Artistic Director’s September News Round-Up


So……I hope you all made the most of what summer sunshine there was or headed to warmer climes.

At the Loft we have had a busy summer, hosting Arts Insight youth theatre for their super successful production ‘Game of Life’, bringing joy to both the students, their families and friends, under the tutelage of Laura Berridge.

We then prepared our performance spaces in the auditorium and the studio for our annual technical inspection which necessitates an exacting amount of testing and checking ready for assessment.

In the meantime, rehearsals were underway for the September production of Edward Albee’s magnificent ‘A Delicate Balance’, text rehearsals commenced for ‘Macbeth’, we changed the year end musical to ‘The World Goes ‘Round’ and reading and auditions were held for the January, February and March 2024 productions. Just in case you thought we were idling in the sunshine!

In other news, the redevelopment of Spencer Yard at the rear of the Loft is in its second year. It has been hard living in the middle of a building site for so long. We are looking forward to its planned completion in October and to being free of noise and mess for the first time in 5 years all around us.

The sad news of the summer was the loss of Rob Lister. Following drama school at Rose Bruford, Rob was a professional actor all of his life on stage, tv and radio, notably at the National and the RSC. He had a passionate love for Shakespeare and a huge knowledge of music hall, which was the subject of a one man show he toured. He was also the most magnificent Master of Ceremonies at the Loft’s tribute production to music hall in 2019. His wife, Pat, a teacher of English and Theatre Studies at Stratford Grammar School, performed at the Loft in her 20s and I shared the stage with her. At his recent funeral at Holy Trinity Church in Stratford it was standing room only and moving previous performance recordings of his voice were played during the service. The unforgettable Rob Lister.

July closed out with a hugely successful production of ‘The Rise and Fall of Little Voice’, and judging from the feedback of the audience it was a palpable hit. The reviews were spectacular and it was brilliant to have such accomplished actors, new to the Loft, in the cast. Enormous thanks to Viki Betts and her entire company for pulling off such a special production.

Next up we have a multiple award winning play, ‘A Delicate Balance’ by Edward Albee. Albee, who is without doubt one of the most admired American playwrights, is warmly welcomed back on the Loft stage. During our Centenary Year we presented possibly his most well known play of ‘Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf’ to great acclaim and now we are presenting the much garlanded ‘A Delicate Balance’. William Wilkinson was due to direct this play as his final hurrah for the Loft, but sadly due to personal issues, has been unable to continue his involvement. I know just how much this production meant to Bill and how very upset he is not to be able to bring this marvellous play to you. I have picked up the director’s baton and I hope he and you will approve of our work. I first saw this play when I was in my 20s and not only did it make a huge impact on me, but I yearned to be able to play in it when I was older. I have seen it presented several times, culminating in a quite wonderful production at the Almeida Theatre in London, starring Penelope Wilton, the late Tim Piggott-Smith and Imelda Staunton in the lead roles – all of them never better. Michael Billington, who reviewed it as the then senior theatre critic of The Guardian said that if he was asked which his favourite Albee play was, he would have to say this one. I urge you to come and see the terrific cast we have assembled do the greatest justice to this enviable piece of writing.

My planning for our 2024 programme is well advanced and I am just finalising the last slot. Fingers crossed there will be something for everyone – comedy, a musical, period classic masterpieces, contemporary hot ticket drama and modern classics. The theme which binds them is always the same…… that we start with the very best writing. “The Plays The Thing”. Like every great recipe, it starts with the finest ingredients.

Talking of which I saw ‘The Motive and The Cue’ at the National which has transferred to the West End now. It tells the story of Sir John Gielgud directing Richard Burton as Hamlet. Before rehearsals began, Richard L. Sterne, who was in the cast, decided that he would take down every word Gielgud said about the play, since he believed he knew more about the part of Hamlet and the play than any living actor. What he did not tell them was that he kept a tape recorder concealed in a large briefcase. He asked permission to keep notes, which was given, but he did not tell Gielgud about the recorder, in case it inhibited the actors. When he later told them, they reacted favourably. Here is an extract from the play, which moved me particularly…………

Gielgud to Burton

Gielgud: Why do you do theatre?

Burton: Tell me the answer

Gielgud : You like the art. That relationship between the audience and the stage – that moment of conversation – theatre is thinking – pure thought – collective imagination yes but also just….. I don’t think there is any other art form in the world where minds meet so beautifully. People sat together, in communion with what’s in front of them. The actor and the character. Wasn’t that where we started? How you cannot separate them. The audience has been told this story a thousand times – Hamlet – oh how dull, everyone dies, but one must go to see it, rattle our jewellery, someone famous in it you know, but they’ve never heard you tell it and your pain and your suffering makes it yours. And that means they are delighted by discovering it anew. Because you have remade it for them. You are going to hold them in your thoughts. Your actions. Your deeds. Your Hamlet.

Don’t miss the chance to see this terrific cast tell you their story of ‘A Delicate Balance’.

September, 2023