New season: Sheringham Little Theatre

Trevor Heaton We may be still scraping the ice off our windscreens on some mornings, but at Sheringham Little Theatre they’re very much looking forward to summer, as TREVOR HEATON reports.

Trevor Heaton

The busy Sheringham Little Theatre has won a reputation as a lively and forward-looking venue - and the summer programme (May-September) is no exception.

The main feature is the return of its summer rep series, which has grown in recent years to be a “must-see” feature of the Norfolk summer. This year there's a range of directors, including theatre patron Des Barrit, currently wowing 'em in the West End as Hector in Alan Bennett's classic The History Boys.

And that summer season gets under way with a celebrity evening with Des on July 6 (£8). His hugely-diverse career has taking in being an award-winning Associate Artist of the Royal Shakespeare Company, numerous West End appearances (and a stint in the above-mentioned The History Boys on Broadway), plus television roles and much more. He'll be chatting to artistic director Debbie Thompson about his career, sharing some anecdotes, some theatrical gossip and offers some pearls of advice to all those budding actors.

The rep season begins with John Godber's brilliant comedy Bouncers: The 1990s Remix (July 7-15 and July 30-August 2, evenings 8pm, with matinees 2.30pm on July 8, 10 and 31). Four bouncers portray more than 20 different characters - from the giggly girls to pogo-ing punks. Please note there's some adult material here.

Next up is the NJ Crisp thriller Dangerous Obsession (July 17-22, and Sept 3-6, plus matinees July 22 and September 4). A quiet sunny afternoon in the Home Counties for Sally Driscoll is disturbed by the arrival of the disturbing John Barrett.

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The Eric Chappell - he of Rising Damp fame - farce Snakes & Ladders runs from July 24-29 and August 20-26 (matinees July 29, August 21 and 26). Sam and Fay Spencer think they are about to have a peaceful and relaxing holiday in the luxurious (and free) Spanish villa of Fay's boss Sidney - but they are oh so wrong…

There's another celebrity evening on July 27 (£8) when Nicky Henson, who's directing Bedroom Farce, chats about his time as a Sixties pop star, songwriter for the Shadows and Cliff Richard and his numerous acting appearances in the West End, television and film. And Bedroom Farce runs from August 5-19 (matinees August 7, 12, 14 and 19), with Alan Ayckbourn's hilarious account of four couples, three bedrooms - and one busy night of confusion galore.

That classic Noel Coward supernatural comedy Blithe Spirit runs from August 28-September 2 and September 8-13 (matinees September 2, 9 and 11). Charles and his second wife Ruth invite psychic medium Madame Arcati for an evening séance - with unexpected results.

Tickets for the summer rep are £12.50, matinees £9.50, under-18s £8 and discounts for first nights, groups and Friends of the theatre. Season tickets are available too.

But before then there are other stage productions to enjoy, including Twenties-set musical The Boyfriend (May 1-4, £6.50, under-16s £5), retro revue Cool Britannia! presented by Time of Our Lives Musical Theatre on May 10 (2.30pm, £8), the return of Flamenco Express (May 24, £14), that G&S favourite The Yeoman of the Guard, presented by the Sheringham Savoyards on June 10-14 (£10), back-stage comedy Play On! with the Sheringham Players (June 25-28, £8, first night £7.50), a touring production The Dead Moon on June 29 (£11, under-16s £7, family £30) - a drama based on East Anglian smuggling and local folk tales - and the Far East Theatre Company (Paston College) novel staging of Twelfth Night on July 2, when all the male parts are played by women and vice-versa, with a live indie soundtrack too (£7, students £4).

And there's a special visit on September 20 from Keith Skipper and the Press Gang, calling in to the Station Road venue for a fundraising performance for the locally-based charity Break, celebrating 40 years (tickets £20, including wine).

Music includes a brace of Norfolk and Norwich Festival events, Zivorad Nikolic and Milos Milivojevic (May 7) and Giovanni Guzzo and James Baillieu (May 14). The Sonny Monk Society Jazz Band is back by popular demand on May 17 (£10) with more trad tunes, and on July 20 Lord and Lady Walpole once again throw open the gates to the grounds at lovely Mannington Hall for a Family Summer Party, with the Lee Vasey Big Band and the Vintage Hot Orchestra (£12, under-16s free).

The venue also has a lively programme of visual art throughout the year - most with Norfolk themes - and the new season is no exception. Gill Baguley presents Norfolk Contrasting Views from May 6-31, and that's followed by photographs by Paul Damen (June 2-July 5), Sand, Sea & Saltmarsh by Leslie Hawkes-Nockles (July 7-August 30) and Norfolk Coast Light and Life (September 1-October 4) by Karen Rowlands.

There's family fun too, including television favourite Elizabeth Fost with a May 24 puppet-making workshop at the Friends Meeting House (11am, £5) followed on the same day back at the theatre with her show Attic Tales (£5.50, under-16s £5).

Older children (eight-18) have the chance to take part in a five-day Summer Musical Theatre Course from August 3-7 at Wolterton Hall (details 01787 370406).

The theatre has been keen to reach out to the area's young people to encourage them to show their artistic flair in a range of activities, from breakdance to rap, singing to acting. The Slam Nights run on May 31 and June 20, with a night of hip-hop theatre, 10YFN, on July 13. Find out how to get involved via itsourtheatre@theatreis.org or text 0778 620 7540.

There'll also be more of the Tuesday double-screenings of mainstream and arthouse films, including nature documentary Earth (May 6), Brick Lane (May 13), The Golden Compass (May 20), The Other Boleyn Girl (Friday May 23), Closing the Ring (June 3), this year's big Oscar winner No Country for Old Men (June 17), The Bucket List (June 19) and Oscar-winning Daniel Day-Lewis in There Will Be Blood (July 1).

t Box office: 01263 822347; www.northnorfolk.org/littletheatre