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Outdoor theatre going strong

Quality performances and appreciative audiences have been the key to the success of the first three open air plays of the summer at Lytham Hall. That’s the view of organiser Julian Wilde who saw the season’s attendance top 1200 with Illyria’s performance of Gilbert and Sullivan’s Ruddigore last Sunday evening.

“On Sunday we applauded Andy Murray’s victory at Wimbledon, enjoyed a splendid set by the Lytham Community Choir, raised £550 in our charity raffle and were treated to a first class performance by Illyria. It was an outstanding occasion,” he said.

“Wuthering Heights, A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Ruddigore, three very different productions, have each been simply superb. I have received a tremendous number of warm compliments from those attending for the clarity of speaking and the accomplished acting by the casts from the Chapterhouse Theatre Company and from Illyria. Each of the plays has completely gripped the audience.”

Illyria’s artistic director Oliver Gray who himself travelled from Cornwall to Lytham on Sunday to watch just the second performance of a seven week tour of Ruddigore praised the organisation and atmosphere at Lytham Hall which he regards as one of the country’s top locations for professional open air touring companies.

“Our casts are made to feel very welcome at Lytham Hall. The audiences are always sizeable and responsive and the support teams who organise the car parking, meeting and greeting, seating and refreshments and work extremely hard to create just the right atmosphere. That’s very important in encouraging the actors to produce their very best work and, in an unsettled summer so far, it has been a significant boost to their morale during a long and demanding tour,” he said.

Successful innovations for the 2016 season have include the availability of pre-show suppers at the Lytham Hall tea-room, entertainment provided before two of the shows from Lytham’s Guardian Concert Band and the Lytham Community Choir, four new Patrons from the business community and all the plays being at the weekend.

Lambert Dopping-Hepenstal, Chairman of the Friends of Lytham Hall, has welcomed the expansion of the experience offered to playgoers.

“The plays at Lytham Hall are growing in popularity year by year. We are finding that this year visitors are happy to travel to Lytham at the weekend Lytham from all parts of Lancashire, Manchester and Merseyside for the shows.

There were six different county Gilbert and Sullivan societies represented at Ruddigore, a primary school group from Wigan at A Midsummer Night’s Dream and of course we do enjoy extremely strong support from local people, many of whom never miss a play.

We aim to give those attending the shows the best possible experience, whatever the weather, and I feel that the introduction of the band and the choir this year has been a particularly attractive idea,” he said.

This is the seventh year Lytham Hall has staged an outdoor theatre season, with some 10,000 people attending the 26 plays so far and raising £20,000 for the Lytham Hall Restoration Fund, as well as £3000 for local and international charities.

The final play of the season will see Illyria return on Bank Holiday Sunday afternoon August 28 with this year’s family show the Roald Dahl children’s favourite Danny, the Champion of the World. Advance ticket sales are already at a very high level and Julian Wilde feels that the House Full signs are likely to be up.

“Roald Dahl plays always draw a huge audience to Lytham Hall and the children just love his gruesome depiction of adults such as the tyrannical landowner Mr. Hazell in Danny, the Champion of the World. Whatever the attendance however, I think we are on course for a record season in terms of quality of performance.”


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