Theatre on the Coast returns to Southwold this summer

Liz Cook, Sally Owen, Matthew Townshend, Sam Culwick, David Hermon - Theatre on the Coast in Southwo

Liz Cook, Sally Owen, Matthew Townshend, Sam Culwick, David Hermon, public fundraising has saved Theatre on the Coast in Southwold - Credit: Archant

Public subscription has saved a long-established Suffolk institution – summer theatre in Southwold – from having to close its doors this year.

Last year’s Covid lockdown seriously dented the finances of Theatre on the Coast and for a while it looked as if this year’s season of plays may have to be postponed.

However, the season now looks set to go ahead after the local community rallied round and donated to a crowd-funding appeal. 

This year’s run of plays will be staged at the Southwold Arts Centre from July 21 to September 4.

The plays that will make up this year’s season are Cleo, Camping, Emmanuelle and Dick by Terry Johnson, and the National Theatre’s Olivier award-winning comedy which explored the affair between Sid James and Barbara Windsor (July 21-31).

The Theatre on the Coast patron Vicki Michelle will star in Hello Norma Jeane, by Dylan Costello, the story of an Essex care home resident who escapes and flies to Hollywood with a secret – she is Marilyn Monroe (August 11-21) and the season ends with a musical revue Tomfoolery, a tribute to humourist Tom Lehrer – a maths professor with attitude and a way with words (August 25-September 4).

During August, Theatre on the Coast will also be staging a community production of Treasure Island at various outdoor locations in the area and are looking for people to take part, aged 10 upwards.

Theatre on the Coast is coming to Southwold A scene from Hobson's Choice which is in the opening se

Theatre on the Coast provides classic plays in Southwold during the summer. A scene from a previous production of Hobson's Choice - Credit: Archant

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Artistic director Matthew Townshend is thrilled that the season has been saved and is touched that live theatre still means so much to the local people.

He said: “An annual summer theatre season has been running in Suffolk for more than 80 years. Theatre on the Coast, previously known as Suffolk Summer Theatre, has been entertaining audiences at Southwold Arts Centre every summer since 1937.

“We’re absolutely astounded by our community’s generosity and support of Theatre on the Coast. We cannot thank you all enough.

“It proves beyond doubt that theatre audiences are hungry for the return of live performance, back on stage in the theatres that they know and love.”

A three-week CrowdFunder campaign was launched during March with the aim of raising £6,000. That target was smashed and the campaign raised £8,000 by the end of the appeal.

More than 140 people contributed to the campaign, including writer and broadcaster Christine Webber who fondly remembers her time in Southwold:

“My association with the theatre in Southwold goes back a long way, to a time when I appeared in the season myself in both 1974 and 1975.

“It must always continue. Quite apart from everything else, so many artists began their careers in Southwold.”

Mr Townshend said that provided the Government roadmap out of lockdown continues as planned then Southwold residents and visitors will be able to see theatre back on stage with appropriate safety measures in place for audiences.

Booking is likely to open in May.

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