A summer to remember
PUBLISHED: 12:31 01 July 2014 | UPDATED: 12:31 01 July 2014
Award-winning actor Richard Wilson will be spending his summer in Frinton, starring in this year's Frinton Summer Theatre. Here he talks to Holly Eells
RICHARD WILSON OBE is a man of many talents. Well known as one of the finest actors in the UK, Richard also boasts the skills of a thriving broadcaster and theatre director. An established household name for his best-known roles playing Victor Meldrew in the popular BBC sitcom One Foot in the Grave and Camelot’s court physician, Gaius, in the successful BBC drama Merlin, Richard will be spending his summer in Frinton on Sea, helping the Frinton Summer Theatre celebrate a landmark year. He will be joining other familiar cast members such as Vicki Michelle at the longest-running summer repertory theatre in the UK, to help mark its 75th anniversary. Alongside the traditional six-week repertory theatre productions, the organising team has increased performances to include a community dance event, comedy nights, a music night, a sing-along and a gala ball to end the summer.
Richard comments: ‘It’s going to be an experience which I’m really looking forward to getting stuck into.’
The Frinton Summer Theatre launched in 1937 and is recognised for its well-known faces, including Lynda Bellingham and Nickolas Grace who started their >> careers at Frinton. There have been difficult times too, and a recent campaign has helped to increase audience numbers in the run up to the anniversary year.
Richard continues: ‘I hope my presence and that of some other well-known names will get as many people through the doors as possible to enjoy what will be a fantastic season. I hope the names of Jon Canter and Richard Wilson is enough to encourage people to come down and see the show.’
Richard will be performing in a newly-written play, The Dog, which will be ending the Frinton season from August 19 to 23 at the McGrigor Hall. It is a brand new script written by comedy writer, Jon Canter, who has worked alongside Richard on various projects over the years, including Radio 4 programmes based on the idea of an autobiography of Richard and about his life with imaginary characters.
Richard explains: ‘I was asked what play I would like to be involved in and I chose Jon Canter’s. I have done a lot of work with him in the past, he is a very fine writer and this was certainly an attractive point for me to join the production. It is always exciting to be involved in new play writing and overall I can say I’m very honoured to be chosen to perform and to be working with Jon again.
‘Before I agreed to take part in the show, Clive Brill took me down for a tour of Frinton. Clive is very big in the area. It is an iconic theatre, which is high on the map when it comes to theatres across the UK and it also helped with Clive being very persuasive indeed. Just among actors and actresses, they speak ever so endearingly of the theatre. It just looks like such a lovely theatre and I will enjoy staying here in Essex for a couple of weeks.’
The Dog is a three-hander play. The story is based on a councillor and his relationships with his clients. The inspiration for the storyline came from someone very close to the writer’s heart, who devotes their life to helping couples feel right again.
Richard adds: ‘It’s exciting as I haven’t seen the play yet, but I have read a synopsis, so I know who I am playing. I have very high hopes for the play though!’
A man of the stage, Richard, will be working with a dog in several scenes, and canine casting will be starting soon for Frinton Summer Theatre’s first dog auditions.
‘I have never worked with a dog before, so this will be a new experience for me and I will tell you about how I get on afterwards. I’m sure it will be great. I’m quite open-minded when it comes to dogs. I don’t own one, but I like Labradors.’
Described as a great champion of work by Jon, Richard also has numerous other projects up his sleeve this year. ‘I’m currently in the car at the moment on a break from a new programme I’m working on,’ explains Richard as he speaks to me on the phone. ‘Unfortunately it doesn’t have a name yet, but it’s called something like going for a drive with Richard Wilson. It’s a driving programme based on John Bertrand Shell Guides and it will be out soon.’ n
Richard Wilson will be performing at the McGrigor Hall in Frinton on Sea on August 19 to 23. Ticket prices vary. To book tickets call Frinton Summer Theatre on 07905 589792 or visit www.frintonsummertheatre.co.uk
Frinton Summer Theatre Facts
n Frinton Summer Theatre was launched in 1937 and is believed to be the longest surviving professional summer repertory theatre in the UK.
n The theatre was started by a Cambridge academic and it has been the launch pad for many acting, stage management and design careers including Timothy West, Vanessa Redgrave, Lynda Bellingham, Gary Oldman and Jane Asher, who have all appeared as part of the Frinton Summer Theatre.
n During the Frinton Summer Theatre season, seven plays, from comedy to drama and from thrillers to musical theatre, are performed Tuesday to Saturday for seven weeks from mid July to the end of August each year.
n The organisation of the series first saw British actor Jack Watling in charge for several years. Following Jack’s reign, the season was taken over by his son, Giles Watling (famed for Bread, ‘Allo ‘Allo and Upstairs, Downstairs) and then his son-in-law Seymour Matthews.
n This year the theatre is celebrating its 75th anniversary with a variety of well-known actors including Vicki Michelle, Giles Watling, Jon Canter and local playwright Patrick Marlowe. All of the performances will be taking place at the McGrigor Hall on Fourth Avenue in Frinton on Sea.
The Frinton Summer Theatre 75th Anniversary Season
All performances are from Tuesday to Friday at 7.30pm and Saturday at 8pm with Saturday matinees at 3.30pm
July 15-19: Within The Gates A new play written by Patrick Marlowe
July 22-26: Sleuth One of the best stage thrillers by Anthony Shaffer with John D Collins
July 29-August 2: Relatively Speaking by Alan Ayckbourn
August 5-9: The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde starring Vicki Michelle and Giles Watling (extra matinee on Thursday, August 7)
August 12-16: Noel and Gertie by Sheridan Morley, with the words and music of Noel Coward and Gertrude Lawrence
August 19-23: The Dog A new play by Jon Canter starring Richard Wilson (extra matinee Thursday, August 21)