Comments From Our Audiences
A Message From A Satisfied Regular Customer
Dear Priory Theatre,
This is the first year that I have attended any of the performances at The Priory, although I have been aware of its existence for many years. Let me say at the outset that I have been immensely impressed. I have attended many productions at the Theatre Royal over a forty year period and have had the privilege of seeing a number of great actors and excellent performances. However, I am sad to say that over the past years the quality of the productions has deteriorated. In addition, the theatre has staged more and more musicals as it clearly finds that it can fill seats more easily than by staging plays.
Almost in a spirit of desperation, I decided to give the Priory a try. I spoke to five other people, all seasoned theatre-goers, who said that they would like to come with me. In addition, I invited my grandson and his fiancée to join the party. They had never been to the theatre before and were a little hesitant. However, they agreed to join the rest of us.
I bought season tickets for my little party of eight and the adventure began. I have to say that I did not know what to expect from an amateur company. To my delight everyone has enjoyed the experience immensely: the range of plays has been interesting, each one has been well produced and the acting has been good. To add to this, the small theatre has an intimate atmosphere all of its own, something that is impossible in anywhere larger. Finally, to my delight, my grandson and his fiancée have loved everything they have seen and are now converted theatre-goers. Please pass on my thanks to everyone concerned. Please also make sure that I am included in your mailing list for your next season!
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The Ladykillers, June 2016
I have just returned home from watching The Ladykillers at the Priory Theatre. I thoroughly enjoyed the production and wanted to pass on my congratulations to all those involved. There was an extremely strong cast whose comic timing was brilliant. The set was beautiful and very well designed to accommodate the intricacies of the plot. I hope all your audiences appreciated the huge amount of time, effort and talent that was on show. Congratulations again, can't wait for your next season.
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This amateur performance of The Ladykillers was far better than the professional production of Heartbeat which was on at the Theatre Royal a couple of weeks ago.
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Great performance last night! We laughed our sock off! You must have studied the characters in detail, it was just like the original only better. Thank you for a most enjoyable evening. S & RK
Can't wait to see the show, a friend... was there last night and said it was very funny.
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The 39 Steps, June 2015
The 39 Steps was an absolute triumph! My sides are still aching with laughter. The production appeared to be effortless and the humour almost accidental. A clear indication of the amount of work and skill that had gone into its preparation. Yet again, well done Priory! My friends and I are very much looking forward to next season.
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Thank you for your 'phone call yesterday evening and your email today regarding our change of seats. Many thanks for arranging this for us. Your help has been very much appreciated. Looking forward to the next production already.
Can I also just add that [Private Lives] was wonderful and we had a very enjoyable
evening, as always, at your theatre.
HP, Whitley Bay
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Jack and the Beanstalk, January 2015
We had a wonderful evening yesterday. Loved the idea of ‘Click’ and ‘Collect’. Brilliant and up to the minute. Your dancers are wonderful. Your Principal Boy can’t half belt a song! Some old jokes, and a few new ones. And one or two unintentional humorous situations! Hehe!! Great writing.
We've just been to see Jack and the Beanstalk which we thoroughly enjoyed but unfortunately I didn't get a chance to buy a programme and wanted to find out who had performed in it and which dance school(s) the dancers went to (Stages school of dance North Shields) because my daughter has been inspired!
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Can I firstly say at how much we enjoyed the Panto last night. As a family it was our time at the Priory Theatre and my family loved it. Can you please pass on our thanks to all the cast especially Simon, Jill, Supermoo, the cow Fleshcreep and Blunderbore the Giant. Jill truly has a voice of an angel, she is amazing. She surely has a huge future ahead of her. Simon was excellent; my boys thought he was very funny. Fleshcreep I think was more for the adults, but the boys loved booing him every time he came on. Supermoo was my personal favourite. It was a tremendously funny role. The Cow was exceptional as well, both girls perfectly in time with each other and the little dance they did was fab. Finally, Blunderbore, the guy who played Blunderbore was amazing. The strength he has to carry out that role is phenomenal. He made it look effortless. I can imagine that the costume is very heavy. The boys definitely liked Blunderbore the best, my Sister-in-Law as well liked the guy playing Blunderbore the best. (She will tell me off for that one!!) I thought I would just express my thanks again for a wonderful night.
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The Vicar of Dibley, June 2014
I just wanted to say how much my Mum, my brother and I enjoyed the Vicar of Dibley. We thought it was absolutely brilliant and so funny. The acting was brilliant. I have paid twice as much for shows at the Theatre Royal that were not half as good.
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Comments From A Recent Formal Research Study
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Reports by representatives of NODA (National Operatic and Dramatic Association)
The Ladykillers, June 2016 (Winner of Best Play National Operatic and Dramatic Association Performance Awards 2017)
The original Ealing comedy, “The Ladykillers”, starring Alec Guinness, remains a well-loved black and white film classic. This version, adapted by Graham Linehan (of “Father Ted” fame), is perfect for an amateur company and the Priory Theatre assembled a cast of fine “character” actors to emphasise the genteel black humour, for which it is remembered.
A clever set, aided by appropriate sound effects, replicated an elderly house, in the 1950s, just a little too close to the railway lines at London’s Kings Cross. The lighting and vibrating, as trains rattled by, helped build the genteel tension. The set, designed and built by Robin Herron, Chris Young, Ray Lowry and John Leake, comprised sitting room, staircase and spare bedroom in elderly Mrs Wilberforce’s house, looking very realistic and sturdy with its mock Tudor beams. The contents of the house and costumes all clearly reflected the time period.
Sweet Mrs Wilberforce (played by Haley Moy) and creepy Professor Marcus (Ian Cairns) dominate the early scenes, making a fine and amusing double act. The Professor’s gang of robbers, comprising Dave Cooper (as Major Courtney), Kris Roberts (Harry Robinson), Steve Smith (One Round) and Dave Cosgrove (Louis Harvey) had some very funny lines, which they delivered well, as they established their individual character defects which, together with basic lack of trust, soon made it clear they were bound for failure.
They pretend to be a group of musicians, unfortunately unable to play their instruments, and the scene where they “perform” for Mrs Wilberforce and guests is an absolute hoot. The ladies playing the guests had the unenviable task of only coming on close to the end, but made the most of their time on stage. Bumbling Constable Macdonald (Chris Young) keeps turning up at inopportune moments but somehow never uncovers the plan.
All the gang looked quite at home in their “digs”, rented from Mrs Wilberforce, a lady with hidden depths. Tramping up and down the stairs and climbing out of the window all looked very natural. There was much dialogue to deliver and there were one or two tentative moments but the onward momentum of the whole production gave the audience no time to dwell on these. A very amusing, entertaining and nostalgic production.
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Robin Hood and his Merry Men, January 2016
This was the first time I had attended a pantomime at Tynemouth Priory Theatre. The script for this version of Robin Hood is by David Cosgrove (Sheriff of Nottingham) and Ray Lowry (Nickem). Together, David and Ray have assembled many of the fables connected to this well-known legend and turned them into a fresh, amusing tale. They have also woven together most of the anticipated pantomime set pieces and chosen/adapted songs and music which suited the production. They were probably familiar with likely cast members, which enabled them to provide a tailor-made script.
A confident Nicola Shenton (Robin) was coupled with a delightful Amy Cosgrove (Marian) and their relationship developed nicely as the show progressed. Chris Young, as a dame named Nanny Goat, was amusing and possessed the stage whenever he was on. The required pantomime fool, Jason Miller (Much) exhibited a self-deprecating line in comedy, and, particularly, proved himself when he had to mould four children from the audience into a percussion band with hilarious results from one enthusiastic young man.
Back in the forest, we had the evil Sheriff and his two incompetent henchmen, Ray Lowry as Nickem, and Jo Cosgrove as Trickem. Add a charming Ann Leake (as an intentionally inept Alan-a-Dale) trying to keep continuity together in the face of abuse from her compatriots backstage, and a couple of fine Merry Men in the forms of Rachel Hardy (Little John) and Helen Elliott (Will Scarlett) plus Robert Wilson Baker with false tummy, as Friar Tuck and a tale of Robin Hood was told efficiently to an enthusiastic audience.
The music was well performed, especially by Nicola and Amy who proved to have very pleasing voices, particularly when singing together, all supported by a small band comprising piano/keyboard, drums, bass guitar and guitar. A family connection between director Steve Smith and the three Smith brothers in the band was noted as well as a trio of Cosgroves!
Finally, I must mention the choreography performed by the Chorus with junior dancers from the Stages School of Dance. Well executed, the dance numbers also enhanced the overall enjoyment of this entertaining show. Clearly a team effort, all the hard work created an effective and amusing pantomime.
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The 39 Steps, June 2015
This was the first time that I have had the opportunity to see and report on this play, performed in the quaintest of venues, Tynemouth Priory Theatre. ‘The 39 Steps’ is an adventure novel written by Scottish author John Buchan, and later formed the basis for a number of film adaptations including Alfred Hitchcock’s 1935 version. This version is a frivolously hilarious and terribly British upper-class farce, with an intelligent wit encountering murder, secret agents and a number of interesting characters set in the 1930’s and, incredibly, performed by a cast of only four. Directors had worked wonders and provided an amazing performance of exquisitely timed comedy pieces using some superb simple improvisation techniques which caused many involuntary chuckles, snorts and giggles, and for some strange but particular reason this play really does work as a terrific piece of theatre. Well done to you both as this was a superb piece of direction. There were so many well-directed scenes to mention, but some of my favourites were the amazing train scene, so wonderfully directed and extremely funny, the wardrobe that turned into the bedroom scene, and the hilarious scene in Scotland involving a hilarious sequence of door manoeuvres. It still has me laughing now just thinking about it.
The basic story involves a stout hearted English chap who finds himself drawn into a web of espionage and intrigue, having met a German lady at the theatre who persuades him to take her back to his apartment. Within minutes of entering his apartment she is found dead across his lap and the adventure begins, taking him on a dangerous train journey to Scotland before returning to the theatre to reveal the mystery of the 39 Steps.
This play certainly needs team work, and the four actors certainly knew how to work together and confidently rely on each, other resulting in a very successful and in my opinion an outstanding production. Jo Cosgrove, as Anabella Schmidt, Margaret, and Pamela, played the perfect femme fatale in each of her scenes. She owned the stage with perfect dialogue, and provided the audience with a cascade of short-lived characters after her early death. She brought glamour and romance to the play through her three different characters and had the misfortune to end up handcuffed to Hannay, so was forced to join him on his adventure. Steve Smith played the hero on the run Richard Hannay. With his suitably stiff upper lip and charm he held the audience’s attention throughout while he juggled the tone of the play perfectly. The duo of “clowns”, David Cosgrove and Brendan Egan, provided a myriad of characters both male and female. Both actors appeared to be in their element with their exceptional comic timing and energy, and they instantly set the tone and kept the performance moving using different accents, and at times changing characters very quickly on stage in front of the audience in a matter of seconds.
The costumes provided by The Priory Wardrobe Team were in keeping with the period, and a special mention to the props and dressing crew Anne Hogg, Maggie Young and Alex Heppell, who supported the actors. With the many changes involved they certainly had their work cut out.
Well done to Robin Herron and John Leake for the scenery and set design. It was excellent though minimal, and it certainly created depth. There was large number of props and furniture which helped create the overall effect of the play, and good creative lighting and sound was provided by James Parkinson and Andy Gilmore.
Overall this was an excellent professional performance. Well done to everyone involved in this production.
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Jack and the Beanstalk, January 2015
The Theatre was filled to capacity as an excited audience of children and adults looked forward to a grand evening’s performance. They were not disappointed. The curtain opened onto the country lane where we met Dave Cosgrove, playing the aptly named ugly Fleshcreep, and Helen Elliott, as the delightful Fairy. They introduced the audience to the story, and encouraged everyone to join in by singing, booing, hissing, cheering and above all else, laughing, which they certainly did very well. Chris Young, as Dame Trot, entertained us well with his rendition of “In the Dairy” to a well-known tune, moving on to have a great deal of fun with Daisy the Cow, played by Vicky Sloan and Emily Grant. The story continued with Nicola Shenton, as Jack, and Amy Cosgrove, as Jill, entertaining the Audience with a pleasant duet. In due course Daisy the Cow went to market, and was sold for the proverbial gold which turned out to be exploding beans. A lot of effort was put into getting the beanstalk to grow. I would like to have seen Jack starting to climb the beanstalk, but stage space prevented this happening.
The comedy continued in the second half with Fleshcreep singing “Superman” with an Elvis lookalike in the shape of Jon Mills, as the Squire, and Dame Trot. Much play was made of the giant’s parlour and dungeon, with Jill singing nicely. Stuart McVeigh played the part of Blunderbore the Giant very well dressed in an appropriate costume. A lot of brightly costumed young persons from the “Stages School of Dance” danced beautifully, being rewarded with applause from the audience. I would like to add that, on exiting the theatre, I did hear a number of the audience commenting on how much they had enjoyed the show and the quality of dancing. Music on piano and keyboards was arranged and provided by Dave Malpas, backed up on drums and percussion by Phil Smith. They made an excellent duo and contributed greatly to the magic of the production.
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Lend Me A Tenor, April 2014
Although a long-time season ticket holder for their many quality productions, I was pleased to be asked to write a report on this production. “Lend Me A Tenor”, written by Ken Ludwig, is a farce well-suited to the Priory Theatre stage. The compact set placed in hotel suite was comprised of a living room and a bedroom, with facilities off-stage accessed by six doors. Full advantage was taken of the doors for perfectly timed entrances and exits. I found that the pre-show music was slightly loud, but it was obviously appreciated by the full-house audience.
The story line revolves around a world famous tenor singing at a concert in Cleveland, Ohio. Sadly the tenor goes “missing” and a substitute must be found. Tito Morelli (Il Stupendo), played by Richard Straw, who also happens to be an excellent singer, acts and dresses well as the world famous Italian tenor. Max (Ian Nugent) is very reluctantly persuaded that he could be the stand-in for Tito Morelli. His acting and stage presence were good and appropriate for the part. He, of course was persuaded to demonstrate his singing for which he was justly rewarded with ringing applause from the audience. David Moy played the part of Saunders well, and was masterly as the frustrated Manager of the Opera Company, needing to get the Concert underway as a matter of urgency. In his anxiety for progress he was aided and abetted by his daughter Maggie, played by Alex Heppell, who made full use of all the doors save once when she got squashed behind a door, suffering a bloody nose. She made full use of this opportunity with a convenient pre-prepared bloody handkerchief.
Other parts were played with gusto by Ann Leake (Maria, Tito’s wife), Lorraine Rudd (Julia, the Opera Chairman) and Ali Broughton (Diana, a sultry soprano). Lorraine Rudd’s diction was very clear. Ann Leake and Alex Heppell’s many double entendres were a pleasure to listen to, and were well appreciated by the audience as was the delicious saucy strip by Alex Heppell and Ali Broughton towards the end. Particular mention must be made of Andrew Moy as the Bellhop, with his mischievous grin and ability to pop up at all appropriate moments.
This was an excellent farce and combined with Richard Straw’s grasp of Italian, and American accents from the rest of the cast, provided an excellent evening’s entertainment.
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Cat’s Cradle, September 2013
The Cat’s Cradle was indeed a veritable intrigue of deceit, lies, mystery and romance in the supposedly happy atmosphere of the local village pub, The Cresswell Arms. The plot was reminiscent of a “New Tricks” story line, dealing with the twelve-year old mystery of a missing child. The original detective appears with new evidence, determined to solve the crime - or does he?
The play takes us through two days of suspense as the investigation proceeds. David Moy (DI Frost) portrayed the almost-retired London police officer aiming to clear up the mystery, showing a dry but sharp sense of humour and providing some quiet comedy and witticism into the play. He was incisive with his persistent questioning of the other characters, and he almost had us persuaded that his romance with Peggy was about to be rekindled. Rachel Hardy, as Peggy Fletcher, part owner of the pub, gave a nice portrayal of the apparently weaker party in her marriage, but showed she had not lost her spirit entirely. Chris Young, playing Sam Fletcher, presented himself as the convivial host, but amply demonstrated his nasty side if he suspected any secrets were about to be unearthed.
I was very impressed by Irene Pollington-King (Miss Murton) and Louise Gibson. Irene gave an excellent interpretation of an old lady willing to help in whatever way possible, but “careless with dishes” and displaying all the signs of dementia. What a pity she didn’t survive! Louise Gibson seemed perfectly cast as Pamela Fulton, the mother of the bride, clucking happily as the mother hen, and also shone as the mistress of Sir Charles Cresswell. It was a joy to watch her facial expressions of disgust, intrigue and disapproval. Victoria Volpe, as Sarah Fulton, Pamela Fulton’s daughter, gave a quiet performance as the potential bride, convincing us she was innocent and had no knowledge of the twelve-year-old mystery. Bob Marriott gave a good performance as James Hughes, the young cub reporter/editor of the local village newspaper, revealing additional clues to the plot. David Courtnadge was well cast as the tall, blustering Lord of the Manor Sir Charles Cresswell, throwing his millions around to achieve his aims.
In the end the truth appeared or did it? I enjoyed the show. It was well directed and lit. Scenery was appropriate, well designed and nicely dressed. Costumes were all appropriate but please remember that the brims of hats should not shade eyes.
On the evening I attended, the part of Miss Murton was played by Moira Cunningham.
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Moonlight & Magnolias, February/March 2013
This play from the 1939 era is a comedy retelling the birth of the film “Gone with the Wind”. Producer David O Selznick took two years to find the right actress to play Scarlett O’Hara, and the production was then blighted with script issues and spiralling costs (sound familiar?). This is the point at which the play starts, with the Producer, his Script Writer and Director locked in a room for five continuous days to rework the screenplay for the film.
The “raison d’etre” of the play was the reason for the frantic activity of the actors in this production. Brendan Egan played David O. Selznick, the Producer, with Steve Smith as Victor Fleming, the Director, and Richard Straw as Ben Hecht, the Script Writer. The Script Writer has only ever read Page 1 of the book. This story is about his frustrations and unwillingness to write anything at all. Richard Straw portrayed these emotions in an understandable way. Brendan Egan displayed his frustration at the inability of the Script Writer to grasp what is wanted. Steve Smith wanted to work by displaying imaginary camera angles for the non-existent script. Dialogue was fast, furious and frenetic in this convoluted story-line, with subjects ranging from religion to politics. These three actors were on stage for two hours, and while action ranged from frustration to anger with raised voices, no prompts were taken. The excellent acting also displayed some fighting as well as portraying gathering tiredness. Amidst all this, Vicki Lockey was an oasis of calm as the Secretary, Miss Poppenguhl, providing bananas and peanuts as sustenance.
The set built by the Society, reflected the period accurately, Congratulations must go to the Props team who after each scene change ensured that the set became more disreputable and messed up with screwed-up paper, peanut shells and banana skins.
A good evening’s entertainment.
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The Ghost Train, June 2012
This play, the last of Tynemouth’s season, was a first class ghostly thriller set in the small waiting room of a local station in Cornwall. The last train has gone and six unfortunate passengers are stranded in a station reputed to be haunted and shunned by the locals because of its reputation. When the signal bell rings a train comes through with its whistles blowing. The waiting room is suitably drab with atmospherically drab lighting to complete an excellent picture.
The taciturn Station master, Saul Hodgkin, played by Robin Herron, is adamant that the last train has gone and he “bain’t waiting” – a doleful character indeed. Three passengers arrive immaculately dressed, Julia Price, played by Jo Cosgrove, Herbert Price, played by Mike Davies, and John Sterling, played by Laurence Hughes. The cast portrayed their characters easily, but set the audience the task of deciding where and who they actually are. Elsie Winthrop, played by Michelle Egan, feels that she is trapped in a marriage to a man who thinks she needs protecting. Richard Winthrop, played by George Knox, does look after his wife, but does he have an ulterior motive?
Miss Bourne, played by Thelma Miller, only wants to get on the next train with her parrot to Truro where she lives with her sister. This part was given a lot of comedy by Thelma who is an excellent actress at such character parts. Teddy Deakin, played by Roly Coaster, is a silly though annoyingly funny person, but was not as silly as portrayed. Other characters helped to get the production on
track before the final denouement and final revelation that the ghost train was real and running with criminal intent. Effects were excellent – particularly the passing of the train in the middle of the night by the use of well-timed lighting. Two small points – head gear cast a shadow over the face, and I was surprised at the number of prompts for a Friday evening. Nevertheless, it was an excellent production, much enjoyed by the capacity audience.
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Past and Present Press Articles for Tynemouth Priory Theatre
NODA Performance Award 2013
Tynemouth Priory Theatre’s production of Moonlight and Magnolias. The production of “Moonlight and Magnolias” was a very fast-moving production for 2 hours. The audience lapped up all the dialogue, were in stitches of laughter and went home thoroughly entertained, mainly due to the main character played by Brendan Egan, who was on stage virtually the whole time.
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By Shirley McKay. Whitley Bay News Guardian, 2014
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By Debbie Martin. Whitley Bay News Guardian, 2013
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By Charlie Steel. Roundabout magazine, 2013
“Tynemouth Priory Theatre Club was formed in 1946 by a Miss Ria Thompson, and the first plays were performed in nearby Holy Saviour’s Parish Hall, where there have been many successful performances over the years…”
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"Prescription: Murder was the first outing for Columbo, the famous American detective who featured in the long-running television series produced by Universal…”
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“An Independent Theatre group Tynemouth Priory Theatre Amateur Dramatic Society is the home of a very special group of people whose dedication and contribution to their community is second to none...”
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“Local author Roger Burgess tells the story of the new musical that premieres at Tynemouth Priory Theatre, 12-19 April 2008…”
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By Naphtalia Loderick, The Journal, Dec 21 2005.
“Panto time is no time to relax for members of Tynemouth Priory Theatre, which is celebrating its 60th anniversary…”
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NODA Business Awards Finalist entry
Tynemouth Priory Theatre is a privately run traditional theatre with its own premises and an active programme of in-house theatrical productions and visiting shows. The theatre is in a healthy financial position, relying on a core of season ticket holders and sales of seats for productions (as well as hiring out the theatre, scenery cloths and properties). As the theatre relies on its income for all its running and development needs, the society is keenly interested in the audiences it attracts for productions, and in putting on a programme of events that will sustain the theatre in a state of rude health.
The success of Tynemouth Priory Theatre has not been accidental. It is based on a deeper understanding of the customer base (both existing and potential). Qualitative and quantitative market research has been carried out on a regular basis in this recent development with Income and profits rising significantly as well as occupancy numbers with the average age of audience members falling and a larger catchment area
The vision for the theatre was to strike the best balance between commercial and artistic success with member/volunteer fulfilment. From that vision sprang a number of tactical developments which include a more customer/audience focus, developing and concentrating on the theatre’s obvious niche, skilled production choice (a well-balanced programme of productions), an emphasis on high quality productions, a new and improved website and on-line booking facilities, partnership working with other symbiotic local business (for example a meal-deal with a local restaurant), enhanced facilities and services on site (refurbished audience areas and refreshments in the interval), value-for-money ticket prices, reasonable refreshment charges and superior marketing including mailing lists and regular feedback to the management committee.
The Theatre looks forward to a successful future based on its management approach, visionary thinking and the ability of its membership to adapt and act in its best interest (for example the current up-dating of the website). The flexible, audience-orientated strategy is strongly entrenched in the theatre’s approach and it is prepared to adapt and adjust to meet future audience demands so it can be enjoyed and be an enjoyable show-business organisation. If Tynemouth Priory Theatre has anything to do with it, the show will go on.
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