Interview and photo by Marilyn Barber
Anyone who enjoyed London Repertory Players’ production of Deathtrap at the Tivoli in August in 2021 won’t want to miss the plays to be staged by the theatre company this summer.
And this year, there is not one, but five popular plays to choose from – or maybe you will want to see them all!
The closure of the Shelley Theatre in Boscombe – which may be temporary – has been the Tivoli’s gain for another year.
Sadly there are too few reps these days, but Vernon Thompson, producer and artistic director, has a huge enthusiasm for this much loved genre, as he told me when I met up with him in Wimborne ahead of the shows which will be delighting audiences from Wednesday 27 July to Thursday 25 August.
“Just after the Second World War you would find that every town had a rep but they started to close in the early 1960s when TV became more popular,” he said.
And when you realise what skills the company of 12 actors – three of whom are based locally – possess you can only be in awe of them.
“Mitch Capaldi is in all five of the plays and most of the others are in four of them,” Vernon said.
The first play, Taking Steps by Alan Ayckbourn, opens on Wednesday 27 July and the next day the actors start rehearsing for the following week’s production of The Small Hours by Francis Durbridge.
“I block the moves on the Thursday and the actors have to know Act 1 by the Friday,” said Vernon.
Yes, you did read it correctly. They have to go on stage to perform one play whilst in rehearsal for another.
How on earth do the actors not get the plays mixed up?
Vernon, who acted in rep himself said: “It’s as though you open a valve and you tune in to the correct play. However, you do need a good memory.”
He added that he has only dried once on stage – but soon managed to get back on track.
“Drying on stage is the actor’s nightmare, as it’s so exposing. And of course professional productions don’t have a prompt.”
He added that the longest standing rep season in the UK is in Sidmouth in Devon where they do 12 plays in 12 weeks.
He came to theatre early in his life and was writing plays for a local puppet theatre at the age of 15.
“The actor Peter Egan’s mother lived nearby and she guided me,” he said.
Vernon, who is also a voice coach for Channel 4 News, said he enjoyed directing, but producing was ‘more heart stopping’.
Vernon was full of praise for the Tivoli theatre and its excellent technical team.
Taking Steps by Alan Ayckbourn runs from Wednesday 27 to Saturday 30 July, followed by The Small Hours by Francis Durbridge from Wednesday 3 to Saturday 6 August.
Noel Coward’s Fallen Angels will be on stage from Wednesday 10 to Saturday 13 August, with I Have Been Here Before by JB Priestley delighting audiences from Wednesday 17 to Saturday 20 August.
The final play is the classic Abigail’s Party by Mike Leigh from Tuesday 23 to Thursday 25 August.
The furniture and stage props are supplied by the British Heart Foundation and so at the end of each production there will be a collection for the charity.
Tickets from the Tivoli box office on 01202 885566, www.tivoliwimborne.co.uk
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