The future of the Theatre


Royal & Derngate Youth Theatre.


What with all the cuts in arts, theatre and just about everything, else one could be forgiven for worrying about the future of culture in Britain.

That’s why I wish you could have been with me at the Royal Theatre in Northampton last night along with forty plus talented young players, a huge, enthusiastic and tuneful orchestra in the pit and no doubt, another score or more of young technicians behind the scenes.

1 Oliver - Oliver and Dodger cGraeme Braidwood OS069

Perhaps that’s why the packed audience were about a third of the average age of the Royal’s normal crowd. I could almost forgive the little girl in the next seat who seemed to have ants in her pants. When she wasn’t kicking my legs she was chomping through her, not inconsiderable, picnic with its very smelly barbecue flavoured whotsits.

But all that was forgotten as the Royal Youth Theatre brought the classical Musical Oliver! to life.

3 Oliver - Dodger and Oliver OW069

What a show. Communist poster printer Lionel Begleiter joined Unity Theatre agitprop, and although he never learned to write music made his name and his fortune with a score of pop hits like Cliff Richard’s Living Doll and Tommy Steele’s Little White Bull. He also wrote comedy songs for The Billy Cotton Band Show.

His communist poster printing company Gorman and Begleiter (pictured below in their East End studio) was shortened to G & B Arts and he used it as his new song-writing name – hence Lionel Bart.

goman an bart

In 1960 he wrote one of the greatest musicals ever written – Oliver! The show has been in production somewhere in the world ever since. It would make his fortune and his reputation.

What a great choice then to show off the talents of young actors in Northampton this week. I’m not silly enough to pick out any performers. Some of those pushy parents, retaliatory relatives or even feisty friends wouldn’t hesitate to track down any reviewer who didn’t pick out their own little darling for top marks.

Suffice to say both principles and ensemble brought the show to life and issued a cast iron guarantee that the future of theatre in Northampton and the rest of the nation is safe in some talented young hands.

Peter Frost

(production pictures by Graeme Braidwood)








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