AN AMATEUR theatre group raising funds to revamp its building were given a boost from an unlikely happening.
In May Tynemouth Priory Theatre staged Whatever Happened to the Likely Lads? based on the 1970s Tyneside-based TV series written by Whitley Bay’s Ian La Frenais and Dick Clement.
The enduring popularity of characters Terry Collier and Bob Ferris saw almost 1,500 tickets for the show selling out in double-quick time.
The theatre group members were taken aback by the demand as almost a week before the first performance of a six-night run, all seats were sold and they added an extra Saturday matinee performance.
The profits from the show were a welcome fund-booster for the theatre, which receives no financial support from any outside bodies.
Now the theatre has completed the major job of rebuilding its foyer.
“The old foyer with its small box office was very cramped and old-fashioned,” said theatre group chairman Christine Coaster.
“Now we have much more space and it is very light and clean and will serve as a gathering area during the interval.” Together with a phase two job to re-site the theatre’s lighting box, the bill for the group will be £80,000.
“The Likely Lads production made a lot more profit than is normally the case and it made things so much easier. It was tremendous, ” said Christine.
“Now we hope that all the people who came to see the Likely Lads will come back and see our new foyer and our forthcoming productions.”
The new season begins on September 26 with One for the Road, a comedy on middle-class, middle- aged suburban life by Willy Russell, who also wrote Educating Rita, Shirley Valentine, and Blood Brothers. The theatre group was founded in 1947 and in 1972 moved into its present building, which started life in 1882 as a Wesleyan chapel.
The theatre, which can seat 189, is owned and maintained by the members. The group stages five plays and a pantomime every year.
“I think we are the jewel in North Tyneside’s crown. The theatre is a lovely thing for Tynemouth and attracts a lot of people into the area,” said Christine.
The Tynemouth Priory Theatre was the first amateur group in the world to stage the Likely Lads play.
With cast member Malcolm Brown a childhood friend of Ian La Frenais, the writers were happy to give the Tynemouth outfit the non-professional rights to offer the production.
Clement and La Frenais distilled 26 Whatever Happened to the Likely Lads? episodes, screened in 1973-74, into one evening’s entertainment.
Terry was played by Brendan Egan, and Bob by Stu Bowman.