So, this post marks the first anniversary of me starting this blog. And it all started with me reminiscing about how I caught the acting bug. A bug which one year ago, at the time of my first post, found me living theatre life to the full. My diary was packed with rehearsals and performance dates. I was just about to open in the third of six consecutive plays during a 10 month period.
Theatre life was great!
A year on I find myself resting and with nothing on the horizon.
Resting! That’s what actors call being unemployed – it’s a much nicer way of putting it. However, if I was a theatre, the term used would be that I had gone dark.
And with that strange tenuous link, I must talk about the state of theatre in my home town.
Looking back at how I first started this blog a year ago, I mentioned that my life in theatre started earlier than where the first post picks it up, and that I would come back to the real start at some later point. Well, I realise that up to now, I have never come back to it. So maybe now is a time to add some detail whilst making a plea to all the lovely theatrical types or people who just love live theatre in my town.
Having said that, I want to make the plea the main point here, so there follows only a brief history lesson. And the story starts almost exactly 32 years ago to the day! Back in 1979, I started my theatrical life in management at the town’s seafront theatre – the Pavilion. And for the next four years I enjoyed myself as Assistant Manager of both the Pavilion and Assembly Hall.
During that time, I also did a bit of moonlighting as a stagehand at the town’s real theatre – the Connaught. Like many people before me, and probably many since, this is where I really found love (not only of theatre – see Golden Girl). The Connaught introduced me to a side of theatre I wasn’t experiencing at the Pavilion or Assembly Hall. And a few years later, I joined the management team at The Old Vic, one of the most famous theatres in the world.
In 1986, the Connaught went dark – seemingly for the last time. The future was bleak; all funds had been withdrawn, and the local council was not interested in investing in it to keep it open.
Then two brothers decided to stage a protest and went on hunger strike. After several weeks (about 7 if memory serves…) the council gave in to mounting pressure and agreed to subsidise the theatre. And with the theatre due to re-open towards the end of that year, I was appointed manager and returned to my home town following 3 years in London at The Old Vic.
And now, twenty five years on and having just celebrated the 75th anniversary, closure beckons once more. In these current, difficult economic times, the council is faced with cutting expenditure and as always, at the top of the list is the arts. And with three entertainment venues to consider, the Connaught is the front runner to go.
In my humble opinion, a short sighted decision.
Yes, the Pavilion and Assembly Hall can both seat many more than the Connaught. And yes, they are both more versatile – in that the seats can be removed to open up a dance floor. But, do we, as a town, need two such similar venues?
Neither of these venues can truly stage plays or musicals in quite the same way as the Connaught. Neither has the same ambience or intimacy. Neither has the stage to cope with the sort of scenery used in many productions.
Don’t get me wrong, I am very fond of all the town’s venues, after all, they have played a large part in forming my theatrical career, but if we are to lose one of them, let it not be the Connaught.
If, for example, we were to lose the Pavilion, the Connaught could host the comedians and singers who would have performed there and the Assembly Hall could take the bands, orchestras and the dances.
Logistically speaking, both the Connaught and Assembly Hall have car parks right next door to them and have very easy access for drop offs, whereas the Pavilion has no parking and, in a strange move some years back, had the slip road removed thus taking away the nearest drop off point.
I’m not campaigning to get the Pavilion closed, I don’t want to see any venue closed, but I do want to see the Connaught saved.
If you haven’t already done so, please sign the online petition (see link on the right hand side – Save Worthing Theatres) and let’s make our voices heard. Also, take a look at what is on at these venues (use the link Worthing Theatres) and why not book to see something?
If we don’t use them we will lose them.
It is NOT yet time to bring down the final curtain.