19th Jane Austen Festival a hit at The Mission Theatre!

Jane Austen fans flocked to The Mission Theatre last week to enjoy a jam-packed week of Austen treats. The Mission Theatre team were delighted, to once again, be hosting this prestigious festival now in it’s 19th year! Here is a sample of some of the highlights:

Tuesday 17th September - Book signings and table etiquette

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Kicking off the festival, writer Sophie Andrews held an inspirational and intriguing book discussion. This free event proved popular and Sophie was thrilled to be able to share her brand new book Be More Jane with everyone who attended. Offering free book signing, as well as tote bags, key chains and bookmarks to purchase, the audience sat attentively listening to every word.

Ending Day 1, Festival favourite John White mesmerised audience members for 2 hours as he laid out a feast and worked through the do’s and don’ts of 19th Century table etiquette. Set in 1812, John showcased a wide range of spectacular silver and porcelain items which audience members were invited to look over at the end of the show. Demonstrating the complex art of dining and all things table related, Tuesday night finished with an informal Q&A session, at which John knowledgeably answers all questions.

Wednesday 18th September - A thousand pins later!

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Wednesday morning was spent leisurely making vintage style bonnets and turbans to match each attendee’s festival outfit. Supervised by the talented Sylvia, from Bath Theatrical Costume Hire, this workshop included the use of vintage sewing machines, delicate embellishments, faultless needle work and expert guidance. The end results were beautifully crafted headwear, which participants were able to showcase for the entirety of the Festival. Bath Theatrical Hire ran a series of workshops for Austen fans throughout the Festival across the city. The Mission Theatre hosted two other sessions which included making your own reticule. Gorgeous silks, golden threads and fluttering feathers were left out for participants to use. Around the city, on non-workshop days, Sylvia and her team were kept busy by dressing up those who had hired from their elaborate wardrobe of 18th century costumes.

Thursday 19th September - Drawers, dogs and dark deeds

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Audiences enjoyed a wonderful afternoon treat as Jenny Colquhoun filled the stage with petticoats, stays, corsets and shifts in her enthralling hour-long discussion on all things underwear! The delightful Freddie - Jenny’s dog - joined her on stage, in a matching handmade tail suit, and helped hand out ‘doggy’ bags at the end of the afternoon. Perfect pantaloons, silk shifts and whimsical discussions filled the auditorium as Jenny and the audience discussed what might, or might not, have been worn under ladies dresses!

Thursday evening saw a sold-out performance of Bad Girls and Bonnets. A sea of bold, brash and beautiful garments filled the stage as Lucy Adlington revealed how 18th Century ladies stole luxurious items of that era. Authentic paper cuttings were read throughout the evening, highlighting what the wicked women had stolen. Items such as expensive laces, buttons, gold linings and even whole realms of fabric were all on the list. A captivated audience listened to Lucy re-tell these stories and admired her original Regency wear, as well as some beautifully made replicas for 2 hours. The animated actress shared her top tips on how to get away with stealing, these included stuffing silks and small underwear into your stockings; carrying around a pair of scissors in your reticule to snip off any gold/silver linings from others’ outfits; hiding fabric under your petticoat and always swiping buttons that you fancied for yourself! The evening was filled with fun, facts and laughter and audience members were given the chance to touch and browse Lucy’s items at the end of the evening.

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Friday 20th September - Recreating Mr Darcy

Actors and Jane Austen Fans alike took part in a highly-creative 90 minute workshop with professional American actress Karen Eterovich. Attendees embodied their favourite Austen characters through period music, 18th Century art and superb literature. Developing their own Austen-like characters - from her novels, or based on real life - the actors filled the space strutting around the Main Auditorium re-enacting poses from Jane’s most well-known Regency names. With Karen’s expert skills, everyone involved was able to fully embody their favourite character or revamp them in their own way. Here is a picture of 2 Jane Austen dancers striking their best gentleman poses.

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Saturday 21st September - The Grand Finale

The final day of the Jane Austen Festival was filled with 3 Austen delights. First up was a sold-out talk with Professor John Mullan. A favourite amongst Festival fans, John captivated his audience for an hour and a half, debating and discussing what really matters in Jane Austen’s novels? Listeners were given the chance to ask John questions and have their Jane Austen books and goodies signed by this first-class speaker.

Saturday afternoon saw a debut performance of Your’s Jane Austen - ‘Austen Sisters’. A play still in its early stages, Harker Studio Productions filled The Mission Theatre stage with their authentic props and glamorous costumes. Headed by actress Susannah Harker (BBC’s Jane Bennett in Pride and Prejudice), this on-script performance was accompanied by live music throughout. This new writing went down well with audiences and all were asked to give honest feedback at the end of the performance in order for it to develop further before its next outing.

The grand finale on Saturday evening of The 2019 Jane Austen Festival, was a returning favourite: Cheer From Chawton, presented by long-time supporter of Next Stage Theatre Company - professional American actress Karen Eterovich. This was the fourth time Karen had performed as part of the Festival.

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The one-hour long interactive performance showcased Karen’s multi talented take on Austen’s life. Basing the story in Chawton at a Christmas family party, Karen had members of the audience as the imaginary friends and relations of Jane with Karen herself - using the device of recalling Jane’s younger self - depicting key characters and events from Austen’s novels. Drawing largely on Jane’s own words, Karen took her audience on a delightful journey, helped at times by her talented daughter Alice, Alice’s young friend Dilys, Patrick from California and Georgia, one of the Jane Austen stewards.

A packed auditorium laughed, listened and loved the humour, as well as the pathos, in many aspects of Jane Austen’s life. In a Q&A after the show, audience members were able to ask Karen more about her research and her acting skills with many comments about her faultless English accent and her mastery of dialogue and dance.

It was a very special show and everyone who was lucky enough to see it felt privileged to have been in the audience at The Mission Theatre on Saturday night.

Another successful year of Fringe performances at The Mission!

The 2019 Fringe Festival has now drawn to a close after a highly-successful fortnight of performances.

The Fringe kicked-off in style at The Mission Theatre on Friday 24th May with a Tantalising Tasters Launch Party evening! Audiences were invited to enjoy appetite-whetting 10 minute tasters of upcoming performances. A full-house were mesmerised for 3 hours with scenes inspired by Shakespeare, modern day dilemmas, OS maps, political parties, abuse, Greek tragedy and the world of panto. Scenes were peppered with dramatic cliff hangers, beautiful singing and hilarious comedy. The ever popular Fringe Fizz also went down a treat! Audience members were joined by The Mayor of Bath and The Mayoress, who became the first members of Helen Wood’s O.S. Map Fan Club, winning a scrumptious bar of Kendall Mint Cake!

Week 1:

The first week of Fringe events opened with Derekk Ross’ 45 minute one-man play; AUTOLYCUS! This witty and cleverly written show ran for 4 performances and later received a spectacular 5 star review. Week 1 also saw Greek mythology made modern by Bedivere Arts, sell-out comedy by Gerard Harris, an intimate and rhythmic evening with guitarist Rob Johnson, thought-provoking new writing by Exit Pursued by Panda Theatre Company and Atomic Clock, as well as side-splitting and informative map fun from Helen Wood!

Week 2:

The second week of Fringe frolics opened with Mechanimal’s latest work; Vigil. A work-in progress this show left audiences wanting more! More great music was enjoyed in the second week with ensemble choir singing from Wildcat Queenz as Christmas came early! And a light-hearted evening of murder ballads with The Hamoaze Band. London-based performers, Jose and Charlie from Moving Pieces wowed audiences with their physical theatre piece; Total Eclipse, and Bath University Theatre Society did the double on the closing weekend with Skakespeare’s classic Romeo and Juliet and the hilarious Party.

The 2019 Fringe Festival has been another successful fortnight of performances at The Mission. With intriguing Q&A’s, great reviews and lots of fun, The Mission Theatre Team can’t wait to host more Fringe events in 2020.

The Fabulous Four!

After a spectacular start to 2019, The Mission Theatre is delighted to be welcoming 4 talented companies to Bath this month. From Shakespeare to original dramas, literary classics to thought-provoking tales, there is something for everyone to enjoy.

Tuesday 5th - Wednesday 6th February

Antony and Cleopatra

The first of our fabulous four is The Scullions. This talented local company are bringing to Bath a re-imagined version of the epic Shakespeare tale: Antony and Cleopatra. The ancient tale is relocated and set in the roaring 20’s - a world of decadent, party-fuelled, young and disgustingly-rich aristocrats. The company invite you for a night at the illustrious bar of Egypt’s wealthiest bright young thing, Cleopatra.

With a live band and an ensemble cast, you won’t want to miss your ticket to this party.

Tickets £12 (£10 concs) Available from Bath Box Office 01225 463362

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Friday 8th - Saturday 9th February

In Other Words

Next up we have a newly published Samuel French production In Other Words brought to The Mission by Off The Middle. It is an intimate, humorous and deeply moving love story which explores the effects of Alzheimer’s disease and the transformative power of music in our lives. This five star production follows the lives of Arthur and Jane as they tell their stories from the very beginning, connecting with the timeless music of Frank Sinatra.

Relevant and powerful, do not miss this up and coming production for 2019!

Tickets £15 (£12 concs) Available online at www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/in-other-words-tickets-52009515862

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Thursday 14th - Saturday 16th February

The Ebbing Hour

Third on our list of fabulous theatre is Softsod Productions with The Ebbing Hour . This is the company’s dynamic new drama, re-crafted into a single two-act play from two previous one-act plays Fragile Man and UnSpoken, producing what is now a unique, best-of-the-best, piece of theatre.

Passionate about engaging with audiences, Softsod create unique, contemporary drama focused on crafted story-telling, creative directing, outstanding performance and high quality production.

A beautiful, fascinating and provocative tale.

Tickets £12.50 (£10.50 concs) Available online at www.softsod.com

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Thursday 21st - Saturday 24th February

Animal Farm

To round off an exciting month of theatre in February Bath Spa Productions bring this ambitious production of the literary classic: Animal Farm to The Mission Theatre. A timeless and devastating allegory of idealism betrayed by the desire for personal power.

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Among the most famous political novels of all time, this vibrant and moving production from Bath Spa University students will breathe fresh life into a classic which is as resonant today as when it was first published.

A true vintage tale, brought to life by talented local actors!

Tickets £12 (£10 concs, £6 BSU Student) Available from Bath Spa Live and Bath Box Office 01225 436632

Fun and games in the Bedroom!

The Mayor and Mayoress of Bath with the cast and crew of  Bedroom Farce

The Mayor and Mayoress of Bath with the cast and crew of Bedroom Farce

On Friday, December 14th the cast of Next Stage Theatre Company‘s Bedroom Farce were delighted to perform at The Mission Theatre in front of The Right Worshipful the Mayor - Councillor Patrick Anketell-Jones and The Mayoress. Produced in-the-round and directed by Ann Ellison, Bedroom Farce had played to sell-out audiences all week.

The Mayor and Mayoress enjoyed this classic Ayckbourn romp which follows the antics of four couples, in 3 bedrooms through the course of one night. The play demonstrated the best of Next Stage’s patron’s work with moments of high humour - the couple eating pilchards on toast at midnight, or the collapse of a painfully put-together DIY bedside table - interspersed with Ayckbourn’s insightful observations of marriages and relationships.

Next Stage’s Artistic Director Ann Ellison says:

“It was lovely to welcome the Mayor and Mayoress to The Mission Theatre especially at such a busy time of year for them both. It is not their first visit to our theatre as they had previously seen another Next Stage production here - Suddenly Last Summer by Tennessee Williams. Both the Mayor and Mayoress have a keen interest in the creative arts and over a drink in the interval wanted to understand more about the history of our theatre company - which is about to celebrate 25 years of bringing excellence in theatre to Bath audiences. The Mayor congratulated me on the work Next Stage has done at The Mission Theatre and said that our successful venture in creating an independent community theatre 15 years ago stands as a beacon in the city, demonstrating what can be achieved through vision, determination and hard work. He praised the talents of the company’s actors and the fact that every penny raised through our shows goes directly back into keeping the theatre running successfully.”

At the end of Friday‘s performance of Bedroom Farce the Mayor and Mayoress met the cast and crew of the production, chatted about the play and were happy -  ignoring the smell of pilchards! - to pose on one of the beds for a company photo.

 

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to all!

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As another year draws to a close and the air is full of festive cheer, we here at The Mission Theatre are delighted to reflect on what has been yet another wonderful year.

Our resident Next Stage Theatre Company strode into 2018 with a sterling production of John Osborne’s Look Back In Anger. In February the talented Next Stage Youth revisited Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials Parts I and II, performing to sold-out audiences. April saw a highly successful Next Stage production of David Auburn’s Proof, with a debut from Next Stage’s youngest Director, Charlotte Claydon. We closed the Summer season with Tennessee Williams’ The Night of The Iguana, with a notably magical set.

The Autumn season opened with Next Stage's elegant production of J.B.Priestly’s Dangerous Corner, directed by Bob Constantine. In the October half term both Next Stage adult and youth actors trod the boards in a heart-warming performance of E. Nesbitt’s The Railway Children. This production was immediately followed with the moving and unforgettable Private Peaceful by Michael Morpurgo – an ambitious one-man show, exceptionally-well performed by Next Stage's Kris Rose. Signing off this busy and exciting year, the company closed with one of Alan Ayckbourn’s funniest plays: Bedroom Farce, set in-the-round. Those of you who were lucky enough to catch the play last week will know what a hilarious production this proved to be. 

With eight Next Stage productions this year, it certainly has been a busy one at the theatre, but that is just the tip of the iceberg! This year The Mission has been host to the Bath Fringe Festival, Bath Comedy Festival, The Jane Austen Festival and more than 50 visiting companies, including returning favourites from previous years. From magic shows to musicals, from Shakespeare to cutting-edge drama, from children’s shows to dance, we have had a marvellous range of entertainment with something for everyone to enjoy.

Looking ahead, 2019 is already set to be another exciting year, with Next Stage celebrating its 25th Birthday in May. The company returns to the Minack Theatre in Cornwall in late-July to perform the outstanding Great Expectations with a cast made up of our adult and youth actors. 

To kick off our new season, we have the elegant masterpiece that is W. Somerset Maugham’s For Services Rendered. Next Stage cast and crew are in intensive rehearsals over the Christmas period, and tickets are now on sale from the Next Stage Box Office. Don’t leave it too late to get yours, as we anticipate that this will be a popular show.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to you all, from The Mission Theatre!

Robert Lindsay to become Silver Anniversary Patron of The Mission Theatre’s resident Next Stage Theatre Company

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Robert Lindsay as Sebastian -  In Praise of Love  (2018)

Robert Lindsay as Sebastian - In Praise of Love (2018)

Next Stage Theatre Company, which created and runs The Mission Theatre, is about to celebrate its 25th birthday in May 2019 and is delighted to announce that Robert Lindsay has agreed to become its Silver Anniversary Patron joining the company’s other Patrons: Sir Alan Ayckbourn, Sir David Hare and Dame Harriet Walter.

Bath-based audiences have just had the chance to see Robert Lindsay in a critically-acclaimed performance as Sebastian in Jonathan Church’s brilliant production of Terence Rattigan’s In Praise of Love. Anyone lucky enough to have seen the play in the last month will know how thrilled the Next Stage Theatre Company are to have won the patronage of such a luminary of stage and screen.

Robert Lindsay has been delighting his public since graduating from RADA in the early 70’s. He has been seen in TV comedies, Hollywood films and West-End and Broadway shows with seasons at the RSC and The National Theatre. A versatile and charismatic actor, Robert is perhaps best known for such memorable shows as Citizen Smith and GBH on television, Richard III for the RSC, Me and my Girl (London and New York), The Entertainer, Onassis and Dirty Rotten Scoundrels on stage.

Next Stage’s Artistic Director, Ann Ellison BEM has followed and admired Robert’s work since the 1970’s and in particular was inspired by him and Derek Jacobi when they appeared in Bath in Becket in 1991. When she knew Robert was coming to Bath with In Praise of Love, a play that Next Stage had produced in December 2016, Ann approached Robert to become the company’s Patron in its 25th year.

On Monday November 12th, Robert Lindsay emailed as follows:

“Ann Ellison asked me if I would give my patronage to Next Stage Theatre Company as it approaches it's 25th birthday. I was impressed at the volume of work that the company had achieved in the last 25 years - nearly 200 productions - and struck by the range and ambition of many of the plays. The fact that Next Stage obtained and converted a small 200 year old Chapel 15 years ago and turned it into The Mission Theatre - a thriving community theatre - also struck a chord. In this day and age, the struggle for any arts organisation to survive and prosper is a challenge and if my patronage can help in some small way I should be delighted. By endorsing Next Stage's work with both its adult and youth theatre companies I hope they can look forward to continued success in the next 25 years!" 

Fresh year! Fresh start! Fresh flowers!

Happy New Year to you all from The Mission Theatre! 

Here at The Mission we have been very busy over the festive break getting the theatre ready for the 2018 Spring/ Summer programme of events. The Mission has undergone a series of maintenance procedures throughout the end of December and beginning of January, to bring to you a fresh, vibrant theatre to enjoy this season. 

In early January The Mission's spring clean began! One of the biggest changes to the venue this year, is our Foyer and stair walls. Over the Winter we decided that in preparation for our busy 2018 line-up we would like to re-fresh and re-vamp the Foyer area by bringing a new lick of paint to the walls. For those of you who may have visited the theatre in the past couple of weeks, you will have noticed that our Foyer is now a lovely shade of light green - very fitting for the Spring season we felt. The colour change runs on up the stairs, brightening up the inviting pathway to our Bistro.

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Also on the Spring-clean check-list was steam cleaning the theatre's carpets. This year we had the pleasure of welcoming Green Man Carpet & Upholstery Cleaners into the theatre to deep clean every carpet in the building. Jon and Gareth worked hard all day to ensure our carpets were perfect for the busy schedule that we have coming up. We were extremely impressed with their service and our carpets haven't looked as good as they do now in a long time! 

With a fresh start in mind, it was also decided to replace our 13 year old sound desk which has been on its last legs for quite a while. We are improving the sound system for everyone who uses and hires the theatre, by purchasing a spanking new digital desk and acquiring new amps.

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Finally in our new season re-vamp, we are delighted to announce the collaborative relationship we have entered into with local florist - The Secret Gardens. Throughout our Spring/ Summer 2018 season the theatre's Foyer will be home to beautiful, bespoke flower displays from this boutique florist. Blossoming beautifully as we embark on our busy schedule of performances in 2018, our Foyer will be host to the vibrant, colourful and cleverly created displays changing from month to month. For more details about The Secret Gardens, please contact B Cherrington at b@thesecretgardens.co or check out their instagram at @the_secret_gardens or pick up one of our 2018 Spring/Summer Brochures today.

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In December the Foyer played host to a classical and festive flower display, crafted with pussy willow, golden leaves, gorgeous red roses, amaryllis and more. The December display was a feast for both the eyes and nose! 

 

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This January The Mission's Foyer is currently filled with a colourful, dainty and fresh display of wonderful Spring inspired flowers. Brightly coloured narcissi, beautiful pinks and oranges, all set in a spectacular vase for you to enjoy throughout this cold month.

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Back in December, the team at The Mission Theatre were grateful to have been invited to attend The Secret Gardens' first anniversary party. A warm and welcoming evening with live music, home-made mushroom soup, prosecco and of course, mince pies! The florist and gifts boutique is located inside Bath Spa Train Station, Platform 1 within the old lift room. As well as specialising in bespoke floristry, plants and arrangements, the boutique is also the exclusive partner within the UK for Granado, Brazil's oldest luxury pharmaceutical brand. We were lucky enough to test some of these luscious products at the event and especially loved the lavender hand cream! The Secret Gardens are available for weddings, events and businesses within the local area and beyond. Do get in contact - you won't be disappointed. 

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Fantastic First Night for Next Stage Theatre Company's Democracy

Next Stage Theatre Company's final production for 2017, Democracy by Michael Frayn, opened last night to a wonderful and receptive audience. The Mission Theatre and Next Stage were delighted to welcome The Chair of BANES, Councillor Cherry Beath and guests to the performance and for a photograph after the triumphant opening night.

Director John Matthews with the cast and crew of  Democracy  with The Chair of BANES, Councillor Cherry Beath

Director John Matthews with the cast and crew of Democracy with The Chair of BANES, Councillor Cherry Beath

The production has already received an excellent review for its innovative look at the political system: 


Review: Democracy – Next Stage Theatre Company – The Mission Theatre


I’m not sure quite what the usual run of plays is but if you’ve ever longed for something completely different then Democracy is probably it.

Contemporary politics isn’t a common subject in theatre and, although this is set ostensibly in 1970’s West Germany, much of the action here could apply to current situations.

There’s an East German spy in Chancellor Willy Brandt’s West German coalition government and, amazingly true, he becomes very close to Brandt. Thus we follow the action, viewed cleverly from both sides, of the internal politics involved in maintaining power with a slender majority and how spies worked.

Based largely on the truth, spy Gunter Guillaume (played by believable charming Jon Yardley) even gets to holiday with Brandt (excellent Peter Benson) while passing back information to his puppet master, Arno Kretschman.

When the Chancellor’s party get a bigger majority one worried member remarks, “Victory means you have to do something.” Ain’t that the truth, and the problem.

A perfect black, white and grey set, plus good lighting, simply done and cleverly constructed, this might not be for everyone but for anyone with an interest in Machiavellian politics it’s a rare treat.

Philip Horton

Performances are at The Mission Theatre at 7:30pm until Saturday 2nd December (Matinee Saturday 2nd at 2pm). 


Tickets are £12.50 (£10.50 concs) available from The Mission Theatre (01225 428600) or online here. Alternatively, tickets are available from Bath Box Office (01225 4633620 or online here