St Albans theatre group urges audiences to stay loyal

A ST ALBANS theatre group is pleading for continued public support during distruptive building work.

As its 2010/11 season gets underway, the Company of Ten is asking its audiences to stay loyal during the construction of a new sports and leisure centre in St Albans.

The Abbey Theatre, which was built by the Company of Ten and is where they stage all their plays, is right next door to the car park on which the district council intends to build the new leisure centre to replace the existing Westminster Lodge.

The work is expected to take two years and during much of that time, the Abbey Theatre will be behind site hoardings with audiences having further to walk and a more difficult access.

The drama group fears that the loss of the car park which fronts the theatre on which the new leisure centre is being built might lead to a fall in audience numbers which it can ill afford.

Paul Davidson, Abbey Theatre chairman, said the work would probably not get underway until November when hoardings would go up around the car park outside the theatre and visitors would need to park on a new car park to be established where the council depot is currently situated.

Major construction work is expected to begin in the New Year and it is the combination of cold and difficult weather and the loss of the easy access to the theatre which is a worry.

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Paul said: “During the season there will be major disruption and our patrons are going to have to use new parking.

“The one-way system around Westminster Lodge will change but the message is that we are still here and it is business as usual. Please bear with us, support us, keep coming and we will still be here carrying on as normal.”

He explained that it was vital that audiences did not desert the theatre because a loss of income was the last thing the Company of Ten needed.

“We barely make a surplus each year so if we lose a significant audience, in the current climate, we would have to eat into our reserves.”

The drama group, which opens its season tomorrow night (Friday) with a production of Noel Coward’s Hay Fever, has been very aware that while it is in the middle of a building site, its programme will need to be as audience-friendly as possible.

Paul explained: “This season and the following season, we are trying to take account of plays which are most likely to attract audiences.

“We are trying to be a bit more commercial in our choice of plays.”

Hay Fever, which runs until September 25, will be followed by Albee’s Three Tall Women in the Studio from October 15 to 23, Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde on the main stage from November 12 to 20 and local writer Anthony Peters’ adaptation of A Christmas Carol from December 16 to 28.

Tickets for the productions can be obtained by contacting the box office on 01727 857861 or via the website www.