Summer theatre returns to Aldeburgh’s Jubilee Hall with a Noel Coward classic
- Credit: Archant
Summer theatre is always popular in Suffolk. This year Aldeburgh has a new company that combines experience with fresh talent. We look at what will be entertaining audiences in the coming weeks
School's out, hopefully the sun's out - it's holiday time - and summer theatre time is returning to Aldeburgh and the Suffolk coast with a six-week season to appeal to all ages and audiences.
Since Suffolk Summer Theatres came to an end, last autumn, both local audiences and seasonal visitors, have been wondering whether the tradition of summer theatre had finally come to an end. The answer is not yet'.
Artistic director Richard Blaine, of Southwold and Aldeburgh Theatre, which has become the new management and production arm of Jill Freud's Southwold and Aldeburgh Theatre Trust, said that the actors, directors, designers, stage managers, wardrobe, costume, carpenters, crew, and production creatives, who for decades have formed an extended theatre family on the coast, are thrilled to be back
to entertain theatregoers during the summer months.
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The Freud family are maintaing their links with the project, as Jill and Emma Freud are both trustees, and Jill Freud is also patron.
Richard said: "We're here and we've been busy - and we're back. From the end of July to August 31 we'll be looking to entertain everyone at Aldeburgh's Jubilee Hall."
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He sais the company, comprising of onstage and backstage talent, will be made up of a mix of hardy summer theatre veterans and fresh talent.
"The highly experienced acting, production, and creative team, drawn from, and inspired by, the original Jill Freud and Company, is joining forces with new writers and directors, young, emerging local talents, guest artists and sister companies, to create a brand-new programme.
"Our inaugural production, Noel Coward's comic masterpiece Blithe Spirit, has just opened, to a full house, and rapturous reception, with the mayor declaring it "the most memorable and outstanding I've ever witnessed here", and our patron, Jill Freud, happily in accord.
Why a masterpiece? - Noel Coward himself called it "an improbable farce" - written in just five days, on holiday in Wales, it was his most successful West End and Broadway hit and it has everything. "As with Private Lives, there's the signature cat and dog, withering witty banter between man and wife - except in this case there are two wives.
"Like his script for Brief Encounter, it has a heart-breaking love-story at the heart of it and like the best of farces, it has lightning-paced physical comedy and mistaken identities - and then there's the unique, special ingredient; at least one real ghost - with the added sheer fun of eccentric, and, in our production, genuinely spooky and magical characters like the medium Madame Arcati.
"The play has become the zeitgeist classic of this summer, with Jennifer Saunders and Judi Dench both giving their Madame Arcati this year - so don't miss our razor-sharp and spring-heeled production, with its unique design and direction by award-winning Phil Clarke using the whole of the mighty Aldeburgh Jubilee Hall stage and auditorium."
Blithe Spirit bookends the summer season with comedy-thriller, Murder in Play, by Simon Brett, running in-between. Richard said that Simon is an enthusiastic supporter of the company. "He has created an absolute hidden gem and is also the creator of the Radio 4 Charles Paris series, starring Bill Nighy, so it will be very good indeed.
"We are also unveiling the first family/cildren's show in many a year The Jungle Book, by Tracey Power. This adaptation of Kipling's original story is a feast of storytelling, music, and physical theatre. It will be playing Saturday mornings at 11 am, and with a special "relaxed performance" on Sunday 25th August at 3pm."
Aldeburgh Summer Theatre breaks new ground this year with Open Stages showcasing the best in new writing, teaming up with sister companies Penny Rawlins Productions, Romany Theatre Company, and INK.
The Open Stages strand includes Camden Festival hit Pigeons, with Marlene Sideaway (Maureen from BAFTA-nominated BBC Sitcom "Mum") nationally acclaimed Romany Theatre's Bus Stop with Suffolk actor Joe Leat, and Kenneth Branagh Award-winning writer Jackie Carreira's Invisible Irene, the audience-choice hit of the 2019 INK Festival tour and London transfer.
"We also feature Sunday evenings of Wine Verse and Song, next weekend we have the uplifting and inspiring Rogue Shanty Buoys with surprise guests and fundraising draw for Aldeburgh RNLI.
"From August 6th to 9th there is Siren Festival, a unique programme of amazing immersive performances and experiential events from home-grown environmentalists Incredible Oceans and local community volunteers."
Richard said that it was fitting that the summer theatre was based at Aldeburgh's Jubilee Hall, where Britten and Pears revolutionised English opera, and they would like it to become, once again, the premier arts and entertainment venue on the East Anglian coast.
Blithe Spirit runs until August 3 and then again from August 27-31. The Jungle Book runs on Saturdays August 3, 10, 17, 31 and Sunday August 25 and Murder in Play runs from August 13-24. Book tickets and find more information online at southwoldandaldeburghtheatre.co.uk