Jun 07 2012

80’s sit-com theme at Sunderland’s Royalty Theatre

Three months ago on this blog I wrote about the Royalty Theatre in Sunderland, singing its praises, extolling its virtues, and generally being a bit gushing about the place. The time has come, now, to admit to a bit of a vested interest! I am a fully paid up member of the theatre, and have been involved in the place, on and off, for 23 years.

My most recent involvement was just last month, when I directed the last production there, ‘My Own Show’ by Lesley Bruce. The play centres on day time chat show host Fay, who is worried that her career is on the wane. Further complications set in when an old school friend who Fay has been avoiding for years turns up unexpectedly when Fay is the subject of a This Is Your Life.

The play is ostensibly a satirical light-hearted comedy, but it actually digs into deeper issues about mature women’s role in youth-hungry TV and the lengths people will go to for 15 minutes in the spotlight.

We were privileged, during rehearsals, to be joined by the actress Maggie Ollerenshaw, who is most well known for playing Wavy Mavis in the classic 80s BBC sit-com ‘Open All Hours’, but who had also first played the part of Fay in the original production of this play when it opened at the Stephen Joseph theatre in Scarborough six years ago. I had worked with Maggie about ten years ago on some comedy workshops in London, so I got in touch with her to ask if she’d send some words of good luck for the cast.

As luck would have it, she was here in the North-East while we were rehearsing, as her husband was in the touring production of ‘An Inspector Calls’ at the Theatre Royal in Newcastle, so she popped in to offer the benefit of her experience and expertise.

My own Show cast and crew

Director and cast of My Own Show with Maggie Ollerenshaw

The production ran successfully for six nights last month, entertaining audiences and receiving critical praise in the local press. It was an excellent achievement by all the members of the cast – Lorna Breeze, Muriel Waine, Dan Dickinson, Christine Appleton, and Norma Dougherty – who were a pleasure to work with on my directorial début at the theatre!

And now – talking of classic 80s BBC sit-coms – the Royalty is gearing up for its final production of the season: Hi-de-Hi. Rehearsals are underway, the sets are being built, impressions of Ruth Madoc and Su Pollard are being studiously worked on! The play opens on Monday 25 June, and you can find out details, including where to buy tickets, at the website

I look forward to seeing you there!…