We are fortunate to have two fantastic entertainment venues in Bury St Edmunds – the quaint Regency Theatre Royal and glossy modern Apex.
Both deserve our support, but I can’t help but hold a special affection for the theatre. I remember treading the boards there as a youngster in my dance school’s annual shows and going to see the pantomime in 1984 (I was called up on stage to collect a goodie bag which included a Mars bar – they seemed much bigger back then). In the 1990s I performed in a production of Chicago shortly after the theatre re-opened (it underwent a refurbishment in 1996) and then, in 1999, I was in the chorus of Sweeney Todd.
So you could say the Theatre Royal formed part of my childhood. Aged 21, I took a 10- year break from the theatre, considering myself far too busy buying a house, getting married and building a career for much else, but in 2009 it was time to get back on stage. That year I was in Chess and Thoroughly Modern Millie, then Guys and Dolls in 2010, followed by Crazy for You in 2011. And I am thrilled to say that on Sunday (April 21) I will return to the Theatre Royal for a frantic and heady week of rehearsals and six shows in the chorus of the musical Footloose, produced by the Irving Stage Company.
What struck me most after my 10-year break from the theatre was that, despite undergoing an extensive £5.3 million refurbishment from 2005-2007, in some ways it had not changed, especially backstage. There, what we once used as a make-up room is now full of technology and showers have been installed, but otherwise it looks pretty much the same as it did 20 years ago.
So while audiences at Footloose next week will be able to gaze around the lovingly restored auditorium and visit the swish Greene Room bar in the interval, spare a thought for us amateur thespians crowded into changing rooms underneath the theatre or squeezing on to the faded but comfy sofas in the performers’ green room downstairs. But don’t get me wrong – therein lies part of the charm of the Theatre Royal. And I can’t wait to be back there!