Eastern Angles: The Show Goes On

Eastern Angles is a rural touring theatre company and, since 1982, they’ve been blazing a trail across East Anglia, taking live performance to village halls, theatres and site-specific locations including barns, fields, aircraft hangers and even Ipswich Waterfront! They’re based in Ipswich at the Sir John Mills Theatre, Gatacre Road but also have a satellite base in Peterborough and a venue there called The Undercroft.

Currently, Eastern Angles is in the process of expanding their theatre company. This expansion will see them tripling their current footprint to encompass the former Suffolk Record Offices (they’ve relocated to The Hold). The Eastern Angles Centre (EAC) will be an arts and heritage hub which incorporates the existing Sir John Mills Theatre. Their aims for the Centre are to engage with and provide for their immediate community, provide hot desking and office space as well as rehearsal space, room hire and of course live theatre. 

Despite the pandemic, Eastern Angles still have plenty of things in the works ready for the festive season and New Year. 

Alyson Tipping, the Engagement Manager at Eastern Angles Theatre Company, said: “We’ve just finished Signal Fires which was storytelling round the fire side. We were able to do a mini tour visiting Peterborough, Westleton and Harkstead. Signal Fires was part of a national initiative for touring theatre companies and saw organisations up and down the country taking part. We managed to get our performances in just before the second lock down was announced. It was such a joy to bring together a company of actors and to welcome back audiences.”

A performance of Signal Fires in Peterborough. Photo by: ThomasByronPhotography

Just before lockdown, Eastern Angles even managed to get a few actors together to do their Booming Voices Production. 

Alyson explains: “Booming Voices will explore the issues around the ecology of the Broads and their vulnerability to climate change, hopefully you can enjoy our snap preview for a taste of what is to come.”  To have a preview of Booming Voices, click here.

The show will be based on a series of interviews with those living and working on or around the Broads and is part of the Water Mills and Marshes project funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund and Broads Authority.

A session of Booming Voices

They also finished their national tour of The Ballad of Maria Marten, which was a huge moment of pride for Alyson. The Ballad of Maria Marten was a show focused on the unfortunate murder of Maria Marten, as told from Maria’s perspective. The amazing show focused on the themes of sisterhood, marriage and, of course, dealing with grief. 

The company also just did their Local Legends exhibition created by Colombian visual artist Catalina Carvajal. The display can be seen in the window of The EAC. 

“We’re currently plotting an outdoor performance linked to this project but I can’t say too much about that at the moment, and we’re hoping to bring our annual ‘panto alternative’ to life in March, with socially distanced seating and live streaming,” Alyson explained. 

Eastern Angles Local Legends Exhibition At The EAC

Unfortunately, theatre was and is one of the industries that has suffered the biggest blow from the pandemic with theatres forced to close and rehearsals cancelled. It forced Eastern Angles to close their entire tour of Red Skies, which was due to open at The John Peel Centre in Stowmarket, fortunately the creatives working on the project were still able to be paid in full.

Alyson said: “We were overwhelmed with the support from our audiences who refused the refund and either converted into a donation or a credit. It’s that kind of generosity that helps to insure our future. We’ve had to change our focus and instead of thinking about what we can’t do we’ve looked at what we can do. 

“The first lockdown allowed for a well-earned rest for the company, many of whom had just finished working on a national tour of The Ballad of Maria Marten; we took stock and planned and researched. We developed online workshops which in turn helped us reach further afield. We collaborated with other theatre companies across the country, developing new partnerships and rejuvenating old ones. It’s been a period of learning and development and that will continue as we go forward and grow.” 

Alyson outside the Sir John Mills Theatre

Despite everything going on, Alyson believes that now, more than ever, is a time where people should be supporting their local theatres in any way they can. She also explained that Eastern Angles means so much for so many people. 

She said: “Eastern Angles, has for many years, provided live professional theatre to rural venues, reaching communities who are often isolated. Our productions also tour into care home and schools as well as local theatre venues. In doing so we provide opportunities for freelancers, many of whom have been overlooked during the pandemic; we mentor and develop writers and young theatre companies; we provide affordable venue space for community theatre groups; and The Undercroft, our satellite base in Peterborough, is home to two theatre companies, a youth theatre and a street artist. If we were to shut down, this would all go, companies would be homeless, jobs would be lost. 

“If the arts were to shut down we would lose the next generation of performers and creatives coming through, there would be no live theatre, no dance, no music, no art galleries, no architecture, no books, no tv, no film and this is just forward facing, arts organisation work tirelessly behind the scenes too, there’d be no Dementia tea dances, no community art projects, no inspiring drama workshops, no youth theatres, no prison writing groups, no school visits, no choirs – the list is endless.” 

To help support Eastern Angles during these difficult times, simply head to their website and click ‘Support Us’. To keep up-to-date with everything Alyson and her team get up to, be sure to follow them on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter @easternangles. And if you’re passing along Bramford Road in Ipswich checkout the Local Legends display.