East Devon's much-loved local theatres
PUBLISHED: 16:52 14 March 2019 | UPDATED: 15:31 15 March 2019
Picture: Emma Crane of Exmouth Photo Services
Thriving, popular venues provide a range of entertainment and give local drama groups a place to perform
For many people ‘theatre’ means London’s West End – but there is no shortage of theatrical entertainment in East Devon.
Exmouth, Sidmouth and Honiton all have thriving venues staging dramas, comedies, musicals and more, both entertaining local residents and giving them the opportunity to perform under the bright lights themselves.
Here we take a look at East Devon’s three main theatrical venues.
Exmouth’s Blackmore Theatre is a much-loved community facility, owned and run by The Exmouth Players. The fact that they successfully stepped in to take it over after the owner decided to sell up, back in 2000, is a source of pride to them and the town as a whole.
They are still 100% self-funded, raising money from their own productions and by hiring out the venue for events. The Players actively encourage the Exmouth community to use the theatre, and various schools and charities stage performances there regularly.
The Players are an enthusiastic group, some of whom have been members for decades. They put on three plays a year, along with either a pantomime or another family entertainment show at Christmas. Last year saw the formation of the Blackmore Youth Theatre, which has attracted plenty of young performers, and will stage its first production in June.
Touring groups present ballet, opera, plays and musicals at the Blackmore Theatre and it also hosts the annual Exmouth One-Act Play Festival, in which the Players and other drama groups present their plays in front of a professional adjudicator, competing for a place in the national finals.
Trevor Brice from the Exmouth Players said: “Our theatre is just not there for existing members. It is there for you and the community. There is certainly lots going on. If you feel you wish to help out, direct, act or be part of this community service in any way, then please do contact us. We welcome any newcomers for all aspects of theatre.”
The motto of Sidmouth’s Manor Pavilion Theatre is ‘Your entertainment is our passion’. The attractive, 277-seat theatre is owned and managed by East Devon District Council, and is popular with residents and visitors alike. It offers plays, musicals, comedies, concerts, variety shows, pantomimes, ballet and other dance shows. The building is also home to an arts centre.
During the summer, the Manor Pavilion Theatre is proud to host the UK’s last remaining weekly professional summer repertory season. This sees 12 classic plays in 12 weeks, produced by director Paul Taylor-Mills. These performances have been known to feature West End actors, and they attract visitors from across the UK. Last year was a record-breaking season in terms of ticket sales for these performances.
The Manor Pavilion also hosts performances by the Sidmouth Musical Theatre and the Sidmouth Youth Theatre.
Honiton is very proud of its arts and community centre, The Beehive, which had been a long-standing wish of local residents, creative groups and the town council. The building opened in 2014 and has become a vibrant community venue, hosting live music and theatre, cinema, children’s entertainment, exhibitions, workshops and other events for local people.
It presents productions by many touring companies, and makes a point of booking the best south-west-based companies as part of its ethos. Regular shows include an annual production by Bristol Old Vic Theatre School graduates, and a summer show with the Honiton Community Theatre Company. The Beehive also offers National Theatre Live and Royal Opera House screenings of some of the best London/West End productions.
The Beehive is completely self-sustaining, with no public funding. Programme manager Wendy Van der Plank said: “We have more than 80 fabulous volunteers, who are the backbone of the Beehive and a brilliant team of lovely people.”
As well as the main three theatres, East Devon has a wealth of local drama clubs and societies, entertaining their communities with regular plays, comedies and pantomimes. We will be taking a look at some of them in a future issue.
What’s on at the Blackmore Theatre Exmouth:
Monday March 18 – Sun 24: The Vicar of Dibley by the Exmouth Players
Monday April 8 – Saturday 13, The 40th Exmouth Amateur Festival of One-Act Plays
10, Bicton Street, Exmouth EX8 2RY
Box office 07484 509514
What’s on at the Manor Pavilion Theatre Sidmouth
Monday March 25 – Saturday April 6: Triple Fantasy 2019, with East Devon Dance Academy.
Friday April 12 - Saturday 13: Swan Lake
Saturday April 20 – Saturday 27: Anything Goes by Sidmouth Musical Theatre Company
Friday May 3 - Beach Boys Tribute Show
Manor Rd, Sidmouth EX10 8RP.
Box office 01395 514413
What’s on at The Beehive, Honiton
Friday, April 5: D-Click Circus Company, Isla
Thursday, April 11: Margo & Mr Wotsit, a story of a little girl and her imaginary friend
Saturday, June 22: The Canterbury Tales, Bristol Old Vic Theatre School
Dowell Street, Honiton EX14 1LZ
Box Office : 01404 384050