Region's smallest theatre to close

By David GreenTHE founder and artistic director of East Anglia's smallest professional theatre has spoken of his sadness over its closure.Tom Scott, who has directed 97 of the 146 in-house productions staged at Eye Theatre over the past 14 years, said the decision had become inevitable.

By David Green

THE founder and artistic director of East Anglia's smallest professional theatre has spoken of his sadness over its closure.

Tom Scott, who has directed 97 of the 146 in-house productions staged at Eye Theatre over the past 14 years, said the decision had become inevitable.

“I have struggled for the last couple of years in the face of, frankly, appalling box office figures to keep the theatre open. But I have finally had to admit defeat. We are simply not bringing in enough money to pay our way,” he added.


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Displaying a pioneering spirit, Mr Scott opened the 85-seat Eye Theatre, in the town's former Public Assembly Room, in 1991 and it was well supported in its early years.

However, audiences began to dwindle and he was eventually forced to reduce the number of more adventurous dramas in favour of comedies, which tended to attract more people.

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But even the plays of Alan Ayckbourn and other leading writers have not succeeded in halting the slide and, after the failure of attempts to sell the theatre as a going concern, the decision has been taken to close it.

Love Child, a play by Joanna Murray-Smith, will open on June 29 and its final performance on July 9 will signal the end of Eye Theatre as a performance venue.

Mr Scott said yesterday during a break in rehearsals that he was sad to have made such a decision, but there was no alternative.

“I have been warning for several years that bookings have not been high enough. Since 2003 that process has accelerated and there has been a very serious decline in box office figures,” he added.

No acceptable offer had been received for the theatre since it was put up for sale in February 2004.

An attempt to interest “friends” of the theatre in setting up a consortium to own and run the theatre had also failed.

Among the actors to have performed at Eye Theatre over the past 14 years are Nigel Harman, now playing Dennis in EastEnders, and Helen Fraser, Sylvie in ITV prison drama Bad Girls.

Mr Scott said he and his Philippine wife, Helen, had not decided where to go. The couple, currently living in rented accommodation, have sold their home in Diss and intend moving into the theatre building to live.

They also own a holiday home in Florida, the income for which has subsidised the theatre, and a property in the Philippines.

Mr Scott said he hoped to direct plays elsewhere and might try his hand at writing scripts, a long-held ambition.

“It is sad in one way that things have come to an end, but I see it as a new beginning. One thing is certain - I never want to own a theatre again, I no longer want that responsibility,” he added.

Drama classes for children will still go ahead at the theatre from July 25 to 29.

david.green@eadt.co.uk

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