Bumper open season

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OPEN air theatre on the Fylde Coast enjoyed a bumper season in 2010 with all four featured venues reporting improved attendances and increased box office takings on previous years.

Leading the way was Lytham Hall which, after a blank year in 2009, drew 1000 spectators for the three plays by the outdoor specialists Illyria .

Rain Or Shine Theatre had set the tone at King Edward and Queen Mary School with James Reynard's production of The Importance of Being Earnest. A similarly glorious evening at Fleetwood's Rossall School in late June saw a significant increase on the 2009 attendance for the visit of the Dean Taylor Company with The Tempest.

"Each venue on the Fylde has its own special atmosphere," said Gazette amateur drama critic Julian Wilde. "And by returning each year, whatever the weather, the players have built up their own special following."

Pendle Productions' partnership with Fylde Borough Council at the Lowther Pavilion saw all five afternoon July and August performances well attended by family groups. Heavy showers at first showed the advantage of being able to move into the Lowther Theatre, but the setting of the Rose Gardens was ideal for Pinocchio on a sunny August afternoon (pictured right).

The same company enjoyed high attendances for its Christmas pantomime, Cinderella.

"We had very good attendances indeed with many of the local schools taking advantage of the morning performances," said Lowther general manager Clive Greany.

For 2011 Rain or Shine moves to Lytham Hall with the production of Much Ado about Nothing on June 14. Illyria's three shows there – Twelfth Night, the opening performance of The Pirates of Penzance and Roald Dahl's Fantastic Mr. Fox – look likely to attract big crowds on July 6 and 14 and Bank Holiday Sunday August 28.

Lytham Hall project manager Paul Hodgkiss is delighted with the news of the of the 2011 season.

"I feel that it's an imaginative and well-balanced programme and I am sure attendances will again be very substantial," he said. "It's a considerable coup too to have the first performance of Pirates of Penzance here at the beginning of Illyria's summer tour."