The great outdoors

Lowther - The Twits

Lowther - The Twits

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Outdoor theatre fans on the Fylde coast proved to be among the most loyal in the country in the UK’s wettest summer on record.

Lytham Hall led the way with a best-ever attendance of 750 for Illyria’s performance of The Twits on August Bank Holiday Sunday afternoon.

This was the best figure achieved at any of the special summer arenas on Illyria’s three month tour to 78 different venues.

Chapterhouse Theatre’s Emma, which sensibly transferred from Lytham Hall to King Edward and Queen Mary School in a miserable and cold June week, also attracted a record attendance of 260 for the opening play of the season.

Lincoln-based Chapterhouse, making a Fylde coast debut, were delighted with the response and hope to be back with another Jane Austen title in 2013.

After their acclaimed HMS Pinafore on a beautiful Lytham Hall evening in mid-July, Illyria will also be returning with another Gilbert and Sullivan production next year.

The Dean Taylor Company cancelled their afternoon performance on a glorious June day at Rossall School, Fleetwood due to poor ticket sales, but their accomplished evening performance of Twelfth Night was well supported. The company and the school would benefit from a more consistent approach to promotion in 2013.

Pendle Productions broke new ground with first daytime performances of A Midsummer Night’s Dream in Lytham’s Lowther Rose Gardens, with St. Annes-born Kivan Dene turning in a memorable punky interpretation of Puck. The choice of the peak school exam week, however, did not help attendances for a show which merited much better support.

In the sunnier and warmer weather of August there were again encouraging family audiences for Storytellers’ Theatre Company’s five afternoon plays at the same venue. The Railway Children was particularly enjoyed as the versatile Ian Fox and Suzanne Fulton captured the imagination.

Sadly for the third consecutive year, despite a wide variety of attractive possible venues, Blackpool remained a black hole for outdoor theatre enthusiasts.

Lytham Hall organiser Julian Wilde is hoping to repeat the successful and well-balanced programme from this summer.

He feels it was the support of nine business patrons, the volunteers and professional staff at Lytham Hall and the enthusiasm of the 12 ticket outlets which kept the interest high throughout a soggy summer.

“Advance bookings unsurprisingly were down, especially in June, but last minute sales and walk-ups were outstanding,” he said.

“I think that the hard work of all the helpers encouraged people to be ready to attend at the last minute, if and when the sun came out.

“And for HMS Pinafore and The Twits it did!”