Bury's Theatre Royal plans to reopen in May with classic crowd-pleaser

The Theatre Royal. Bury St Edmunds is opening on May 20 with a new production of Around The World in 80 Days

The Theatre Royal. Bury St Edmunds is opening on May 21 with a new production of Around The World in 80 Days - Credit: Theatre Royal

Theatre Royal Bury St Edmunds has announced it will re-open its doors at the end of May and will become the first theatre in Suffolk to welcome back audiences after lockdown.

After 12 months of closure due to Coronavirus restrictions, the theatre is springing back into life with a sparkling new version of one of the world’s great adventure stories, Around the World in 80 Days, directed by the theatre’s artistic director, Owen Calvert-Lyons and opening on Friday May 21. 

Audiences will follow dashing Victorian adventurer Phileas Fogg in this fast-paced comedy as he embarks on a journey across the globe, aiming to complete the feat in record time. A cast of three will play over 20 characters in this epic tale of adventure.

Owen Calvert-Lyons said that he is excited to welcome audiences into the theatre for the first time since he took up his post in June last year.  “When I was fortunate enough to join the Theatre Royal last summer I never anticipated that it would be almost a year before I would be putting productions on to the stage.  Yet here we are, after the most unbelievable year, preparing for reopening. Theatre Royal has at its heart a loyal and supportive audience who have stood shoulder-to-shoulder with us during the darkest of recent months and I cannot wait to throw open the doors and invite them in.”

Owen Calvert-Lyons who has been appointed as the new artistic director and CEO of the Theatre Royal,

Owen Calvert-Lyons who was appointed as the new artistic director last June will welcome audiences to his first play in May - Credit: Archant

The opening celebrations will continue with two special events. On Sunday May 23, there will be a rare chance to join acclaimed actors Robert & Philip Glenister for an entertaining evening of conversation about life, love, filming and theatre.

Then on Sunday May 30, internationally acclaimed, Coloratura Soprano, Christina Johnston will present an intimate evening of uplifting and iconic operatic and classical pieces accompanied by pianist Geoff Lavery. 

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Three further special fundraising events will follow.  June 20 will see political journalist, John Sergeant, joined by his friend Terry Waite CBE, for a fascinating and fun evening of conversation and on July 1 the theatre will welcome the hugely talented actor and raconteur Christopher Biggins on stage with one of his best mates, Birds of a Feather star, Lesley Joseph.  

To round off the season, The Daily Telegraph’s cartoonist Matt Pritchett MBE whose cartoons provide a consistently original take on the big news stories of the day will treat audiences to an insight into his world. 

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Owen has also put together a programme which reflects the theatre’s commitment to the local community.  


The Theatre Royal will continue to put local theatre companies at the heart of its programme - Credit: Archant

“Now, more than ever, it is important that we support the talent that Suffolk has to offer which is why we are proud to have so many productions which feature local people performing on our stage: Irving Stage Company and their musical production of Company; Bury St Edmunds Operatic & Dramatic Society and their production of Sherlock Holmes’ most spine-chilling mystery, The Hound of the Baskervilles; CTC Foundation College and their Class of 20/21 Graduate Showcase and Suffolk Young People’s Theatre who will transport us to the fantastical world of Dr. Seuss in the musical extravaganza – Seussical The Musical. And in June, Theatre Royal will host its first ever Digital Festival a celebration of Citizen Artists in our region.”

In line with Government guidelines the first few weeks of opening will be with socially distanced seating and a range of Covid-safe measures designed to give customers confidence in returning.  Owen’s priority is to make audiences feel comfortable.

"We’ve worked really hard over the last few months getting the theatre ready for audiences to return. Bubble Seating in the auditorium, one-way systems and dedicated entrances will give audience members lots of space.  

"An upgraded air-handling system, deep cleans and effective sanitisation will help to keep the virus at bay.  All being well, we hope to return to a full auditorium from June 22, if restrictions allow.  It’s still two months until we open so any changes or updates to restrictions will be adhered to but at the moment we are looking forward to a safe return.”

Prior to welcoming audiences back to the theatre in person, the theatre’s stage will play host to a live streamed performance, in partnership with Original Theatre Company, of Being Mr Wickham. Written and performed by Adrian Lukis, who starred in the renowned BBC TV adaptation of Pride & Prejudice alongside Jennifer Ehle and Colin Firth. Lukis will return to the role of Mr Wickham and set the record straight.  What really happened with Darcy?  What did he feel about Lizze? The three live streamed performances will be followed by a Q&A with Adrian Lukis.

The Spring/Summer 2021 programme also features some shows rescheduled from last year – comedian Greg Byron, Oddsocks Production of Comedy of Errors, fast-paced improv with Austentatious and comedy drama in the form of Alan Ayckbourn’s Absurd Person Singular.

Towards the end of the Summer Owen will be joined by creative learning manager Hayley Murrow as they co-direct the return of the popular Summer School production which, this year, will be Holes by Louis Sachar.  This multi-million bestselling novel is adapted for the stage by the author himself in this inventive and darkly humorous tale of crime and punishment—and redemption and will see a cast of young people on stage alongside professional actors.

At the same time as this wonderful programme of events, this year’s pantomime, Cinderella will also go back on sale having been rescheduled from last year.

The Box Office is available to help with any queries by emailing booking@theatreroyal.org and online booking opens on Friday March 26, 2021 at 10am.

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