Sidmouth Summer Play Festival 2019: What's coming up in the final half of the season?

PUBLISHED: 07:00 28 July 2019 | UPDATED: 09:12 29 July 2019

The queue for tickets at the Manor Pavilion Theatre, in Sidmouth, when tickets went on sale for the Summer Play Festival. Ref shs 21 19TI 5509. Picture: Terry Ife

The queue for tickets at the Manor Pavilion Theatre, in Sidmouth, when tickets went on sale for the Summer Play Festival. Ref shs 21 19TI 5509. Picture: Terry Ife

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Sidmouth's summer play festival is now half-way through its season. Season producer Jonny Clines explains why you should catch it while you can.

Stuart Burrows, James Pellow,Graham Whitlock and Jonny Clines outside the Manor Pavilion Theatre in Sidmouth before the start of the Summer Play Festival. Ref shs 21 19TI 5517. Picture: Terry IfeStuart Burrows, James Pellow,Graham Whitlock and Jonny Clines outside the Manor Pavilion Theatre in Sidmouth before the start of the Summer Play Festival. Ref shs 21 19TI 5517. Picture: Terry Ife

There is still time to enjoy this year's Summer Play Festival at the Manor Pavilion Theatre in Sidmouth.

The festival, which runs for 12 weeks, from June until September, is the longest standing weekly rep season in the country and has been running in its present format for well over 30 years.

The current producers, led by Paul Taylor Mills, are back for their seventh year and are proud to uphold the traditions of the season.

As Paul explains: "The format of the play festival is unique to Sidmouth.

Sally Lofthouse. Picture: Supplied by Sally LofthouseSally Lofthouse. Picture: Supplied by Sally Lofthouse

"Nowhere else can residents and holiday makers enjoy 12 weekly plays where they will see a company of actors taking on a variety of roles in multiple plays.

"The actors only have six days to rehearse a play, the play opens on a Thursday night and on Friday morning we start rehearsing the next one.

"There is a curtain speech after every performance and the cast also say goodbye to the audience as they leave the theatre. In this way, the actors get to know the audience, get feedback about the shows and even make new friends."

The frantic schedule of the festival is not just a challenge for the actors. The team also has to build a new set each week.

Sabi Perez. Picture: Martin PlasekSabi Perez. Picture: Martin Plasek

Paul said: "Another tradition of the season is that we have a mid-week changeover. This allows holidaymakers who visit Sidmouth from Saturday to Saturday to see two plays. However, this means that we have to take down one set, put the next one up and run technical and dress rehearsals all in less than 24 hours. This is a process that within a normal schedule could take several days or even a week."

This hard work seems to be paying off as the play festival is enjoying record box office sales and the number of season ticket holders continues to rise.

Theatre manager, Graham Whitlock, is in no doubt of the reasons behind this.

He said "Put simply, Paul and his team are committed to delivering quality theatre for the people of Sidmouth and this is what they give us week after week.

Charlotte Haines. Picture: Chris MannCharlotte Haines. Picture: Chris Mann

"We have had some incredible shows already this summer. Anyone who saw The King's Speech a few weeks ago will surely agree that the standard of acting and set design is wonderful.

"The council, which runs the venue, also sees the benefit that the festival brings to the local community and this year it has invested in a brand new online ticketing system. We are now future proof and ready for many more years of the Sidmouth Play Festival."

The festival is a mix of comedies, dramas, farces and thrillers.

Season producer, Stuart Burrows, explained how the programme is put together.

Chris Casey.  Picture: Claire Grogan PhotographyChris Casey. Picture: Claire Grogan Photography

He said: "We start reading plays for the season as early as possible and hope to have titles confirmed by February each year.

"It's important to get a good mix of genres and a core of well-known titles and authors. However, we also keep an eye out for plays recently produced in the West End that might be suitable and plays that are less familiar, that we think our audience will enjoy."

"As a team, we are in our seventh year of producing the festival and we haven't repeated a play yet. That's 84 plays by the end of this summer and we are really proud of this achievement and hope to do a few more years yet of new titles."

The final six plays are a good example of the kind of plays you will see at the festival.

Sidmouth Summer Play Festival. Present LaughterSidmouth Summer Play Festival. Present Laughter

As Season producer, Jonny Clines tells us, there is still something for everyone to enjoy.

He said: "We have a great line up of plays for August and September. If you like comedies, there is plenty to enjoy. We have the very funny Table Manners from one of Britain's favourite playwrights, Alan Ayckbourn.

"We also have two hilarious farces Perfect Wedding and Tom, Dick and Harry, which will have the audience in stitches. And I'm particularly looking forward to William Douglas-Home's tender and heart-warming comedy The Kingfisher, which we think the Sidmouth audiences are going to love."

"Dangerous Obsession by N J Crisp is also a play not to be missed. This stylish, psychological thriller will have you on the edge of your seat to the final moments.

Sidmouth Summer Play Festival. Present LaughterSidmouth Summer Play Festival. Present Laughter

"And perhaps our most challenging play is Barefoot In The Park as the lead character is blind. However, far from being downbeat, the play is an uplifting and heart-warming comedy-drama which became an Oscar-winning film starring Goldie Hawn."

"But why choose just one play when you can become a season ticket holder and enjoy all six for the price of five. Come on in and join the family!"

The play festival continues until Friday, September 20, at the Manor Pavilion Theatre.

Shows run every night (except Sundays) at 8pm.

Sidmouth Summer Play Festival. Present LaughterSidmouth Summer Play Festival. Present Laughter

See www.manorpavilion.com for more information and tickets.

To read more features from East Devon Resident, click here.

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