On Thursday 30th November, the Derby Playhouse Theatre staged what may prove to be its final show. Earlier that day, the board of trustees took the theatre into voluntary liquidation after a last-ditch rescue package was rejected; an offer which involved the joint artistic director putting up £282,000 of his own money. The city of Derby - some 14 miles from my own hometown - is currently enjoying a resurgence with a brand new £350 million shopping mall and the promise of 2 new cinemas which will be up and running in Spring and Summer next year. In terms of audience figures, The Playhouse was one of the most successful theatres in England but, as is so often the case, a severe lack of funds has hampered operations since 2002. It seems absurd that such a thriving city is unable to host live theatre, but there is a glimmer of hope as the administrators are now willing to accept bids from parties wishing to buy the business.
Like cinema, live theatre offers both light and intellectual entertainment. It's a place where people can go to escape for a few hours. Somewhere they can enter the lives of others, and go on new journeys. I believe it's important such places such be allowed to thrive, and I'm sure there are many other cinemas and theatres threatened with closure the world over. We should do everything we can to support entertainment venues because, next time, it could be somewhere near you.
The Playhouse holds special memories for many folks. It was the place where I savoured every moment of a wonderful stage adaptation of AMADEUS; where I marveled at the superb special effects of DRACULA and FRANKENSTEIN and was chilled by Stephen Malatrat's version of the classic ghost story, THE WOMAN IN BLACK. My first visit to this venue was a film screening of Don Lett's THE PUNK ROCK MOVIE, but live theatre was soon coursing through my veins, leading me to check out some top shows during frequent visits to London. Fingers crossed I'll have some good news to report in the next week or so because, up to now, the whole thing has been handled very badly.