Morecambe Winter Gardens makes progress – and gets more good news

Recreated lost box front courtesy of specialists Hayles and Howe

Currently celebrating its 125th anniversary year, Morecambe’s historic Winter Gardens restoration project is well into its second year.

As can be seen from the interior photos, the plasterwork specialists Hayles and Howe are taking great care in recreating lost ceiling panels, box fronts and other decorative plasterwork features.

Further good news to boost the Winter Gardens’ future life came at the end of January when the local Council voted unanimously to approve the plans for another Eden Project eco-park, this time to be built in Morecambe. You can see from the images that the Eden Morecambe project will form an impressive architectural trio along with the Winter Gardens and the recently-restored 1933-built art deco Midland Hotel.

Its great to report that things are looking good in Morecambe! Well done to all the many people steering this grand old theatre into its next phase of life.

Two artists illustrations of the proposed Eden project in Morecambe
Midland Hotel, Morecambe

Wilson, Keppel and Betty dance again!

The best-loved music hall act of all time? Wilson, Keppel and Betty. Image uncredited

Music Hall legends Wilson, Keppel and Betty were given a much-welcomed extra exposure on Sunday 30th January on Talking Pictures TV’s THE FOOTAGE DETECTIVES, where newly-discovered film is restored and aired.

For those unaware of these legendary figures, they graced music hall and variety stages from the 1930s until 1962, with their most-repeated signature piece being an eccentric sand dance in a sequence known as Cleopatra’s Nightmare which has become legendary in music hall history.

THE FOOTAGE DETECTIVES’ highlight was the airing of film discovered by Wilson, Keppel and Betty biographer Alan Stafford (His book is entitled TOO NAKED FOR THE NAZIS) with the famous trio in 1949, in rehearsal for a pantomime at no other venue than the illustrious Dudley Hippodrome. Aside from giving us the only known colour footage of the famous trio, the film was a fascinating overview of preparation and rehearsals for a major regional pantomine, quite probably unique as a film record of a time sadly long-gone.

You can catch up with the programme by watching it on the channel’s on-demand service, Talking Pictures TV Encore, which you can find at Episode 11 is the one you’ll need to select.

You can see a trailer in the Twitter link below

RETHINK visits Poole

Acclaimed theatre company Ardent Theatre have taken their most recent, five-star reviewed show on the road. Co-devised by playwright Andrew Muir and the Ardent 8 actors, this show is about them – their hopes and dreams as young people emerging into the world, and their wants and needs. It speaks to all those aspiring to have a career they love and to find meaning in their contribution to the world.

The show, which had a London run in October 2021, now visits Poole this Friday February 4th and subsequently plays private performances for students in Leicester and Manchester.

Ardent Theatre Company presents RETHINK, a brand new production created and performed by Ardent8, a group of emerging young actors from outside London who face barriers to pursuing a career in theatre. Written with and directed by award-winning playwright Andrew Muir (Joint Creative Director of Ardent Theatre Company) the play highlights inequality of opportunities to break into a career in theatre, intensified by the global pandemic.

RETHINK is set in the aftermath of that sunny July 2020, when six graduates from a performing arts course on the south coast of England are encouraged to reconsider their careers, in the wake of theatre closures and lack of opportunity. According to a government-backed advertising campaign, their next job could be in cyber, they just don’t know if yet. What choice do they have?

RETHINK is created and staged by the Ardent8 Ensemble, a group of Dorset-based young people brought together through Ardent Theatre Company’s scheme to rebalance inequality of access to a career in theatre. The project was born of a recognition that often the most talented of actors will have given up before they’ve even realised their full potential because they are unable to access other cities that provide greater employment and development opportunities.

Ardent8 was launched in Dorset in 2016 and the inaugural group’s production Sacrificewas staged to acclaim at Soho Theatre and Jellicoe Theatre, Poole in 2018. The programme is being expanded across the country with partners currently including Manchester Metropolitan University and Leicester De Montfort University.

The aim of Ardent8 is to provide a taste of life as an actor in London and benefit from opportunities within the industry from which they have otherwise been alienated but which Ardent Theatre Company believe is no more than an equal opportunity. In doing so, they will develop their skills further in a professional context that also introduces them to key industry practitioners. The programme includes acting workshops led by industry professionals, ongoing advice and mentorship, a week’s professional performance at a London theatre (paid at Equity rates), and all travel, subsistence and accommodation costs.

Andrew Muir, playwright/director, Joint Creative Director of Ardent Theatre Company:
It has been a joy to create RETHINK with such a talented and generous group of young people. The play gets to the heart of their own frustrations – feeling powerless confronted by a lack of opportunity to follow their dreams due to a lack of funds, knowledge, networks and stuck distanced from meaningful cultural offerings. From working class backgrounds, these young people are passionate about acting yet even considering a career in theatre was alien to them – even before Covid grounded them entirely. Through Ardent8 we hope to shift things in their favour, so that our theatre ecology can benefit from their talent and perspectives.”

RETHINK can be seen at The Lighthouse, Poole, Dorset on Friday 4th February at 8.00pm. Tickets here

Have a night in with some of your favourite musicals on the BBC

The talented performers from FROZEN, DREAMGIRLS, and – Jason Manford

UK audiences can watch via BBC iPlayer a 90-minute celebration of all things musical theatre, recorded on Saturday 29 January at the AO Arena in Manchester. The Big Night of Musicals by the National Lottery (had to get their name in there, didn’t they?) is packed with sensational performances from the casts of the UK’s biggest West End and touring shows and some very special one-off collaborations.

Performing some of some of the biggest songs in musical theatre are the casts of Dreamgirls, Back to the Future, Dear Evan Hansen, Tina – The Tina Turner Musical, Bat Out of Hell, Andrew Lloyd Webber’s School of Rock, & Juliet and Waitress. For the first time, Disney shows The Lion King, Beauty and the Beast and Frozen unite on stage for an exclusive medley.

Also performing are the casts of new hit musicals The Drifters Girl and Get Up, Stand Up! The Bob Marley Musical. Plus, a performance from the cast of The Wiz.

The show also features bespoke short films shining a spotlight on the musical theatre industry.

It will be available on BBC iPlayer for a year.

To find the show, click here

Los Angeles readers – see JAMIE for (almost) free* now!

Los Angeles’s Ahmanson Theatre is host to the North American Premiere of the Hit West End Musical!

Winner of three WhatsOnStage Awards including Best New Musical and nominated for five Olivier Awards, this funny, fabulous musical sensation has thrilled audiences and critics alike since opening in 2017. Fresh and contemporary with an extraordinary mother and son relationship at its center, Everybody’s Talking About Jamie celebrates acceptance, belonging, the power of unconditional love of a mother for her child and how good life is when everybody is the best they can be.

The Ahmanson is offering complimentary tickets for selected performances until February 13th (*2 max per order. $5 per ticket admin fee). Use the code INVITE to unlock this offer, which is available only while allocations last.

To find out more click here

Many Thanks to LA-based blog supporters including Leigh, Adam, Riji and Mike Hume for the heads-up on this one!