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Regent looks to the future as it celebrates its 90th anniversary

PUBLISHED: 18:43 01 November 2019 | UPDATED: 18:43 01 November 2019

Lesley Joseph as Miss Hannigan and her orphan charges in the new production of Annie, coming to the Ipswich Regent next week Photo: Matt Crockett

Lesley Joseph as Miss Hannigan and her orphan charges in the new production of Annie, coming to the Ipswich Regent next week Photo: Matt Crockett

HUGO GLENDINNING

The Ipswich Regent looks to offer a warm welcome to both performers and audiences as it looks to adapt to future entertainment trends

Emeli Sande performing on stage. She will be bringing her new show The Real Life tour to Ipswich Regent on November 29. Photo: Jason RichardsonEmeli Sande performing on stage. She will be bringing her new show The Real Life tour to Ipswich Regent on November 29. Photo: Jason Richardson

The Regent has had a long and distinguished history in East Anglia's showbusiness landscape but as it marks its 90th anniversary, it's important to remember that the venue is very much a key player in today's entertainment world and is always looking ahead to the future.

For the current team of Alan Dodd, general manager (theatres) and Peter Ling, shows and finance manager, the success of The Regent is all about creating a rich and nourishing mix of shows. They likened their work to creating a diverse menu which allows their audiences a great deal of choice.

"But, what is important to us is that everything on that menu is top quality, it should be the best quality in its field. Our audiences should be spoiled for choice," said Alan.

"The programming process is really considered. We are not just a hall for hire, a lot of thought goes into putting our programme together. Everything we do is based on our ambition to the number one venue in East Anglia - that's where we are pitching it.

Karen Hauer and Gorka Marquez are bringing their new show Firedance to the Ipswich Regent in March 2020 Photo: Ipswich RegentKaren Hauer and Gorka Marquez are bringing their new show Firedance to the Ipswich Regent in March 2020 Photo: Ipswich Regent

"We know that working in a building that's 90 years old we have some technical issues but we will continue to address those with future restoration and renovation work, which we view as an investment in the future, but, for us the important thing is creating a welcoming atmosphere for both the performers and the audience. After all these years, despite all the technology, theatre is still very much a people business."

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Alan said the strength of the Regent lay in the fact that the audiences were warm and generous and theatre staff took great care to look after the visiting productions. "We have great staff who are not only very knowledgeable but they are also enthusiastic about theatre. They love this world and they take great pride in looking after our visiting companies and making sure everyone feels welcome.

"One of our promoters referred to us recently as 'The Friendly Theatre' and for me that's a massive statement - that's the message I want to get out there to performers and promoters. I want them to know that if you come to Ipswich then we are going to look after you as well as anyone and we can supply you with large audiences, warm audiences and we are the biggest theatre in East Anglia. I think that is a fantastic offer."

Dido Credit: Simon EmmettDido Credit: Simon Emmett

He added that from the audience's perspective The Regent is one of the most comfortable theatre's. The 2007 restoration saw the installation of new high quality seating and Ipswich Council, which runs the venue, took the decision to sacrifice some seats in order to provide better leg room.

Peter Ling said that although the experience is important, getting the programming right is essential. Without the right programme people are not going to come through the doors to discover the wonderful hospitality.

"Putting a season together is rather like writing a recipe. There are certain key ingredients you need in there: the essentials are top flight comedians, touring West End musicals and the best bands and musical acts, add to that classical music concerts, ballet, opera, some high quality tribute bands and, of course, the Christmas pantomime, which is a hugely important part of what we offer to people, and you have got something really special.

"Having variety in a programme is key. We need to offer something to as wide an audience as possible and that offer must be really top quality, the best of the best, and that means that our audiences are quite diverse and that is important for a council run venue because it should be catering for everyone in the town."

Looking to the future, both Alan and Peter say that it is a case steady evolution as they respond to changes in the world of entertainment. "We have discovered a whole new audience of 12 year olds who filled a sold out theatre for You Tubers who have started doing tours around the country. We are interested in seeing how this phenomenon will develop," said Alan.

"That's the exciting thing about theatre. It's always changing and we will be looking to reflect those changes."

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