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Tony Labriola as O’Reilly holds Elsa Von Grossenkneuten and her guests hostage.

Celebratory production at Stables opens Friday

On Friday the curtains will open on one of the highlights of the Stables Theatre’s 60th anniversary celebrations, a production by its American exchange partners, Chicago Heights Drama Group. On Sunday a lunch was held to mark the day the theatre opened its doors for the first time in 1959. Publicist Lynda Foy writes, photos by Colin Foy.

American visitors are renewing friendships that they first made 20 years ago at the Stables Theatre on The Bourne. Players from Chicago Heights Drama Group are staging The Musical Comedy Murders of 1940 from Friday 21 June for six performances as part of the theatre’s diamond jubilee celebrations this month.

Play director MaryEllen Fawk said her group was looking forward to strengthening cross-cultural links in their exchange programme with the Stables. “Needless to say, we are very excited,” she said. “The friendships we have made with the exchange are cherished by all of us. They have developed as a result of our shared love of theatrical performance.

MaryEllen Fawk.

MaryEllen Fawk.

“The Stables-Drama Group exchange is a treasure; we know of no other like it or that has had such longevity. We have learned much from each other because of our shared experiences.”

The exchange programme started in 1999 and next year Stables members plan to take one of their productions to the Chicago Heights theatre.

MaryEllen described The Musical Comedy Murders, by John Bishop, as a “delightful romp” that satirizes the murder mystery genre as well as some archetypal characters from stage and film. It tells the story of a series of murders at a New York theatre.

“An ambitious detective named Kelly is determined to solve the case with the help of a wealthy theatre backer, Elsa Von Grossenkneuten. Just like in the Thin Man movies of the 1930s and 1940s, the artful detective gathers his suspects in one area, hoping to flush out the infamous Stage Door Slasher.”

Twenty-six Americans are visiting Hastings, with eight of them performing in the comedy. The play will be staged on Friday and Saturday (June 21-22), then from  Wednesday (June 26) until Saturday (June 29).

Celebration lunch

Actress Barbara Flynn helped theatre members celebrate 60 years of fun and entertainment at a celebration lunch at the Power Mills Hotel in Battle on Sunday 16 June, the exact anniversary of the opening of the Stables Theatre by Sir Ralph Richardson in 1959.

Chairman Neil Sellman chats with actress and Stables patron Barbara Flynn.

Chairman Neil Sellman chats with actress and Stables patron Barbara Flynn.

Barbara, a patron of the Stables who grew up in Hastings, has family connections with the theatre. She remembered playing as a child among the foundations of the project to turn the former stable block into a working theatre at The Bourne.

The actress, who played Aunt Hermione in ITV’s The Durrells in Corfu, told 60 diners: “I love the Stables. There is a very high standard on and off the stage, and a massive capacity for fun.” She paid tribute to “Sixty years of extraordinary vision, of community, energy and sheer hard work.”

The 125-seat theatre and art gallery, which has about 1,700 members, has staged 622 productions since it opened.

Teamwork the key

Teamwork, much of it by willing volunteers, is the key to staging productions. “It is very much teamwork,” said Frank Jenks, one of the volunteers working on the set for the Chicago Heights Drama Group’s satire.

“It takes 13 people to put one person on the stage. There’s sound, lighting, stage management, props and a prompt. Then there’s two people in the bar, two in the box office, two on front of house and two serving the teas.”

Ian Morson, who organises set-building sessions, said: “We have got a week to build this set and that is a very tight time for us. A box set like this is quite easy, but the more imaginative sets can be a challenge.”

The team usually knock down a set and rebuild one every month, with some sets taking longer to prepare than others.

Stables set-builders.

Stables set-builders: from left, Philip Cooper, Ian Morson, Frank Jenks, Keith Hunt and David Bastin.

“We do have a complete sound surround system here,” said Frank, who helps to organise the lighting, sound and special effects in the control room. “There’s very little we can’t do with lighting effects.

“When I started here 30 years ago, everything was manual control. There were no computers. There was reel-to-reel music and a gramophone. Now it’s all computer-controlled.”

A service to celebrate the theatre’s 60th anniversary will be held on Sunday 30 June at 4pm in All Saints’ Church in Hastings Old Town.

The Musical Comedy Murders of 1940
Stables Theatre, The Bourne, Hastings TN34 3BD. Friday 21- Saturday 22 June, Wednesday 26-Saturday 29 June, 7.30pm. Tickets £13.50, members £8.50, under 18s and group £10.50; £2 off first night tickets. Bookings and details of Stables membership are available on 01424 423221 or on the website.



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Posted 20:51 Wednesday, Jun 19, 2019 In: Performance

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