'So glad to have audiences back' Theatre boss says a big thank you

Stephen Crocker of Norwich Theatre

Stephen Crocker of Norwich Theatre - Credit: Sonya Duncan

Norwich Theatre Royal and Playhouse chief executive Stephen Crocker looks back on 2021.

For many theatres across the country, Norwich Theatre’s three venues included, the festive period is the busiest time of the year. However, it is also the period that best reminds us of our purpose, sustains us on so many levels and brings us the greatest joy from what we do.

It is just wonderful to have brought back our much-loved Theatre Royal pantomime this year, in all its larger-than-life glory, alongside an alternative ‘Politico-Panto’, Robin Good, at Playhouse for an older Christmas audience and Jack Frost for families with very young children in Stage Two. I could not be prouder of the teams who have made these fantastic shows come to life so wonderfully despite many challenges.

However, for all of us involved in these shows, I know there has been nothing more rewarding and joyous than connecting with audiences. Whether that is seeing several generations in one family coming together for their annual Christmas treat once again; school children enjoying their first trip in two years or hearing directly from individual audience members how our efforts are quite simply helping to make them feel happier.

Richard Gauntlett stars as the dame and also writes and co-directs the Norwich Theatre Royal panto. 

Richard Gauntlett stars as the dame and also writes and co-directs the Norwich Theatre Royal panto. - Credit: AJ Feather Photography

For many of us, the Christmas period is about cherished traditions and a trip to the Panto is a tradition we’ve been able to restore for many this year. Whilst this is wonderful, we should also never forget that, for some, this period can be a difficult and challenging time.

I will never forget standing in the wings at Theatre Royal on Christmas Eve 2020 as our final performance of ‘Panto in a Pickle’, part of our socially-distanced season of Christmas shows A RIGHT ROYAL CHRISTMAS, came to an end with the cast singing Cannon & Ball’s theme tune ‘Together We’ll Be OK’.

It was an inspired choice of closing song by Richard Gauntlett only weeks after the comedy legend Bobby Ball passed away and hearing it sung on our stage just days before the whole country was plunged into deep lockdown was profound. As I stood there, I knew it should become a new anthem for what we at Norwich Theatre are all about.

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My favourite part of the song is:

“Life is a song, so just sing along,

"And then we know we can’t go wrong,

"Just you and me, come on and see,

"Together we’ll be OK”

This sums up why many of us in the arts sector have fought so hard throughout this pandemic for survival. I have said many times that I truly believe that bringing people together to share in the joy of live theatre is vital for the recovery of our emotional and mental well-being. I can attest that I have witnessed this on a daily basis by sitting in our theatres over these past weeks and talking to audiences coming back for the first time.

The song purposefully ends our panto at Theatre Royal again this year with this message of togetherness being even more pertinent as we launch our Christmas Appeal to support a wide-reaching programme of targeted work with people in Norfolk who are at risk of loneliness and isolation.

As we recover from a period of being told to stay apart for so long, the loneliness and isolation that so many people will have experienced, and which is heightened at Christmas, will not always naturally disappear. Into the future, where people are struggling with being alone, we want to be here to help and the funds we raise through the appeal will allow us to reach wider and impact deeper.

For me, the song’s inclusion in the show again this year is also a vote of thanks to all those that have supported us through such a difficult time. The phenomenal support of so many people and organisations over these past 18 months has meant that, through an incredible coming together, Norwich Theatre will now be okay.

The best way for me to thank every audience member, supporter and funder who has stood with us is to re-affirm our commitment to harnessing all that we have learned about the impact we have to co-create a new future focussed on healing and emotional prosperity in a new way. I will sum this up with another line from the song:

“Just turn around, look what we’ve found,

"Todays a brand new day.”

Do you want to say thank you to anyone for their efforts in 2021? You can do so here and the message will appear in our special section next Wednesday, December 29.

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