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The Royal & Derngate 10th Anniversary Celebration

This Sunday I had the honour of attending the celebration event of the Royal & Derngate 10th Anniversary. This was a record of the overwhelmingly successful years since the two theatres were brought together following a £14.5 million merger and refit to bring the two venues together in a single access complex. While I am a mere beginner at Royal & Derngate, with not yet three years of visiting under my belt, it was delightful to be invited to this event.

Our hosts for the event were Jack Shaloo and Katie Bernstein (who interestingly only for me perhaps, I saw as understudy as Little Sal in Urinetown in London in 2014) who presented the show via an always entertaining and often really funny song routine. Accompanied by Dougal Irvine on guitar (who was also the creator of the music and lyrics) and Ollie Hance on piano. The witty song took us through the shows and different areas that the theatre has worked on through the years and sledgehammered a way to introduce each of the speakers (kudos to the absolute failure/success that operations director Richard Clinton was introduced in particular). Each of the speakers were really entertaining in their own way and it is no surprise perhaps that these personalities are driving the theatre to the success that it is having. Success even arriving during the show, with the news of the touring award given to The Herbal Bed coming in.

There was a wealth of numbers provided during the presentation which unquestionably underlined how successful for a regional theatre, the Royal & Derngate has become. There was also a collection of videos which harked back through my own years and long beyond with flashes of moments that the audience welcomed with joyful murmurings. I even had my own brief moment up on the big screen lurking in a crowd shot from The Shakespeare Story Trail. Watching these videos brought back so many memories of shows I have seen in my thirty-two months of frequent visits. It is a shame that I never saw two things that happened before my time, that is a Made In Northampton from Laurie Sansom or the talking point of all-time seemingly Mr Whatnot. I do however have pride that I was there at the very beginning of James Dacre's tenure.

This event however wasn't just about gloating over past achievements and back patting, as three ambitious plans were announced, all certain to bring impact to the area if they achieve completion, which they will surely do.

The first was the news that there were plans to bring the overwhelming success of the Errol Flynn Filmhouse to the town of Daventry with a planned multi-screen venue in the style of the award winning cinema.

The second and most interesting for myself and no doubt general theatre goers in the town was the planned creation of a group to create new music in all its forms with an emphasis on presentation through a festival format. This would involve the use of StudioThreeSixty's incredible looking The Mix portable theatre. Able to be created within 48 hours for a variety of theatre styles and audience capacities, this looks like being a quite amazing prospect.

The final announcement, and the one that has clearly got the most media coverage, is the plan for the Royal & Derngate to be involved with the creation of a new school. This would attempt to help bridge the gap with the declining teaching of creative arts presently through schooling. Comments on this cannot avoid heading severely towards political ones, however there is no question that teaching lacks this now, and it is to applauded on the theatre to try to make some difference in anyway they can.

The Royal & Derngate could easily like many theatres just sit back and provide big shows in its theatres and nothing more challenging, resting on using names of shows and performers, However they do so much more, and I personally pride myself that in those thirty-two months, I have seen everything that all branches of The Young/Youth Company have created including the amazing Sweeney Todd on both evenings and three times to see Oliver! I have been there for all that The Actors Company  have brought to the stage including one of my absolute all-time favourites, Market Boy. I have attended all of the three Fun Palaces so far they have taken place and supported all the shows that the Community Choir have performed since 2014. I have stood on the stages with the Behind The Curtain tour and paced around town with Story Hunt and of course the amazing Shakespeare Story Trail.

Royal & Derngate doesn't do theatre by numbers, it does theatre by alphabet as well, and by the inherent instinct of the love of creation, inspiration and love. There is pride in the work they produce which while always having to look at the money aspect, still allows theatre to become something that anyone can afford with free events as well.

This event looked towards the next five years specifically, however to be seeing such success as they are in these increasingly turbulent budget times, there is no doubt that the Royal & Derngate will still be going strong in another ten and beyond. I sincerely hope that I am there every step of the way myself.

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