Theatre company moves to town
A professional touring theatre company has moved its base to Amble, and hopes to stage plays, show films and provide a new base for community arts in the town.
Northumberland Theatre Company (NTC) left Alnwick Playhouse, its home for almost forty years, after negotiations with Northumberland County Council who wanted a new home for their library and other facilities.
“We were looking for somewhere else to go,” said chair Bryan Ellis, “I fancied Amble. This town has pulled itself up by its bootstraps in recent years. We’d heard the Dovecote Centre was up for sale, and though there’s lots to do, it gives us lots of opportunity. It will take us some time to develop the building, probably two to three years to do it all properly, but we hope to create a hub for community arts and activity.
“The office is up and running and we have an outline of our programme for the rest of the year.”
Bryan announced that the venue will open in March and will be formally opened by a celebrity actor. Very enigmatically he would not be drawn on the name, until nearer the time!
The company will launch their season with a production of ‘The Disasters of Johnny Armstrong and Other Daft Tales’ in the Dovecote Centre on 15 March, before it then goes on tour.
They have also acquired some cinema equipment and two large screens, and hope to be able to show films in the autumn.
“We’d also like to encourage other touring theatre companies to come, perhaps as a stopping off point from Edinburgh” said Bryan.
NTC themselves have four tours lined up this year. They perform nationally, from as far north as Aberdeen to London. “We’re one of Northumberland’s better kept secrets,” said Bryan, “There are not many national touring companies left.”
A tour will generally last seven to eight weeks, involving arriving mid afternoon, setting up, performing in the evening, then dismantling and packing up, before sleep. Next morning it will be off to the next venue, sometimes up to 150 miles away and then starting all over again. “You have to be a dedicated actor to cope with that kind of schedule.”
Puffin Theatre Club
Encouraging new talent is particularly important for the company. NTC audition for every show, and they try to take on a trainee actor and assistant stage manager for every tour.
The company works with local young people, and is delighted that already a new youth theatre group is being formed in Amble. The Puffin Theatre Club is aimed at 5-12 year olds. It has been set up by Rosie Bush and Sarah Price, two drama teachers who live in Amble.
“The classes are obviously designed to be fun, but will help children work on their vocal and physical performance skills too,” said Rosie.
There has already been a lot of interest in the club online, Sarah told us. “It just goes to show that Amble and the surrounding area is full of talented young people with a natural love of noise and movement. Capturing this energy will help their social skills and confidence.”
“We hope to do a professional pantomime this year too,” said Bryan. “We want to work with the Puffin Theatre Club and local dance schools for that, and we’d like to invite local schools to see our performances, especially our special Christmas show.”
With a huge amount of work to do on renovating the interior of the building it’s full speed ahead for NTC to get things ready for the 15 March performance.
Said Bryan, “I think it’s quite exciting, there’s lots of new people coming to live in Amble now, so the town will have even more energy.”