A Labour of Love

East Anglian Daily Times

Song and dance is sprinkled with heartache, romance, comedy and nostalgia in this fun-filled story, created by Bury St Edmunds’ writer Danusia Iwasko and superbly directed by Karen Simpson, of the struggle and eventual success of restoring the Theatre Royal from a barrel store to a working playhouse in the 1960s.

The aptly titled A Labour of Love, also celebrates the 50th anniversary of the reopening of the theatre and Friday’s gala evening had many of those involved in the tale present in the audience seeing part of their lives played out on stage.

There are so many stand out performances from the exceptionally talented cast of 36 backed by an eight-piece group of musicians guided by composer and musical director Phil Gostelow.

Suzanne Simpson as the never-say-die Olga Ironside Wood, her stalwart supporter Air Vice Marshall Stanley Vincent (AVM) played by Geir Madland, David Bates as Johnny Petch/Noel Coward, and Richard Stainer as Neville Blackburne, are particularly impressive in their roles.

While Stephen Broughton as Ernest Scott, Andrew James Deane as Lawford Smith, Erica Dupuy as Jean Corke, Chloe Elder as Mary Durrent, John Goldman as Jack Penton, Rebecca Peyton as Ethel Groat, Harriet Ashton as Margaret Statham, Robbie Noonan as Fred Tucker, Elliot Stribling as Brian Pawlfrey, Gary Willis as Martin Corke and Benjamin Willmott as John Abbott give great support to the musical.

The dynamic cast includes local amateur actors, young people from West Suffolk College and local schools, and professional actors who bought into the idea behind the production and wanted to be part of show.

There are also some people who have never been in a large scale production or in anything since school days and some who were reluctant to be on stage but wanted to make the musical happen.

And happen it certainly does.

It portrays the highs and lows of the fundraising efforts by Olga and her team led by AVM plus the support by the community which led to the eventual reopening of the theatre in 1965 and saving the town’s cultural heritage.

A Labour of Love, continues all this week until Saturday, July 25.

Russell Cook

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