Mercury Theatre, led by Executive Director, Steve Mannix and Executive Producer, Tracey Childs, today announces its opening season in the company’s extensively refurbished venue, which will reopen next month after two years of closure following the Mercury Rising transformation, a 3-year campaign which raised over £11.3 million to reimagine the theatre and improve accessibility throughout.
The season opens in July with Ken Ludwig’s Baskerville, directed by the company’s Creative Director Ryan McBryde, followed in October by the UK premiere of Merlynn Tong’s Antigone directed by Dawn Walton OBE.
Also launching this season is Mercury Originals, a programme of ground-breaking new plays, showcasing the voices of local writers. The first production is a world premiere of Sirens by award-winning playwright, Kenny Emson, with future productions to be announced.
The year concludes with the return of pantomime, Aladdin by Andrew Pollard and directed by McBryde, with Great British Pantomime award-winning Antony Stuart-Hicks and Dale Superville, further casting to be announced.
The company have commissioned Joel Horwood to write an adaptation of Stephen King’s novel The Green Mile which will receive its world premiere on the Colchester stage in 2022, ahead of a national tour. Further details will be announced in due course.
Mercury Theatre also welcome a variety of touring productions including The War of the Worlds, Tell Me on a Sunday, And Then There Were None, Dragons and Mythical Beasts, and The Jolly Christmas Postman.
The refurbished venue includes a transformed bigger, brighter foyer space which is open all day with a new café bar, redeveloped main auditorium with additional seats, new rehearsal room, revamped and extended backstage facilities, improved interval experience by doubling the number of loos, and most importantly for the first time the building will be accessible throughout. The new community space and dance studio is equipped to support the best new talent, and in addition, the company continues its commitment to sustainability including through the introduction of a ‘Bring your own cup policy’ to reduce single-use plastic, as well as increasing the buildings energy efficiency with the expansion of LED lighting, converting to 100% renewable electricity and the implementation of solar panels.
Executive Director, Steve Mannix, today said, “Having come so far in such a challenging period we are incredibly grateful that we are now in the very final stages of fully completing this vital transformation to this wonderful theatre and are incredibly excited to be planning for our reopening in June. We are beyond thrilled that we are so close to welcoming our audiences and returning to making a vital contribution to the local economy of Colchester.
We are extremely thankful to our funding partners and we look forward to working in partnership with Colchester Borough Council, other local arts and heritage organisations and the local business community to help the town’s economy recover from the devastating impact of the pandemic.
The public have been incredibly generous in their support of our fundraising efforts throughout our Mercury Rising campaign, for which we truly thank them. We continue to value this wonderful support and will need our local community behind us more than ever as we open our doors and provide a true Mercury welcome!”
Creative Director, Ryan McBryde, also commented, “We can’t wait to put on a show and welcome everyone to come and see all of our new facilities and events. We’re looking forward to reinventing old stories and conjuring up bold, new ones. Stories that electrify, stir and enrich; stories from fresh voices that demand to be heard; stories that enable us to identify with one another.
It’s not just about the shows! We want to breathe life into our spaces all day long. We want to see parents’ enjoying coffee and cake in our café bar whilst their toddlers enjoy morning story-time, we want to see our senior citizens learning to Lindy Hop in our brand new dance studio, school choirs singing their hearts out on the terrace, families picnicking in the Roman wall garden, professionals hot-desking in our office, and our young company rehearsing in the creative learning space.”
Amy Vaughan, Director, East of England, Arts Council England, added, “The Mercury has gone through an absolutely amazing transformation thanks to National Lottery funding. I’m excited by its reopening plans, which really help establish it as much more than ‘just’ a theatre – creating a welcoming hub for the community to enjoy, whether they are seeing a performance or not. I look forward to seeing the space come to life with visitors from near and far.”
The revitalisation has enabled the Mercury Theatre to expand its community and engagement work with its Taking Part activities, including a 10-week acting programme, an intergenerational community choir, a musical theatre dance class and family sing-a-longs. They also launch Senior Social Club, a weekly inclusive space, for those over 55, to forge new friendships whilst participating in creative classes. Mercury Young Company (MYC) returns with an additional age group, 18-25, and they introduce new activities for young people including Tots classes, weekend drop-in sessions and summer school opportunities.
In addition, the company’s Artist Development Programme continues with How To, monthly masterclasses led by professional theatre practitioners; Connects providing a regular space for its art professionals to connect; and Reads, supporting new writers, and providing a platform to share new work.
The building has been converted by Phelan, and is designed by Colchester Borough Homes and Purcell.
Supported by Arts Council England, Colchester Borough Council, Essex Country Council, South East Local Enterprise Partnership and European Regional Development Fund, plus generous public and private donations.
Colchester Borough Council has been a key partner in the success of the Mercury Rising project providing £1.5 million towards the initiative, securing £4m of Arts Council Funding and working with the Design Team from Colchester Borough Homes, who also managed the delivery of the improvement works.
Additional support from other funders included – Essex County Council (£1 million), South East Local Enterprise Partnership (£1 million), the European Regional Development Fund (£978,000), NESTA (£400,000), over £600,000 from national and local Trust and Foundations and £665,000 from local residents, audience members and sponsors.
The project has also benefitted from support from the Government’s Kickstart Cultural Recovery Fund (£864,000).
The building opens for the first time to the local community for a special weekend of events on 26 and 27 June.
Priority on sale for supporters is Thursday 27 May at 10.30am
General on sale Tuesday 1 June 10.30am