Varied mix of stars and performers for new season at Theatre Royal, in Bury St Edmunds

Michael Parkinson

Michael Parkinson - Credit: Archant

Top names and personalities from the stage and TV combined with an eclectic mix of productions and performers are set to feature at one of Suffolk’s famous Regency playhouses over the coming months.

Details of the Spring season at the Theatre Royal, in Bury St Edmunds, were revealed this week at a special launch inside the town’s Guildhall, attended by supporters, friends and staff from the theatre.

Jimmy Tarbuck, Sir Michael Parkinson, Claire Sweeney and comic Stewart Lee are all booked to take to the stage at the Westgate Street building, while there is a string of dramas, children’s shows and a festival, ballet, music and comedy ... and all at a time to mark the theatre’s 50th anniversary of reopening.

Funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund of £65,200 will be used for a project to celebrate the milestone to tap into people’s recollections of 1965, when the building was transformed from brewers Greene King’s barrel store to a working community theatre.

This anniversary project will create an archive of living memories through the collection of stories from people and groups who campaigned to reopen the venue.

A 50th anniversary exhibition at the theatre will complement a series of talks and tours and the archive collection will be digitalised to be presented online and through social media.

News of the new season comes just a few weeks after it was revealed there are plans to merge the running of the Theatre Royal and the Apex, in Bury, in a bid to minimise costs and improve efficiency. A shared senior management team has been appointed for a six-month trial period, consisting of the theatre’s director, Karen Simpson, and general manager Adrian Grady, along with Nick Wells, head of programming at the Apex and director of the Bury St Edmunds Festival.

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The trial is intended to give both organisations a chance to discover where savings can be made and how any gains can be invested into developing the range of drama, music and entertainment on offer.

Speaking at the season launch, Ms Simpson said: “It’s been really exciting bringing the programme together, we have some top notch stuff on offer. The Theatre Royal must remain creative and financially stable and I am keen to develop our programme for families. This theatre remains at the heart of the community and we will build on that.

“We are fortunate to have growing audience numbers and great support from individuals and the local business community.” The drama on offer features a host of plays by well known playwrights including The Business of Murder, by Richard Harris (March 2- 7), John Godber’s Bouncers (March 12-14), The Mist In The Mirror, by the author of The Woman in Black, Susan Hill (March 17-21), Alan Ayckbourn’s Absent Friends (June 2-6) and celebrating the 10th anniversary of the Agatha Christie Theatre Company is And Then There Were None (August 3-8).

Another highlight is Shakespeare’s Macbeth, being brought to Bury by Tara Arts in association with Queen’s Hall Arts and Black Theatre Live, from April 14-18.

Tara Arts bring Indian movement and live music to Shakespeare’s classic text, offering a contemporary take on his darkest play.

On May 2, Jimmy Tarbuck will deliver an evening of comedy and will use photos and video footage to take his audience on a nostalgic trip down Memory Lane.

And on June 21, Sir Michael Parkinson is on stage in conversation with his son, Mike, to celebrate a career spanning over 50 years.

Being billed as a fantastic girls’ night out, Claire Sweeney stars in Sex In Suburbia, combining comedy and music on April 30.

Children are being well looked after with some lively, colourful productions, including a retelling of the classic Goldilocks and the Three Bears (February 19-20), Robin’s Winter Adventure (February 21), How The Koala Learnt To Hug (March 8-9), Stick Man (April 7-8) and I Believe In Unicorns (May 5-9).

Two more children’s classics are brought to life in The Wind In The Willows (March 30-31) and The Elves And The Shoemaker (May 26-28) while lovers of the Disney hit film Frozen can come and sing-a-long with the film (April 9). A Children’s Festival is planned from June 22-July 4 when the Theatre Royal and other venues will be packed with shows, workshops and music events. Other highlights include Ballet Theatre UK with their production of Aladdin (June 15-16), The Marriage of Figaro (February 24), The Barber of Seville (May 20), Nick Ross Orchestra’s Sounds of the Glenn Miller Era (February 15), Big Girls Don’t Cry (February 21) celebrating the music of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons, Cody Pennington (April 4), Hits From The Blitz (April 10), Grammy-nominated singer Stacey Kent (April 29) and a tribute to Abba in Thank You For The Music (May 22).

The comedy comes in many forms, including The Only Way Is Downton (February 27) and Stewart Lee (May 19).

And fans of Springwatch and Autumnwatch will want to catch Welsh naturalist Iola Williams on April 1, who takes the audience on a wildlife tour of his Welsh homeland.

Leading environmentalist George Monbiot launches the inaugural Suffolk Festival of Ideas with his take on climate change, including a question and answer session on May 18 with the season all being sponsored by Gross and Co Solicitors.

For tickets and further details call the box office on 01284 769505 or visit

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