Curtain goes up on new look for town Playhouse

Project leaders Garry Goodge and Christine Malkin proudly survey the completed revamp of Sleaford Playhouse foyer area. EMN-190705-123537001
Project leaders Garry Goodge and Christine Malkin proudly survey the completed revamp of Sleaford Playhouse foyer area. EMN-190705-123537001

Visitors to Sleaford Little Theatre’s production of Twelfth Night will be among the first to see the newly redesigned layout of the entrance foyer and bar area of the Playhouse Theatre.

The work has been carried out over the last three months to improve the layout of the entrance area and make best use of the space.

The project is estimated to have cost around £50,000, but after being turned down for a grant by the Arts Council, the theatre’s patrons and benefactors dipped into their pockets to make up the cash shortfall .

Joint project leader, Christine Malkin said: “We are very grateful for everyone who helped.

“We had already cancelled our spring play to allow the work to go ahead. We could have re-applied to the Arts Council but we had shows booked and the delay would have impacted on the rest of our plays.”

Fellow project leader Garry Goodge said: “We originally had flat, removable seating downstairs, but when we changed to raked seating it completely changed the dynamic of the bar area and we realised it was now in the wrong place, with dead space under the pillars supporting the seating.”

They got architect Ben Jardine, who hails from Sleaford, although now living in Newcastle, to redesign the layout and local builders Willow Homes carried out the work.

The area has now adopted a more Georgian feel, in keeping with the Playhouse being one of the few surviving Georgian Theatres still operating. It has a light blue colour scheme with panelling picked out in white, inspired by The Theatre Royal in Richmond, the only other working Georgian theatre.

Christine said they wanted area to be more user-friendly. The box office now opens into the foyer area, allowing theatre goers to come in rather than queueing on the street (it also used to get very cold for the ticket seller). The toilets have been reorganised with a new entrance, providing three unisex toilets and a disabled toilet and the bar area has been sunk between the pillars under the raked seating to make better use of the space, fitted with worktops and units, two drinks chillers, ice-making machine and instant hot water tap for drinks to save on cleaning.

The bar has been named after long-time leading light of the theatre group, Anne Tinkler, who performed and directed plays in the 1960s and 1970s, while her husband Cecil, daughter Hilary, grandchildren and great grandchildren have all been involved too.

Christine said ticket prices will rise by £1 from the autumn to recoup costs. Garry added: “We feel for the beauty of the place it is justified. We are delivering a very professional theatre experience and prices are still a way below most places.”

Some of the decorating has been done by volunteers and Garry was grateful to Willow Homes who did a number of finishing touches for free. They have stuck to local tradespeople wherever possible.

An opening evening was held for thrilled patrons and the contractors involved last week.

Rehearsals for Twelfth Night have carried on throughout the work, with actors using the stage door at the rear of the building.

Their next production will be Nell Gwynn in September, a Restoration style comedy with lots of big costumes in keeping with the theatre.

As well as that, there will be visiting shows by Bon Jovi (July 20), Motown (July 27) and The Jam (July 5) tribute acts during the year.

, as well as New Youth Theatre shows

Then there is their pantomime, Beauty and the Beast, at Christmas time.