Starring role for pier show sets

RICHARD BATSON They have been the stunning backdrop to summer fun for thousands of pier-end showgoers. Now scenery from Cromer's well-known Seaside Special variety show is set to star in a famous London museum.

RICHARD BATSON

They have been the stunning backdrop to summer fun for thousands of pier-end showgoers.

Now scenery from Cromer's well-known Seaside Special variety show is set to star in a famous London museum.

Sets including a twinkling Brooklyn Bridge, the inside of Blackpool's Tower ballroom and black and white images from the days of silent movies will appear at the Victoria and Albert Museum in a year-long display of the best of theatre art.

They will rub shoulders with scenery from high-profile, high-budget venues such as world-renowned opera venues.

Appearing in a showcase of work by Britain's most creative theatre designers is both an accolade for designer Ian Westbrook and the show itself.

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Mr Westbrook, who runs his 3-D Creations workshop at Gorleston, said: "Cromer pier is unique in the theatre world - not only the format of the last remaining pier variety show in the country, but also because all the sets are custom-made to fit the songs and routines.

“Most other theatres use generic scenery, black star cloths or flashing lights.”

Scenes from the Cromer show over the past two summers will be highlighted through still photographs, as well as a three-minute show reel of 60 pictures, screened in a seaside-style kiosk Mr Westbrook has made for the occasion, complete with a seagull on the top.

He added: “This will give the show a much higher profile. Not only is it now recognized in the world of showbiz, but also now in the world of fine art and design.”

Mr Westbrook has been in the theatre design business 23 years, creating backdrops at some of the nation's top provincial theatres, including Norwich, Nottingham and Plymouth.

He is currently making a giant pirate ship for a Peter Pan panto at Bradford, but has also done work for the music world, including 20ft tall monsters for a tour by the heavy rock band Iron Maiden.

The V&A exhibition, called Collaborations: UK Design for Performance, draws on the work of 100 members of the Society of British Theatre Designers, ranging from opera and drama to panto and dance.

Displays include costumes, puppets, drawings, photographs, models of stage sets and interactive digital presentations.

Among them will be a surreal set for La Traviata in a 25,000-seater Italian arena in Verona, as well as lighting for Billy Elliot and designs for Evita in London's West End.

At Cromer his scenery is one of the stars of the Seaside Special, both in the summer and the Christmas version, which opens on December 6.

Pier Pavilion general manager Ian Hall said they were pleased Mr Westbrook's “undoubted talent and vision” in designing lavish sets had been recognised.

Seaside Special was held in high esteem in show business circles, and the would give many more people a chance to see “what we in North Norfolk take for granted.”

Admission is free and it runs from Wednesday for a year at the museum in South Kensington. For more details phone 0207 942 2000 or visit www.vam.ac.uk

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