Theatre centenary celebrations to continue with performances

The current owner of the Riverside Theatre, Stuart Saunders and Tina Wiseman.

The current owner of the Riverside Theatre, Stuart Saunders and Tina Wiseman.

A Suffolk cinema’s centenary celebrations are set to continue this weekend with a specially commissioned comedy curtain-raiser.

Events for the 100th anniversary of Woodbridge’s Riverside Theatre kicked off last month with an appearance from Hollywood director Paul Greengrass, who dropped by for a showing of his film Captain Phillips, followed by a live Q&A.

This Saturday evening, attention turns from the screen to the stage, as the Deben Players present two comedy sketches, each set in landmark years for the theatre.

Written by the amateur dramatic group’s George Holmes, the first sketch is entitled Electric and set in a typical turn of the last century drawing room with a cast of 10, including the slightly unhinged Papa, Fidget the Butler, ‘upper class twit’ Giles, Fanny the feisty maid, and the daughter of the house, Fay.

Also penned by Mr Holmes, 100 Years On unfolds in a typical turn of this century family kitchen with a cast of 10, including youngster, Gary, with his Mohican hair style, piercings and tattoos, goth girl Amy, and Gran, who is equally as mad as Papa in Electric.

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Between performances will be a screening of Charlie Chaplin’s The Knockout – previously shown during the first week of The Riverside’s opening in 1915.

The Deben Players were formed in 1964 and made the Riverside Theatre their home for more than 40 years, before moving to the Seckford Theatre, in the grounds of Woodbridge School, in 2006.

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On Sunday, Woodbridge Excelsior Band, which has existed in the town even longer than the theatre, since 1846, will give a concert performance from 2pm.

A week later, silent film accompanist Neil Brand will provide musical accompaniment for Laurel and Hardy in Big Business and Buster Keaton in The General. The writer and composer has been playing along to silent films for almost 30 years, regularly in London at the Barbican and British Film Institute, throughout the UK, and at film festivals and special events around the world. He has also written the title music and scores for TV documentaries and has twice toured nationally with comedian Paul Merton.

On Saturday, September 26, The Nancy Blackett Trust will screen the 40th anniversary edition of 1974 film Swallows and Amazons, starring Virginia McKenna, with a personal appearance and Q&A by Sophie Neville, who played the character of Titty.

The Nancy Blackett yacht, once owned by the author Arthur Ransome, will be moored near The Riverside, while sailing dinghy, Swallow, will be on show outside the theatre.

A special logo, being used for all centenary publicity, has been designed for the 100th anniversary celebrations by pupils from Farlingaye High School. They also created a ceramic plaque in the same design, which will be going on the outside of the theatre and is being unveiled during a special ceremony on the day of the Swallows and Amazons screening.

Visit for full details of the centenary.

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