. More information about the production is available at or the direct link

A powerfully atmospheric one-woman play, All On Her Own tells the story of Rosemary who, alone at midnight in London, has a secret burden to share that is both heartbreaking and sinister.

The play began life as a piece for television, broadcast on BBC2 on 25 September 1968.  It was first performed on stage at the Overground Theatre, Kingston, Surrey, in October 1974 and was most recently seen at the Garrick Theatre in April 2015 starring Zoe Wanamaker as part of the Kenneth Branagh Season.

Terence Rattigan is one of Britain’s greatest playwrights.  His many successful plays include French Without TearsAfter the DanceFlare Path, Man and BoyThe Winslow BoyThe Browning VersionHarlequinadeThe Deep Blue SeaSeparate Tables, In Praise of Love and Cause Célèbre.  Sir Terence Rattigan died in 1977.  Royalties from this and other Rattigan works benefit Denville Hall and the King George V Fund for Actors and Actresses.

Janie Dee’s much celebrated theatre work includes The Boyfriend (Menier Chocolate Factory); FolliesWomen of Troy and Carousel (Olivier Award) at the National Theatre; Antony and Cleopatra (Hollywood Bowl and Barbican), A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Russia and Asia tour) and All’s Well That Ends Well for Shakespeare’s Globe; Hello, Dolly! (TMA UK Theatre Award) and The King and I at Curve Leicester; My One and Only (also West End), A Month In The Country and Three Sisters at Chichester; Noises Off at the Old Vic and in the West End; Hand To GodBlithe SpiritDonkey’s Years and Calendar Girls in the West End.  Janie won the three most prestigious awards in British Theatre – the Olivier Award, the Evening Standard Award and Critics’ Circle Award – for Best Actress in a Play, as well as the Obie and Theatre World Best Newcomer Award in New York, for her hilarious and heartbreaking performance as Jacie Triplethree in Alan Ayckbourn’s Comic Potential.  Janie numerous screen credits include Chimerica, Love Hurts and House of Cards, and she has appeared alongside Colin Firth in Harold Pinter’s Celebration for Channel 4, opposite Martin Shaw in P.D.James’s Death in Holy Orders and The Murder Room, as Zac Efron’s mother, Mrs Samuels, in Me and Orson Wells, and as Jan Clements in the feature film Official Secrets with Keira Knightley and Ralph Fiennes.

Alastair Knights’s theatre credits Include A Little Night Music (Opera Holland Park), Sitting (Hong Kong ArtisTree), Beautiful: The Carole King Musical (UK Tour), The Rise and Fall of Little Voice, The Spitfire Grill (Union Theatre – BroadwayWorld Award for Best New Production of a Musical), Stephen Sondheim’s Putting it Together (St. James Theatre), Dream Queen (Shakespeare’s Globe) and My Fair Lady (60th Anniversary Concert).  He also directed The Elaine Page Show for Sky Arts.  Alastair is the founder and curator of RE:act, the new writing and artist development initiative that provides a regular platform for the work of emerging theatre-makers.

All On Her Own is produced by arrangement with The Terence Rattigan Charitable Trust with thanks to Alan Brodie Representation. For further information visit and


Performances: 16 to 20 February at 7.30pm, 19 February at 9pm, 20 February at 2.30pm & 21 February at 5pm

Running time: approximately 25 minutes

Ticket pricing: £8 + booking fee

For tickets and to stream, visit

For more information about the production, visit



©Rah Petherbridge Photography

Previously announced to run until 17th February, the Olivier nominated creators of Alice’s Adventures Underground, Les Enfant Terribles are delighted to announce a further three weeks for their innovative and immersive online adventure that blurs the lines between theatre, gaming, escape room and board game. Sherlock Holmes: An Online Adventure. “The Case of the Hung Parliament” will now run from 27th January to 10th March 2021. Public or private shows are available to purchase here.

Sherlock Holmes:  An Online Adventure

“The Case of the Hung Parliament”

The Home Secretary, The Foreign Secretary and the Lord Chamberlain, have all been found hanging, in their own chambers. Each victim died on their birthday, and on that day had received a card with a mysterious quote written in it. But what does this mean? Where’s Sherlock? And what will you do next with 75 minutes left to solve the case before the murderer strikes again?

In collaboration with virtual reality company LIVR and suitable for 12+, Les Enfants Terribles are utilising the last 15 years’ experience of creating live immersive shows and expanding their repertoire with this online ‘whodunnit’ which will invite audiences alongside live actors to follow in the footsteps of the great detective himself as they encounter live performances, immersive 360 technology and more than 100 clues to discover and solve.

Don the deerstalker and become Baker Street’s finest detective. Travel back to Victorian London and delve into the world of Sherlock Holmes where powers of deduction will be required to solve the case before time runs out. As the newest recruits of Scotland Yard, audiences will have to make their own conclusions and decisions by interviewing suspects, reading reports, searching for hidden clues and researching old facts.

Written by Oliver Lansley and Anthony Spargo with inspiration taken from the 2016 live show The Games’ Afoot, this online, multi-sensory and intricate world will premiere on 27th January with tickets on sale now.

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Les Enfants Terribles present:

Sherlock Holmes:  An online Adventure.  The case of the Hung Parliament

27 January – 10 March 2021

Ticket Prices:

Public Shows £15pp.

Book a private show for £90 and play with up to 6 players.

Public and Private shows available. Public shows (play with other members of the public) private shows (tickets can be purchased for the whole slot for one group).

A variety of slots are available – please check the website for availability.

Running time is approximately 1 hour 20 minutes.

Written by: Oliver Lansley and Anthony Spargo

Directed by: Oliver Lansley and James Seager

Powered by:  LIVR

Costume design by: Samuel Wyer



Image: L-R Martin Shaw & Jenny Seagrove -Love Letters – Theatre Royal Haymarket – Photos by Paul Coltas

Just eighteen hours after the end of the UK’s current lockdown, Bill Kenwright presents MARTIN SHAW and JENNY SEAGROVE in A.R. GURNEY’s Love Letters, directed by ROY MARSDEN, at the Theatre Royal Haymarket.

The play opened on 3 December 2020, the first day after the Prime Minister decreed that lockdown would end.

This production of Love Letters was previewed at Theatre Royal, Windsor as part of its five-week, five-day, five-play season.

“The two stars shine, while A.R. Gurney’s already bittersweet play here acquires an extra, decidedly Covid-era piquancy”
Dominic Cavendish Daily Telegraph 15 October 2020


Love Letters first opened in New York in 1989 and was a finalist in the 1990 Pulitzer Prize for Drama. Gaining huge popularity, it has since played in theatres across the globe, attracting both real-life and on-screen couples to star as the protagonists. The last Broadway production in 2014 featured Mia Farrow and Brian Dennehy.

When the young Andrew Makepeace Ladd III accepts an invitation to Melissa Gardner’s birthday party, Melissa writes him a thank you note… and a unique romantic friendship and delicately warm correspondence destined to last for almost half a century is born.

 Love Letters is the tender, tragi-comic story of the shared nostalgia, missed opportunities, and deep closeness of two lifelong, complicated friends. A play that could have been written for the Covid era about two people physically separated yet brought together by candid communication and shared confidences, a romance blossoming across the miles and the years.


The hugely popular TV series Judge John Deed ended its sixth and final series with one of TV’s most-watched cliff-hangers, keeping nine million TV viewers on tenterhooks as on-off lovers Judge John Deed (Martin Shaw) and barrister Jo Mills (Jenny Seagrove) were left in an empty wedding chapel.

Since then Judge John Deed has consistently topped polls of TV shows viewers most want to return.

Now Shaw and Seagrove are together again, live on stage, in a heart-warming love story…

In the interim, both have made several West End theatre appearances and Shaw has starred in several series as Inspector George Gently, while Seagrove has completed big screen appearances in Another Mother’s Son and Off the Rails.

Martin Shaw’s many West End successes include: Robert Bolt’s A Man For All Seasons and Oscar Wilde’s An Ideal Husband (both Theatre Royal Haymarket), Alan Bleasdale’s Are You Lonesome Tonight, Clifford Odets’ The Country Girl, Reginald Rose’s Twelve Angry Men and most recently (and relevantly) as a tortured American presidential candidate in Gore Vidal’s The Best Man.

Jenny Seagrove last starred at the Haymarket in Alan Ayckbourn’s How The Other Half Loves and her many West End productions include Tennessee Williams’ Night of the Iguana, David Rabe’s Hurly Burly, David Hare’s The Secret Rapture, Noël Coward’s Present Laughter and Somerset Maugham’s The Letter.

Bill Kenwright presents…

LOVE LETTERS written by A.R. Gurney | Directed by Roy Marsden

Starring Martin Shaw and Jenny Seagrove

At the Theatre Royal Haymarket, London SW1Y 4HT

From 3 December 2020 – 7 February 2021

Box office telephone: 020 7930 8800

Box office website:

Performance schedule:

Wednesday 7.30pm | Thursday 2.30pm and 7.30pm | Friday 7.30pm | Saturday 2.30pm & 7.30pm | Sunday 2.00pm and 5.30pm

Running Time: 1hr 50mins (including interval)

Ticket prices: £47, £37, £32, £22, (Premiums £67)

Covid Secure: The Theatre Royal, Haymarket will be operating under current DCMS guidelines (including the wearing of face masks and social distancing) in order to ensure that customers can enjoy their visit in a safe and comfortable environment. Full information will be provided with tickets.

Family-run pub theatre The Old Red Lion announces new reopening season

Family-run pub theatre The Old Red Lion announces new reopening season

Acclaimed family-run pub theatre The Old Red Lion will reopen its doors this winter with an exciting new theatrical season, once again providing quality entertainment and hospitality to North London. Partnering with another local family business, Bombay Burrito, the pub will provide ‘substantial’ meals to patrons in line with the latest government regulations.

Reflecting on the eventful year, the post-lockdown season of work will offer a streamlined programme of eclectic new writing, providing a live platform for shows that were denied their run at the Edinburgh Fringe this summer, or were created during lockdown. With financial aid from the Arts Council England Cultural Recovery Fund, the venue is now able to welcome back theatre makers and audiences as it continues to champion fringe theatre.

Alongside the already announced digital Christmas production December written by The Old Red Lion’s Artistic Director Alexander Knott, the season will include: the world premiere of David Shopland (My Father The Tantric Masseur; Soho Theatre) and Shereen Roushbaiani’s (Doctors, BBC) Saving Britney, a hilariously heart-breaking take on celebrity obsession and nostalgia to the backdrop of the #FreeBritney movement; John Berry’s dark comedy Happenings about the lengths we’ll go to live when nothing is happening; and Stephanie Dickson’s BARK, a thought-provoking look at terminal illness and finding your place in the world.

Damien Devine, Landlord and Executive Director, comments, “I’m delighted to finally be fully re-opening the Old Red Lion after a difficult few months for us, and the hospitality industry as a whole. The whole family has pulled together to make this possible, and I’m proud of the way we have adapted to the ever-changing challenges of keeping the venue COVID secure. We look forward to welcoming the public back in time for the festive season, and really encourage everyone to support independent and family-run pubs like us during the critical Christmas period.”

Managing Director Helen Devine adds, “We are particularly grateful to be in receipt of a grant from the Arts Council Culture Recovery Fund to enable us to open the theatre for the first time since March. We’re excited to welcome theatre-makers and audiences back to the ORL, with a season of live shows in our socially-distanced auditorium as well as our first ever online production.”

To remain Covid-Secure, and ensure social distancing is adhered to, The Old Red Lion, has reconfigured the theatre space to accommodate live audiences. The theatre will run with a reduced capacity of 20 people, offering two performances each evening (6pm and 8.30pm). Social distancing will be in effect throughout the venue, with the use of facemasks and the NHS check-in app as mandatory requirements.

Having helmed the pub for 21 years, the Devine family are keen to ensure a safe reopening and support the local community with their theatre and sports offerings, a must for any Norwich City fans due to the pubs close affiliation with the Capital Canaries. Alongside the implementation of food service, the theatre space can now also be transformed into a bookable socially distanced sports lounge to screen large gaming events. The pub also features two outdoor seating areas with TVs, available for bookings of groups of six from mixed households. The year has been devastating for the hospitality sector, but Damien Devine, Landlord and Executive Director, has rallied his family to make the reopening possible.

The rest of The Old Red Lion’s theatre season includes Big Fan’s Campfire, Matthew Gouldesbrough’s Truth/Reconciliation, and Adam Elliott and Olivier Malam’s The Count of Monte Cristo as follows:

Campfire (produced by Big Fan)
Written by Big Fan
Friday 18th and Monday 21st December
The Campfire is an improvised comedy-horror show. We are to horror what darts is to sport and what Ed Sheeran is to grime. So, come join us around our Christmas Campfire as we improvise some of the spookiest nonsense you’ve ever seen since Jennifer Aniston’s appearance in The Leprechaun 2.

BARK (produced by Joseph Blake)
Written by Stephanie Dickson
Thursday 17th and Saturday 19th December
Helen and Grace, two women who meet in the TV room of a hospital, become unlikely but firm friends. With Christmas coming up, Helen plans something special, only for the night to fall into ruin when she discovers something about her new friend that will change everything.
As they battle their illnesses and try to understand their place in the world, they face the ultimate question: What does it mean to live?

December (produced by Bag of Beard)
Written by Alexander Knott
Sunday 20th December – Tuesday 5th January 2021
December, written by Alexander Knott, is inspired by the character of Bob Cratchitt in A Christmas Carol and had been due to run as a live production over the festive season. The production has now been reimagined for an online audience, with the show being filmed in and around the Old Red Lion Theatre Auditorium. A split of profits will be donated to homelessness charity Hackney Winter Night Shelter.

Truth/Reconciliation (produced by Elegy)
Written by Matthew Gouldesbrough
Monday 28th – Wednesday 30th December
Two people come apart.
Two opposing stories.
They can’t both be true, right?
Performed by a real-life couple, ’Truth/Reconciliation’ is a reflective show about the nature of truth, the need to tell stories and theatre itself.

Happenings (produced by Printers Playhouse)
Written by John Berry
Monday 4th – Friday 8th January 2021
In these tough times, Life’s a struggle. There are unfulfilled expectations. Humdrum existences needing an injection of life. Millions wishing something would happen to them, to fill the void in their lives. Clearly everyone “else” is happy. Online celebrations and holiday pics prove it. Jane can’t take it anymore. She needs that something, anything! But how far is she willing to go to get it? Jo didn’t understand. Jo is happy to just get along. Having normal couple conversations and disagreements. Why do they see the world so differently? Maybe “Mad Fran” has the answer. She at least has the life experience that would suggest she could help.

Saving Britney (produced by Fake Escape)
Written by David Shopland with Shereen Roushbaiani
Wednesday 13th – Saturday 16th January 2021
She was on national TV by the time she was seven. She was an international superstar by sixteen. By 25 she was committed to a mental institution. For Millennials like Jean, they grew up with Britney Spears. They listened to her music. They watched her movies. She was their idol. Over the course of an hour we see the iconic star from Jean’s perspective; why the Princess of Pop influenced her life and how the connections shared between them eventually lead Jean to an unbelievable moment of self-discovery.
Inspired by the #FreeBritney movement, Saving Britney is a hilarious and heartbreaking look at celebrity obsession, sexuality and growing up in the early noughties.

The Count of Monte Cristo (produced by Rather Nifty)
Written by Adam Elliot and Oliver Malam
Tuesday 26th – Saturday 31st January 2020
Three intrepid actors embark on an ambitious attempt to bring to life the classic novel, The
Count of Monte Cristo, by Alexandre Dumas (author of The Count of Monte Cristo, by Alexandre Dumas). Adventure, intrigue, romance and revenge. Like Oceans 11 but live, onstage and with one fewer George Clooneys. Our story starts in 1815 (Ancient France). Employee of the month and all-round nice guy, Edmond Dantes, is wrongfully imprisoned, betrayed by those closest to him. After years of suffering, hidden away in an island prison, he escapes and methodically sets a web of intricate traps with which to take his vengeance. Who will suffer, who will be spared? Will Dantes realise his revenge or will it consume him?

All shows will be at 6pm and 8.30pm on their respective dates, bar December which is viewable online on-demand.
The Old Red Lion, 418 St John St, Islington, London EC1V 4NJ
The nearest underground station is Angel (Northern Line) which is a short walk from the venue.
Tickets are available to book online at Prices vary.
Pub bookings Tables can be booked by email, or by phone, 020 7837 7816
Twitter: @ORLTheatre

Your invitation to visit The Secret Garden

Your invitation to visit The Secret Garden

The Company of Ten’s Christmas production is a spell-binding retelling of the Frances Hodgson Burnett classic The Secret Garden, a tale of transformation through the power of friendship.

Young Mary Lennox is orphaned in India and goes to stay with her uncle in Yorkshire. She doesn’t fit in to her new surroundings, but then she meets Dickon, whose life revolves around nature. Together the two grow closer and discover a secret garden – and as the garden transforms so do the lives of Mary, her uncle and her invalid cousin, and the power of new life casts its blessing over everyone.

According to the Sunday Independent, ‘Neil Duffield’s adaptation is as faithful as it is light in touch… there is joy here, there is hope, and there is a startling level of pure magical transcendence… An absolute ‘must see’.’ The Stage said that it ‘holds an audience of children spellbound’.

In other words, it’s the perfect family show for Christmas!

Director Katherine Barry is delighted to be bringing such a timeless classic to the Abbey Theatre stage. “If there was ever a time when we all needed a little bit of Christmas magic in our lives it is now. I love the story of The Secret Garden with its emphasis on making things better and beautiful through the transformative power of friendship and care.

“My cast of six players and I spent the first few weeks rehearsing via Zoom which was a new one for me. Everyone has worked tremendously hard and they have adapted to the new way of doing things brilliantly. We have been on the stage for a couple of weeks now and really enjoy the freedom that brings. We can’t wait to share our show with audiences whether in the theatre or at home watching us via the internet.

“The message of The Secret Garden is a pertinent one for us today, I think. Everyone has had a lot to deal with over the past year and I wouldn’t blame anyone for feeling a little gloomy. But caring for each other and working together will create a better world and a brighter future.”

Performances take place on the Abbey Theatre mainstage from Saturday 19 – Wednesday 30 December 2020 at various time. To book tickets please go to or call the box office on 01727 857861. Realises a Dream Realises a Dream

THEATRES have been hard hit by Covid-19, but a freelance stage manager has used the pandemic to realise her dream.

With playhouses closed up and down the country, Katie Patrick, from Hockley, Essex, decided to set up her own company, And the fruits of her labours are due to come to fruition this month when Hansel and Gretel’s Camping Adventure opens.

As well as setting up the company, Katie has also written and directed the show. “It’s something that I’ve always wanted to do,” she explained. “I have been a freelance stage manager for several for several years and, unfortunately with Covid-19, all my work I had lined up this has now been cancelled. “During lockdown I thought this is the time for me to try my own project. It gave me time to decide what was going to be, to write the work and decide how I was going to produce it. “I used the negative of the lockdown and tried to turn it into a positive, to use my downtime more productively in creating the company.”

Katie knew she wanted to produce a family show at Christmas and decided a modern take on the Brothers Grimm’s fairy tale Hansel and Gretel would be ideal. She overcame her concerns about writing to pen the script and held auditions before casting Francesca Simons as Gretel and Amber Satchwell as Helga, the camp leader, and the Old Lady; Hansel is played by a teddy bear. Rehearsals started on Zoom before the end of the first lockdown meant they company could meet in person, while ensuring all the Government’s pandemic rules were observed.

One problem was those regulations meant there could be no singing, so another East 15 student, Serena Fyvie, wrote some poetry instead. Katie also got advice from friends and contacts in the theatre world, including Ivan Wilkinson, as things took shape. She also recruited theatre student Jamie Mather as the production’s technician. Now the company is hoping to stage the show between December 18-24 at Hockley Public Hall, subject to Covid-19 restrictions, in front of a socially distanced audience.

“It’s been challenging, but we’ve made it work and we hope people will enjoy it,” added Katie, who is hoping to present the show at other venues in 2021.

For performance details and to book tickets, go to



The sequel to Southwell (Nottinghamshire) Theatre Club’s radio play podcast The Assassination of Robert Opray is now freely available to listen to on Soundcloud.

Titled Whatever Happened to Robert Opray?, we hope that the original half hour comedy drama engages the listener and raises a smile! The play continues after Carys has admitted poisoning Robert Opray, and that the poison works 100%. It does not, and Robert manages to summon aid after briefly regaining consciousness. Some of what follows takes place in a hinterland between reality and a zone outside the pearly gates. As with the first play, it was rehearsed on Zoom, then recorded using smartphones whilst wrapped up in non-crackle duvets with curtains drawn – and ticking clocks removed!’ During lockdown our sound engineer has come into his own and emerged as man of the match!

Southwell Theatre Club has never made an audio before, and the experience has been an interesting learning curve. We spend three months honing our characters before putting on a stage play, (and finishing learning our lines!) and I think because it was an audio, some of us thought we could just read our lines and it would be ok. But it took at least half a dozen Zoom rehearsals before it came to life, and gelled as a whole. One problem was that speech on stage tends to be slower than speech in an audio, and our director had to gee us all up, and requisition that vital ingredient – oooomph! And of course, the medium of Zoom is dissimilar to interacting with another character in the flesh.

This year we have had no income, but as we generally perform in our lovely town library, we don’t have a roof to maintain, and have few expenses, apart from insurance, and storage facilities for props. A good part of our income for the production of plays (licence, rehearsal space hire, venue hire, etc), comes from our annual winter murder mystery, put on over four or five nights in various venues, according to whichever group has commissioned it. We reckon we have another year before funds run out, but we’ve been in that situation before, and put ourselves out for hire for wholesale murder mysteries, and road shows. We have in-house writers who regularly write our murder mysteries, and our audio scripts were likewise produced in-house, to produce original comedy drama, and also to save expense.

With mass vaccination a rosy hue on the horizon, we look forward to being part of an active community again. Two of Chekhov’s one-act plays The Bear and The Proposal were in rehearsal when the shutters came down in March, and its director feels set in aspic.

We are on Facebook and also have a web page. It will be curious to perform live again.

We hope that you enjoy our radio plays. Play the podcast below or point your phone at the QR code.