Famous faces heading for Bury St Edmunds this June

Austentatious aims to create a new work by Jane Austen but they need the help of an audience. Photo:

Austentatious aims to create a new work by Jane Austen but first they need the help of an audience. - Credit: Theatre Royal Bury St Edmunds

With the Theatre Royal Bury St Edmunds now open and entertaining audiences again, following the success of Around the World in 80 Days, the theatre will next host an ambitious musical, Stephen Sondheim’s Company, presented by leading amateur group, the Irving Stage Company.

Stephen Sondheim is a challenging but rewarding writer for performers but for audiences he always delivers a thoughtful, entertaining show with plenty of wry comedy contained in a story laced with social commentary.

Rehearsals under way for the Irving Stage Company production of Company.PICTURE: Andy Abbott

Rehearsals under way for the Irving Stage Company production of Company. - Credit: Andy Abbott

First performed in 1970, Company tells the story of a group of friends in New York as they struggle with their own relationships while trying to find romance for their single friend Robert. This is a witty, sophisticated look at life and love, with standout musical numbers including: Being Alive, Side by Side by Side and Ladies Who Lunch. The original production and revivals have won multiple awards around the world, with the most recent London revival in 2018 securing a number of Olivier Awards.

Julie Merrick, of Irving Stage Company, said that Company has had a long road to the stage having been postponed twice as lockdown was lifted and re-imposed last year. Shesaid,

“Following the disappointment of having to cancel Chicago last year after so much hard work, we are excited to be coming back to our favourite stage at the Theatre Royal. 

“The pandemic has caused untold damage to the performing arts community and now we hope that in partnership with the Theatre Royal team, we can start to rebuild for the future. Company is a funny, engaging show with a great script and wonderful songs and we cannot wait to share it with our audience.”

The Irving show was cast through virtual auditions, and the 14 performers are rehearsing on internet platforms with director Jeremy Warbrick and musical director Nicola Brazier. The last weeks the cast have been able to meet up and rehearse in person.
Company is at the Theatre Royal, Bury St Edmunds from June 15-19. 

John Sergeant and Terry Waite will be in conversation

John Sergeant and Terry Waite will be in conversation helping to raise funds for the Theatre Royal, Bury St Edmunds - Credit: Theatre Royal, Bury St Edmunds

Then, on Sunday June 20, the Theatre Royal Bury St Edmunds will be presenting on of its special fundraising evenings featuring John Sergeant in conversation with Terry Waite CBE.
Television and radio journalist, John Sergeant is a familiar figure in the political arena and he aims to provide an insightful conversation with his friend Terry Waite CBE, the English humanitarian and author.

John Sergeant started his journalism career as a correspondent for the Liverpool Echo where he worked for three years before joining the BBC as a radio reporter in 1970. He joined the international desk, covering stories in over 25 countries and working as a war reporter in Vietnam and Israel and reported the death of the first British soldier during the Troubles in Northern Ireland. John was the BBC's Chief Political Correspondent from 1992 to 2000 and the Political Editor of ITN from 2000 until 2002.  

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John also won the hearts of viewers in 2008 when he appeared on Strictly Come Dancing with partner Kristina Rihanoff. Although he repeatedly finished bottom of the score board, the public consistently voted to keep him in the competition until week 10.  

In conversation with John will be Terry Waite CBE, who travelled to Lebanon as an envoy for the then Archbishop of Canterbury, Robert Runcie, to try to secure the release of four hostages, including the journalist John McCarthy. In 1984, he negotiated with Colonel Gaddafi for the release of the four remaining British hostages and was again successful. He was then kidnapped himself and held captive from 1987 to 1991 (1,763 days) the first four years of which were spent in solitary confinement. Tickets for this event are still available.

From June 22-24, the theatre goes back to its roots with Austentatious, improvised romp through the 18th century literary landscape in which the cast create a ‘new’ work by Jane Austen based on suggestions from the audience.

Performed in full Regency costume, with live musical accompaniment, Austentatious’s past works include ‘Bath to the Future’, ‘Strictly Come Darcy’, ‘The Wickham Man; and ‘Mansfield Shark’.

The company maintain that they are so in-tune with their literary mistress that each evening produces a riotously funny new literary masterpiece and no two shows are ever the same.

Christine Webber and Gary Avis at the Royal Opera House before the show on April 2. Picture: Christi

Christine Webber and Gary Avis will be in conversation at the Theatre Royal, Bury St Edmunds - Credit: Christine Webber

The month draws to a close when Suffolk-born Royal Ballet star Gary Avis MBE joins broadcaster Christine Webber to talk through his career from the Ipswich Co-op Juniors to his current role of Principal Character Artist and Senior Ballet Master at Covent Garden.

Gary has created work for such leading choreographers as Sir Kenneth MacMillan, Christopher Wheeldon and Wayne McGregor as well as partnering Dame Darcey Bussell, Sylvie Guillem, Alessandra Ferri and Marianela Nunez.

Gary Avis

Gary Avis who will sharing stories of his career with the Royal Ballet to raise funds for the Theatre Royal Bury St Edmunds - Credit: Archant

Inbetween the stories there will be plenty of clips of Gary in action. Artistic Director, Owen Calvert-Lyons, said: “We are honoured to have an artist of the calibre of Gary Avis MBE on our stage taking us on a journey through his amazing career.  His stories and experiences will not only be fascinating to hear but will inspire young and aspiring artists to carve out their own path to success just as Gary has done.”

Tickets for all the events can be booked online at https://theatreroyal.org/