7:00 PM May 31, 2022
Summer 2022 is looking to be a good one. Unlike the previous two years, we no longer have lockdown restrictions, meaning there’s a full calendar of events across the county to enjoy.
With good weather (hopefully) forecast over the coming weeks, now is the perfect chance to head out and take advantage of the great outdoors that we’re blessed with here in Suffolk.
And one place is quickly proving to be a magical woodland escape, right in the heart of the East Anglian countryside.
If you head out into the forest, there you will find Thorington Theatre – a purpose-built outdoor amphitheatre that is hosting a series of musical and theatrical events. From comedy gigs, to shows and productions, there’s bound to be something for you to enjoy.
But what was the inspiration behind this theatre, and how did it all come together?
Here to explain all is Thorington Theatre founder, Lindy O’Hare.
“The theatre is built here on our farm, as there was this depression left in the side of a small hill. Legend has it that it was from a doodlebug bomb that was meant for Lowestoft during the Second World War. And the previous owner always said it looked like an amphitheatre, so one day I just said ‘why don’t we just build it ourselves?’” she says.
With enough timber on the farm to bring this vision to life, Lindy, along with her husband Mark, and a small team of socially-distanced carpenters, soon got to work.
“We coppiced all of the timber sustainably, so no trees were killed in the process,” she says.
“We started this the year before Covid, and as we were slowly coming out lockdown last summer, we saw there was this unprecedent demand for outdoor venues and spaces. People were looking for things to do, and it just eventually took on a life of its own.”
And the end result? An incredible 350-person capacity circular theatre, surrounded by towering, majestic pine trees.
“The space itself has great acoustics, and you really feel the atmosphere when you get down into the bowl,” she adds.
Also on-site is a wooden box office; a fully-stocked bar serving an array of local beers, wine, cider, soft drinks and ice creams; and a designated picnic area for any patrons who wish to have a quick al fresco bite before showtime. In addition, there is parking, toilets, and wheelchair access.
A family-run affair, Lindy oversees bookings while husband Mark deals with the financial side of things, and daughter Josephine takes care of marketing and social media.
“Originally, we thought it would just be used by local theatre and amateur dramatic groups, but it’s really taken on a life of its own. So far, it’s been a wonderful experience.”
Last year was Lindy and co’s first summer of shows – but they were unable to have a full house due to the lockdown restrictions and social distancing measures that were in place at the time.
But the show still went on, and the theatre’s opening show was a performance of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, directed by local actor and drama teacher Beth Keys-Holloway.
“Beth runs a local children’s theatre group in Halesworth, and during the pandemic she had these 40 children rehearsing over Zoom. As restrictions were lifting, they were all so excited to finally get on stage.”
And what a roaring success it proved to be, as the children brought down the house
“Their friends and family all loved it, and they generated so much buzz and excitement. People had to be two metres apart for first half of our inaugural season, but that first show gave me so much hope and optimism that it was going to work.
“We’re all very excited for this summer, but also a little bit nervous. Last year was more experimental, but there’s more expectations this year.”
Over the coming months, there’s whole host of events to enjoy including Half-Cut Theatre’s rendition of Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing, stand-up comedy from Daniel Kitson, opera presented by Orlando Jopling, Into The Woods performed by Upshoot Theatre Company, and a number of gigs.
“Our biggest weekend will be the Jubilee weekend though, as we have opera singer Christina Johnston taking to the stage. We’ll have song sheets so the audience can singalong and celebrate our Majesty. It’s going to be amazing.”
And if that wasn’t enough to convince you, the reviews speak for themselves.
“Joe Harland from the BBC called us ‘the wooden Minack of the East’, and when we first opened up, I wrote to Thérèse Coffey and her secretary called the theatre ‘an asset to the Suffolk coast, and a destination venue that should be treasure and appreciated.’ And this was just in our early days. So we’re incredibly excited to see where this will go.”
Thorington Theatre is open throughout the summer, with its final event taking place on August Bank Holiday Monday.
To find out more, visit thoringtontheatre.co.uk