The arts are staged for a big comeback

Arts and entertainment have taken a big hit over the past year with performers, artists and audiences all being locked down, socially distanced and whilst observing measures put in place to combat the global pandemic they have had to stay away.

Fortunately, it seems, these measures have started to pay-off and venues are beginning to look forwards with more positivity.

Stoughton Pages spoke to the Yvonne Arnaud Theatre in Guildford (a charity which relies on box office income for its day-to-day operation) to see how they have coped through lockdown and what they now have in place to welcome back their audiences.

Siobhan Basset’s The Hound of the Baskervilles.

Throughout 2020 the Yvonne Arnaud, like theatres up and down the country, were forced to close and open again multiple times. They’ve stood up and stood down their front of house team; they’ve welcomed back audiences and then sent them home again.

“We know how much people have been missing live entertainment, and the Yvonne Arnaud can’t wait to welcome you back!”

With a huge loss of income from cancelled shows, the Yvonne Arnaud Theatre’s leadership team have had to make some tough artistic choices and painful business decisions in order to keep the theatre in the best shape for survival. Having been running the theatre from their kitchens and living rooms, they are now back in the building and busy behind the scenes preparing to open the theatre’s doors again this summer. We know how much people have been missing live entertainment, and the Yvonne Arnaud can’t wait to welcome you back! They have a jam-packed season planned which, they hope, offers something
for everyone.

Having been running the theatre from their kitchens and living rooms, they are now back in the building and busy behind the scenes preparing to open the theatre’s doors again this summer.

They’re proud to be reopening on 3 June with their own production of new comedy, Siobhan Basset’s The Hound of the Baskervilles, written by and starring much-loved Surrey resident Sara Crowe. Aside from their beloved annual panto, this will be their first piece of home-produced theatre in a number of years. With lighting designed by Yvonne Arnaud Lighting Technician, Hannah Walker, and directed by the theatre’s Director and Chief Executive Joanna Read, this is an Yvonne Arnaud production through and through. And what better way to celebrate the return of theatre in Guildford than with something that’s been made in Guildford!

…what better way to celebrate the return of theatre in Guildford than with something that’s been made in Guildford!

Another highlight of the Arnaud’s summer season is socially-distanced sound installation, Blindness, from the Donmar Warehouse (21 to 26 June). They’re especially excited to be welcoming the Donmar to Guildford for the first time with this boundary-pushing, innovative production by award-winning playwright Simon Stephens. Audience members sit on the stage, under glowing bars of criss-crossing, colour-changing light, listening on headphones to Juliet Stevenson’s narration, fully immersed in the experience. It’s a very different Arnaud experience, but one to remember. There’s plenty in the diary for drama lovers too in the shape of espionage thriller A Splinter of Ice (15 to 19 June), Alan Ayckbourn’s black comedy Absurd Person Singular (6 to 10 July) and West End favourite The Woman in Black (12 to 17 July).

Blindness, from the Donmar Warehouse, by award-winning playwright Simon Stephens.

The Yvonne Arnaud team would like to say a huge thank you to the generous volunteers that have been helping throughout the last year, including working as ushers for The Snow Queen over Christmas and tidying up the garden in preparation for a number of outdoor live music events throughout the summer. They’re pleased to once again be partnering with their friends at Guildford Jazz for another special evening of Jazz in the Garden (31 July) with vocalist Zoe Francis, multi-award winning guitar legend Jim Mullen, pianist Gareth Williams, and Marianne Windham on double bass. They’re also thrilled to welcome dynamic duos Jacob and Drinkwater and India Electric Co. for two emotionally-charged evenings of contemporary folk music on 20 June and 8 August respectively.

They have filled the summer holidays with family theatre and events for children of all ages. The Snail and the Whale and Pippi Longstocking are perfect for little ones aged four and above; older children will enjoy interactive treasure hunt show This Noisy Isle, and those aged three and above will love CBeebies favourites Sarah and Duck. The theatre will also be hosting two Guildford Fringe Festival events for the first time this year: an evening of stand-up comedy with Gag House Comedy Superstars, and music from The Surrey Police Band.

CBeebies favourites Sarah and Duck.

Whilst the theatre has been closed the team rummaged through the archives and shared a series of videos looking back at the history of the Arnaud, from how it was built, the history of the buildings, and some of the dramatic events taking place at the theatre in the last 56 years! They’re all available to view on the website (Yvonne-Arnaud.co.uk).

Yvonne Arnaud staff members also recorded videos about their job roles and careers that we made available to schools and colleges. If you’d like to watch them, please email marketing@yvonne-arnaud.co.uk.

The Yvonne Arnaud is taking safety measures very seriously including clear signage and one-way systems, hand sanitiser stations, mask wearing and thorough cleaning. The team are grateful to have received a grant from Theatres Trust to purchase specialised fogging equipment, enabling them to maintain high standards of decontamination and keep audiences, performers and staff safe when they return.

The Yvonne Arnaud is taking safety measures very seriously including clear signage and one-way systems, hand sanitiser stations, mask wearing and thorough cleaning.

Finally the theatre would like to say a huge thank you for your support throughout last year. The cheery messages, kind donations and offers of help and letting them know how much you were missing live theatre, have kept them going through this extraordinary time.

Be sure to sign up to the theatre’s emails at Yvonne-Arnaud.co.uk and follow them on Facebook (@YvonneArnaudTheatre), Twitter and Instagram (@YvonneArnaud) to keep updated.

The Yvonne Arnaud Theatre is looking forward to their auditorium being full again.