STATEMENT ON SITUATION REGARDING COVID-19
In response to Government advice this afternoon, advising people to avoid unnecessary social contact, including in theatres, we regret to inform you that we have no option but to close the Playhouse to the public with immediate effect.
We hope to rearrange as many of the shows planned for the rest of the Spring and early Summer – many of which had yet to go on sale – for the Autumn or this time next year. Indeed, we have already been able to achieve new dates for some already and are currently in talks about others.
Similarly, all choirs, dance classes, drama classes, comedy nights, music nights, parent and toddler groups have to cease.
We hope you will understand that the health and safety of all those who use and visit the Playhouse, our staff and volunteers, and the wider community as a whole, must come first.
In terms of staff, we are a community theatre and we want to support our paid casual staff as much as possible. With that at front of mind, we have committed to ensuring that our casual members of staff will be paid as per the rota for the next 12 weeks as if all scheduled performances were not cancelled. We are a charity and exist for the community and it is our social responsibility to do what we can to look after our colleagues, who are also our friends.
Theatres, while closed, have no income but still have running expenses. We receive very little funding compared to larger venues but we still take our responsibilities very seriously.
Given the current ambiguity and lack of clarity as to how long the closure will be in place, and while we are still rearranging dates, may I ask you to please bear with us over the coming weeks? We will be in touch via email, telephone or letter concerning switching of tickets or processing refunds. We only have a very small team and it is not something we can sort out swiftly and your patience and understanding will be much appreciated at this time.
We will be joining in with other venues and industry bodies in consulting the Government over the immediate future of the industry as a whole and want to offer our best wishes and support to actors, musicians, technicians and companies, amateur and professional, who will be facing some difficult times ahead, particularly financially.
There are already plans for keeping in touch with everyone via Facebook, Twitter and our website and potentially "Bringing The Playhouse To You" – not full-length performances, but small videos of song, poetry, monologue, comedy, storytelling and music from local amateur and professional artists. As a community venue for 75 years, we want to try and entertain and bring the community together and use technology creatively to stay in touch with our friends across Cheltenham and Gloucestershire. And, of course, we will need to celebrate properly our 75th birthday at some point (we have a plan for September).
We wish all of you and your loved ones well at this unsettling time. Thank you for your support in the past and we look forward to seeing you all again in the hopefully not-too-distant future.
Paul Scott, theatre manager
The Cheltenham Playhouse is part of the artistic landscape of Cheltenham and hopes that everyone who enjoys the arts in Cheltenham will be back in audiences or on stage soon. For members of the public who have questions about existing tickets, please email [email protected].
Media enquiries: For more information or photographs, contact Jo Moulds on 07968 801467 or email [email protected].
BRITISH COMEDY LEGEND DR EVADNE HINGE COMES OUT OF RETIREMENT TO HELP CELEBRATE OUR 75TH ANNIVERSARY - 24/9/19
A legend of British comedy is to come out of retirement in France to appear in a musical romp at Cheltenham Playhouse next year as part of its 75th anniversary celebrations. The Dowager's Oyster is described as a light opera that captures the comic book charades of a 1920s murder mystery farce and at its heart is the return to the stage of Dr Evadne Hinge, one half of the enormously popular double act Hinge and Bracket which entertained audiences with their songs and 'theatrical memories' for 30 years.
The pair were the hit of the 1974 Edinburgh Festival and soon found themselves performing in the West End to enormous acclaim and success. Frequent tours of the UK and abroad followed, plus a 10-year stint on Radio 4, their own BBC2 series in the early 1980s, televised broadcasts of their concerts and two Royal Variety Performances.
The celebrated duo's hugely successful career ended in 2002 with the death of Dame Hilda Bracket's creator, Patrick Fyffe. Dr Hinge (George Logan) went into retirement and relocated to France where he and his partner opened a bed and breakfast business and all attempts to lure Dr Hinge back to the stage had been politely but steadfastly resisted.
Enter young composer Louis Mander, whose works include collaborations with Stephen Fry. He had co-written a comedy operetta entitled The Dowager's Oyster and had geared the title role around Dr Hinge's talents.
"Musically, the show has a roaring 1920s dance band score that nods to Gilbert and Sullivan with a twist of Kurt Weill", explains Louis. "As Hinge and Bracket made G&S very much a central part of their repertoire, the idea that the occasionally imposing pianist Dr Hinge could essay the role of the imperious Dowager just seemed a perfect fit. The question was whether we could persuade her to return to the boards after so many years."
Thinking 'nothing ventured, nothing gained' he dropped an email to George Logan in the hope he could intercede on his behalf with the good doctor.
"I was somewhat surprised to receive the suggestion of taking on the title role in a new piece of theatre written with me in mind, but my curiosity was piqued," says Evadne. "I discovered that Louis had a string of highly regarded works to his credit so I asked to see the score and the script and was delighted to discover the music was direct and melodious. I felt the dialogue needed a few revisions to bring it more in line with my own individual personality and happily Louis and his librettist, Jack Cherry, were agreeable. So I said 'yes'!"
George agreed to perform the role in London in November 2016 and he so enjoyed the experience he said he would be very much open to the possibility of making one more outing as his alter ego at a later date. Shortly after the London premiere, Louis Mander moved to Cheltenham where the Playhouse hosted another of his works and he realised that the intimate theatre would be an ideal venue for The Dowager's Oyster.
"I was always a great fan of Hinge and Bracket myself," says theatre manager Paul Scott, "so when Louis mentioned the show I was very keen to see if we could make it happen here for our 75th anniversary year. George fondly remembers appearing at the Ladies College and Everyman in the 1980s and 1990s and said he'd love to revisit both the town and the role and we're very much looking forward to seeing both him and Dr Hinge here next September."
In fact, so keen is George on the show, he's taking Louis's original four-piece orchestration and re-working it for an eight-piece 1920s 'Great Gatsby' style jazz band for this special anniversary production.
The theatre has recruited one of the county's most recognised theatre practitioners, former associate director of the Everyman, Sheila Mander, to direct the production and there will be just four performances from Wednesday 23 – Saturday 26 September 2020 with tickets going on sale in the new year.
Louis Mander (composer)
Jack Cherry (librettist)
Sheila Mander (director)