by Jez Bond

Dave and I are returning from rainy Suffolk, where we have spent a fantastic half day at the Theatre Royal, Bury St Edmunds.

On arrival in this rather ghostly quiet and picturesque town we were greeted by Abi, the theatre’s associate director, who had kindly arranged our visit. She was accompanied by Ian, a delightful volunteer tour guide, who had made a very special effort to come in on his day off and give us a private tour of the building. An expert on the recent restoration and on the fascinating history of the theatre, Ian answered our many questions with a huge depth of knowledge. On stage Mark, the chief technician, showed us the stage machinery – and it was interesting to see a few methods they employed to move and fly set without the advantage of a fly tower.

The whole refurbishment of 2007 had been undertaken with heritage lottery funding and the focus was entirely on restoring the theatre to its original Georgian glory. Admirably the artistic programme has a direct relationship with the building’s history and as we watched the evening production of ‘Much Ado About Nothing’ the house lights remained on continually during the action – which, inspired by the lighting conditions of the day and the unity it created within the audience, is how every production is now lit.

Abi took great care ensuring we had a lovely trip throughout – even walking us to the pub to have a bite to eat before the show. The production itself, which she had directed, was delightful, very funny and pitched perfectly for an entertaining night out.

Once again we were honoured to have people so willing to give up their time for us and to engage in the Park Theatre process. This must be approaching the twentieth tour we’ve had and it continues to be an amazing journey.

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