This is a slightly unusual ‘review’ – but, then again, this was a slightly unusual visit to the Studio Theatre!
It has been my privilege to see many very good and some exceptionally good shows at Salisbury’s Studio Theatre over the years, but last night’s visit was part of a “Thank you for helping us renovate our theatre!” evening for regular patrons and ‘financial angels’ of the venue, celebrating with a glass of bubbly, an opportunity to see behind the scenes and the bonus treat performance of a Festival-winning production.
For those unfamiliar with Studio Theatre, the amateur drama group was founded in 1952, moving to its current location in 1984 – but it was a very different setting to the one that is currently in use. Originally two wooden huts, a 50 seat theatre (complete with one dressing room/green room, foyer, licensed bar and storage area) was created and productions were performed within this set up for the next 20 years.
During the early 2000s, these wooden huts were demolished and replaced with the current purpose built community theatre (essentially with the same format of rooms and accommodation, but in a much more robust building). However, with the success of their shows and the development of their very talented youth section, it had become apparent that the group had outgrown the current facilities and so the fund raising began for the realisation of ambitious plans to create more dressing rooms, revamp the current green room, and expand storage and set building facilities. Although there is still a long way to go before the extensions are finished (and more funds still required for completion of the project), the tour backstage showed the vision and commitment that the company continues to extend to local community theatre – as well as emphasising even more how impressive their larger-scale shows are considering the current cramped backstage facilities! As is stated in the June 2019 report of the extension’s progress, “Studio’s extension will give Salisbury’s award-winning theatre the capacity and ability to be of even greater benefit to the people of Salisbury and South Wiltshire”.
And the clearest benefit to the theatre-going people of Salisbury and South Wiltshire is the quality productions staged at the intimate venue, none more so than last night’s wonderful production of A Flock Of Tigers!
A short play from a radio series of Double Acts by Writer’s Guild Award-winner John Finnemore, A Flock Of Tigers was earlier this year entered by Studio Theatre into the Woolstore Drama Festival (The Woolstore Theatre, Codford) and the Totton Festival of Drama (Hanger Farm Arts Centre), winning both – and from last night’s production, it is easy to say that this was richly deserved!
Paul Chalmers (reserved, socially inept Englishman, Edmund) and Rachel Fletcher (effervescent, dynamic American, Dolorosa) are both magnificent in their respective roles, individually and together. They both capture the essence of their characters perfectly, delivering their lines with panache and excellent timing for maximum comic effect, pauses perfectly placed, and facial expressions and gestures adding the additional narrative element that might be missing from an audio drama. However, Lesley Bates’ first class direction ensured superb pace, dynamics, believable characters and production elements that resulted in a performance that would have been as critically acclaimed as a radio production as well as a stage production.
With a deceptively ‘simple’ minimalist set representing an old fashioned six seater train carriage and superb props and costumes from the 1930s, the essence of radio drama was captured in the intimate performance space, assisted by first rate sound effects throughout (subtly changing from the continuous background sound of the train journey to traditional Indian music and back) and lighting effects reflecting when Edmund’s imagination finally takes flight.
Credit should also be given to the three supporting actors who all provided vital aspects of the performance with style and focus, whether speechless (Linda Luetchford/Sue Bale as a fellow train passenger), unseen (Huge Abel as the radio announcer) or seamlessly controlling location changes and prop placement (George Goulding as the Station Master).
With Studio Youth Theatre performing another ‘radio broadcast’ and the main company performing outdoor Shakespeare (both for one date each only) in July and an exciting new programme for the 2019-2020 Season commencing in September, I for one am eagerly looking forward to more quality productions from this talented company.
If you would like to assist with the expansion and improvements being made at Studio Theatre, please contact Peter Mitchell (Fund Raising Committee Leader) at Peter.firstname.lastname@example.org, Jackie Pilkington at email@example.com or any member of the executive via the contacts page of their website: www.studiotheatre.org.uk.