Seaside theatre project takes to the road

Youngsters have been 'on tour' at theatres around the region's coastline to explore the past, present and future of seaside entertainment.

They have been delving into the heritage of historic venues, and talking to the people to perform in and manaqe them to check the pulse of variety and repertory drama shows enjoyed by generations of trippers and locals alike.

The result will be an exhibition and show staged later this month as part of a seaside arts festival, as well as a film in the New Year.

Behind the scheme is the Seaside Arts Society (SAS) based at Sheringham Little Theatre, which won a �25,000 Heritage Lottery Grant to support the project.

Director Debbie Thompson said more than 100 youngsters had been involved in researching history, travelling to the venues, doing photography and filming, as well as taking part in workshops to find out what appearing in 'rep' drama was like.

'They are finding out why it came about, how it evolved, how it is surviving now and looking at its future,' she explained.

The youngsters had been venues including to Cromer Pier, Gorleston Pavilion, Great Yarmouth's Britannia Pier, and summer theatre in halls at Southwold and Aldeburgh in Suffolk and Frinton in Essex.

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The exhibition of their history and photography work will be held at the Little Theatre Hub from October 24-31. Two full day workshops looking at seaside variety on the weekend of October 29 and 30 will culminate in a show at 7.30pm on the Saturday night.

But the efforts were only an interim report, with the full research and conclusions being showcased in a film to be shown in January, added Mrs Thompson.

Student Michelle Thompson from Horning is co-ordinating the project during an internship at the theatre and has been involved in the research outings.

She said: 'It was interesting to see how every town was different. Sheringham has all the facilities for staging theatre, but other places have to convert halls - and sometimes it is the only live theatre they got all year.

'The venues all seemed to be supported and held in high regard,' she added.

The project exhibition and show is part of the Cromer and Sheringham Arts Festival - nine days of more than 60 events from art and literature to crafts, drama and music - running from October 23-31. Programmes are now widely available across North Norfolk and more information is at its website