I went to see the Pantomime at the Towngate Theatre last night. It was very good; Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs with a beautiful princess and dashing prince and a scheming evil queen all portrayed by a fine cast, with some particularly talented younger members in supporting roles. The audience loved it, especially the children who booed, hissed and cheered with enthusiasm. It was pantomime at its best, and it marked the latest stage of a renaissance for the Towngate theatre, which has had a troubled history. The problem is that the theatre has all the facilities of top class theatre, except that its auditorium was designed to be far too small. So, it has all of the costs of a big venue while it can only generate the income of a small venue. This has meant that it has opened and closed many times as successive organisations have tried and failed to make it work as a theatre. At some points in its history it has also had a huge subsidy from the Council and so has been a political football, at that still lingers around in Basildon's politics. Now it is open again, and running better than for years thanks to an excellent team from the Council and a well-crafted policy from the Conservative Administration. The timing is also good as we are currently procuring a development partner for Basildon Town Centre, and one of the things under consideration in the future provision of a theatre for central Basildon. Ideally we will get a newer, better, and bigger theatre, but the deal has to add up and evidence of a functioning theatre already operating cannot help but make the case.
Oh, and if you live anywhere near Basildon, go and see the panto!