Lowestoft Players to face final act?

A LOWESTOFT amateur dramatic society is facing the final curtain at the Marina Theatre because of a row over pantomime fees.

The Lowestoft Players say that, because of a 155pc hike in a fee to stage their annual pantomime at the Marina, the group will no longer be performing there from the end of the month - ending a 42-year link of performing at district council theatres.

Under a previous arrangement the Players had to pay �6,700 to host their amateur pantomime in January but the group has been told the subsidised fee to stage their next pantomime in 2012 will be �17,439.

The rise comes as the running of the theatre is about to be taken over by a Marina Theatre Trust.

The trust and Waveney District council, which still operates the theatre, say they can not afford to subsidise what they call the substantial staffing costs to stage Lowestoft Players events as the Marina needs a sustainable business plan for the future.

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The Players say if the �17,000 fee is applied to all their musicals and pantomimes for the next three years it will end up with the charitable group going out of business.

Despite six months of fee negotiations with the council and the shadow Marina Theatre trust board, the Players have decided to pull out of performing at the theatre and will seek other venues to perform at instead to make sure the group keeps going.

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The decision means the closing act involving the Players and the Marina will be this month's production of Our House, a musical based on the band Madness.

And the Players say as well being priced out on the theatre, the council and shadow trust has not accounted for the support shown by the Players over the years especially in the 1980s when the say they helped save it from being knocked down.

In a statement to the Journal, Nick Garrod, director of the Lowestoft Players, said: 'This is sad day indeed for the Lowestoft Players.

'This has been a particularly difficult and emotional decision to take, having performed so many highly successful pantomimes and musicals over the past 42 years both at the Marina and the Sparrows Nest Theatre and having built up a large following of enthusiastic patrons.

'We owe it to our members to look for alternatives (other venues) to keep this highly talented group together and still provide high quality and innovative community entertainment for the people of Lowestoft.'

A spokesman for Waveney District Council said it would be a sad loss to the Marina if the Players no longer performed there and thanked them for their contribution to amateur theatre in the town.

The spokesman told the Journal: 'The Marina Theatre Shadow Trust and Waveney District Council has at all times sought to find a fair and reasonable way of allowing The Lowestoft Players to continue to perform at the Marina.

'Only by having a sustainable business case can the venue continue to operate and provide a long-term home not just to The Lowestoft Players but many other community groups.

'It is hoped that The Lowestoft Players will reconsider their position in due course and recognise that in a difficult economic climate the Marina Theatre is unable to continue offering a local organisation an opportunity to use the venue at such significant cost to its own viability.'

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