Harrogate Theatre column with David Bown

The theatre's bed race team
The theatre's bed race team

If I can start on a personal note, I took my son down to London at the start of the month to see Andrew Lloyd Webber’s School of Rock. It was truly delightful and so much fun. The young actor-musicians are all superb, demonstrating a phenomenal amount skill and energy.

We also got along to see The Philanthropist at the Trafalgar Studio’s, which is Christopher Hampton’s first play. Among the cast was the very engaging Matt Berry, of the booming voice fame in Toast of London. Matt is a former student from my teaching days, which meant we were invited to do a little schmoozing with a cast that included Simon Brid from The In-betweeners – so my son was beaming and I was a bit of a hero, for a couple of hours at least.

April and May so far has been a very busy period for drama here at the theatre, which seems a strange thing to say, I know.

The Verdict with Clive Mantle and Jack Shepherd packed them in, as did Thunder Road’s Invisible Man and Northern Ballet’s Goldilocks and the Three Bears. Last week’s Don’t Dress for Dinner by Marc Camoletti was a glorious romp with brilliant performances from Damian Williams, Ben Roddy and Sara Crowe (Four Wedding and A Funeral). Phil Stewart, the producer of the show, has also been the Dame and a baddie in recent pantomimes here.

However, Phil on the back of the success of Don’t Dress For Dinner, is looking to establish a repertory season at Harrogate in the autumn of 2018, which is very exciting and I’ll keep you informed as details emerge.

Comedy was pretty good as well by the way, with visits from Russell Brand, Chris Ramsay and John Bishop - all sold out.

Harrogate Theatre has a team entered for the Great Knaresborough Bed Race. Rachel Auty, Hannah Draper, Natalie Rawel, Dave Robertson, Mike England and James Smith, ably assisted by the passenger on the bed Ella Auty, have now entered that serious last phase of training as the ordeal is less than a month away. Conditioning sessions are accompanied by weekend stamina-building runs around Swinsty Reservoir. I’m not sure whether they have my sympathy or admiration. Both, I suppose.

Check out our website for snippets of their gruelling regime. The team are raising money for the refurbishment of Harrogate Theatre, so do visit their JustGiving page - https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/GoTeamHT. Support them if you can. I wish them well for the race.

Plans are being finalised for refurbishment by the project team and they are, as you’d expect, very exciting. Among the developments being explored are; a new studio, a roof top terrace, increased public facilities, more dressing rooms, a new café, a new box office and of course lifts and full access right across the site.

As soon as the details are finalised, which should be by the end of the summer, we will release them into the public domain for consultation and start our various fundraising campaigns in earnest, with details of how and when to make any donations. I have to say everyone has been so positive about our emerging plans, resulting in some significant donations already.

Keep the visits coming if you can. There are some terrific productions on the way from the brilliant Reform Theatre with Nick Lane’s Hopeless Romantics, 1927 and Golem, Strictly Murder has a star-studded cast and there is The Father that took the West End by storm a few years ago, to name but a few.