September 17, 2008
Culture: Bold Change at Box Office Should Reap Rewards for Crescent ; Classical
By JOHN SLIM'S AMATEUR THEATRE
It is good to see the spirit of optimism is alive and well at Birmingham's Crescent Theatre.
Although audiences last season were often by no means as large as could have been hoped, the city's leading amateur theatre has boldly extended its box office opening hours. Instead of being available from 4.30 pm to 7 pm for telephone callers and to 8 pm for patrons who arrive in person, it has taken another step towards the professional image that its shows habitually display - albeit too often with professionalism less apparent in the way it presents itself to the passing pedestrian - by announcing that tickets are now available between noon and 7pm (telephone) and noon and 8pm (personal callers).
This is excellent, coming as it does in readiness for the arrival of musical theatre companies that is customarily a feature of Crescent programming at this time of the year and just before the reopening of the Old Rep on September 30, following renovation of its bar and foyer.
The Old Rep, closed since February, will celebrate its return to the scene on October 2 with parties preceding three performances by the Young Rep of Play On, an adaptation of Twelfth Night. An early visitor, from October 21-25, will be BMOS Musical Theatre Company, with Fame the Musical.
Slightly further ahead, and having considered the Crescent, Circle Light Opera Company, the North Birmingham group, will be at Sutton Coldfield Town Hall with Calamity Jane from October 28 to November 1 - precisely the dates during which, as it happens, The Arcadians will be at the Crescent with The Boy Friend.
CLOC's decision followed doubts that some members expressed about being able to sell tickets for the Crescent - which rather prompts the question of how they have in the past coped with selling them for the Old Rep - but another factor was that the cost of hiring Sutton Town Hall was going to be considerably less than the price of hiring the Crescent.
But continuing Crescent loyalists in the pre-Christmas period are Midland Opera - formerly Midland Music Makers - who will be there with Carmen from November 4-8, and Tinkers Farm Opera, presenting The Grand Duke from November 18-22. Before either of these productions, Anything Goes will be on parade from October 1-4 with From The Top Theatre Company, whose association with the Crescent dates back only to 2004.
The Crescent is by no means short of shows between now and Christmas, as it celebrates ten years at Brindley place. Dick Barton, Special Agent, running until Saturday, is its season's pipe- opener, for a programme that includes two plays each from Switzerland, the USA, Russia and Ireland, plus one Spanish, one Argentinian and one Scottish. Oh, yes, and six English.
Next week will see a first visit from Bromsgrove theatre company All & Sundry with An Inspector Calls.
It all looks very promising. I hope that the new timings of the box office receive the response they deserve.
Although my brain cell has been straining every nerve and tissue, it has been unable to think of more than two plays in which a character uses a crutch or a walking stick, The most recent of these was Dudley Little Theatre's Murder on the Nile last week. The other, some little time ago, was Cat on a Hot Tin Roof - long enough ago for me to have forgotten which group presented it. And, my brain cell being what it is, the only reason I am still aware of these two plays is that in each case the injured character was holding his crutch or stick in the wrong hand.
The recommended procedure is to have it on the opposite side to the injured limb. It's something I learned before being let loose after a hip replacement last year - and I shall be very surprised if I find that the rule has changed when I report for another one in a week's time.
Directors should take note. After all, I am sure that the average audience is almost bound to contain patrons who know from personal experience what is supposed to happen. If they rose as one to complain that things were not ringing true, the person masterminding the mistaken exercise would not have a leg to stand on.
Highbury Little Theatre has lost a highly-regarded stalwart with the death of Jean Draycott at the age of 82.
She joined the Sutton Coldfield group in 1949 and had served on its council and board of trustees. In the early years, she was cast in various productions and latterly hers has been a happy and popular face as a member of the team responsible for the coffee bar.
Highbury chairman Steve Bowyer said: "Jean was always ready with helpful positive advice, given freely. She was always smiling or laughing, always encouraging, hard-working and loyal. It will be really hard, starting the new season without her larger-than-life presence."
Her funeral will be at 1pm tomorrow, at Holy Trinity C of E Church, Mill Street, Sutton Coldfield, and at 2pm at Sutton Coldfield Crematorium.
At 11.30pm on Tuesday last week, with half an hour to go before the day of the Big Bang that so excited the scientists but turned out to be the Big Nothing for the rest of us, a television programmer's impish inclinations rather caught me on the hop.
It was right at the end of an episode of Billy Connolly's tour of Australia and he had arrived at Ayres Rock, which is surrounded by the kind of vast area of barren nothingness that Australia does so well. And what were the words with which the Big Yin ended the film?
"It looks like the end of the world."
And so to bed.
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