Mercury Theatre’s £9m redevelopment confirmed following another major funding award

  • £1.2million from the European Regional Development Fund has been awarded to support the theatre’s redevelopment plans
  • The project, undertaken in partnership with Colchester Borough Council, has already received funding from Arts Council England, Colchester Borough Council, Essex County Council and the South East Local Enterprise Partnership
  • Public donations and grants from other major funders include Garfield Weston Foundation, The Foyle Foundation, Fidelity Foundation, Bernard Sunley Foundation and Sport England
The Mercury Theatre can today confirms its £9m redevelopment plan, Mercury Rising, will go ahead following an exceptional award of £1.2m from the European Regional Development Fund. Mercury Rising will see the theatre’s buildings and site completely renovated, improving and extending audience, production and workshop facilities. It will ensure the entire building is fully accessible as well as introducing an all-day café, a unique incubation space to support creative talent from across the region, and a brand new home for all of the Mercury’s creative learning and community activities.
With just £500k left to raise, the total committed so far has now reached £8.5m, the minimum threshold for work on site to begin. The funds to enable this exciting development have been secured from a range of national and regional funding bodies, meaning that in excess of £7.5m will be new money invested into the Borough. These funds have been brought in by the Mercury to support the town’s ambition to improve access to cultural opportunities for local residents.
Alongside overwhelming support for the redevelopment from the local community who have already raised over £300k in charitable donations to support the changes, funds have been secured from Arts Council England’s capital funding programme, Colchester Borough Council, Essex County Council, the South East Local Enterprise Partnership, and now the European Regional Development Fund. The Fund seeks to support innovation and economic growth through the creation of jobs and the regeneration of communities. A further £500k has been pledged from major trusts and foundations including Garfield Weston Foundation, The Foyle Foundation, Fidelity Foundation, Bernard Sunley Foundation and Sport England.
Now work will start on the next stage of the project with the demolition on the site beginning later this month. The project to build the new theatre is being managed by Colchester Borough Council, and the demolition will be carried out by local company Phelan Construction. The Mercury are committed to working with local businesses and have agreed that at least £7m of the total budget will be spent locally in order to help create and sustain local employment. The building work will not affect audiences until mid-2019, at which point the theatre will take an exciting season of work out to a temporary off-site performance space so that building work can commence on the main theatre. The project is due for completion and the new facilities will open to the public in mid-2020.
Executive Director Steve Mannix said:
“The Mercury Theatre is at the centre of Colchester’s community and economy. Audiences are growing year on year as our work grows in scale and ambition, while the theatre supports more and more jobs in the local economy. This is a pivotal moment for the theatre and for the region – a moment of opportunity for us to push artistic boundaries, to better our facilities for the community, and to develop the regional economy by providing a creative hub of national standing for the East of England.”
He added
“Bringing £3.6m into the local economy annually, as well as over 100 jobs locally, the Mercury is already at the centre of the region’s creative industries, but there is so much more we can do. The existing theatre was built 45 years ago, following the founding of the Repertory Company some 35 years before that – through this project, we will ensure the theatre is a place for our community to enjoy for many generations to come.”
Councillor Tim Young, Portfolio Holder for Business and Culture and Deputy Leader of Colchester Borough Council said:
“We are delighted to be supporting a project that will rejuvenate an intrinsic part of the borough’s cultural offering.Colchester is bucking the trend in funding arts and culture initiatives which bring huge benefits and opportunities to residents.
“From its humble beginnings in 1937, the Mercury has become a theatre for Colchester and its communities. This project will cement the borough’s place as a centre for arts, and I am proud that the Council is playing a key part in helping turn the aspiration into reality.”
Hedley Swain, Area Director, South East, Arts Council England, said:
“Arts and cultural spaces are an essential part of their local community, not just for providing a source of entertainment and creativity, but also as social space where people can come together to enjoy a variety of experiences. The Mercury Theatre has always been a huge part of its local community. But Mercury Rising will elevate the venue to a new level, establishing it as a creative hub in the heart of East Anglia where artists can hone their practice and visitors can feel at home.”
Will Quince MP for Colchester said:
“The Mercury Theatre has a fantastic reputation for delivering top quality theatre, and sits at the heart of the cultural economy in our region. The theatre’s exciting redevelopment plans will be of huge benefit to our audiences and will ensure that Colchester remains at the centre of arts and culture for years to come.”
Councillor Sue Lissimore, Cabinet Member for Culture and Communities at Essex County Council said:
“This funding is great news for the Mercury Theatre and will give a great boost to the creative skills industry, hopefully inspiring future generations.”
Adam Bryan, Managing Director of South East Local Enterprise Partnership said:
“We were delighted to be able to support the Mercury Theatre with £1m of funding. The news that ERDF support has also been secured to allow the redevelopment to go ahead is very good indeed. SELEP’s role in supporting regeneration and economic development is a varied one. A thriving local arts scene is a vital component of any healthy and growing community and we wish the team behind the Mercury Rising project every success now that its future is assured.”

Casting announced for chilling revival of Ayckbourn’s Haunting Julia at Queen’s Theatre Hornchurch

haunting julia casting photos

The Queen’s Theatre Hornchurch has today announced the cast for its revival of Alan Ayckbourn’s chilling ghost story, Haunting Julia, which runs from 1 – 17 November. For those who love all things paranormal, it’s the perfect entertainment to delve into to keep the Halloween spirit alive for a little longer this autumn.
The production sees Matthew Spencer’s return to the Hornchurch stage, following his performance in the Queen’s Theatre’s world premiere production of The Invisible Man last year. His other credits include 1984, Playhouse Theatre & International Tour and The Woman in Black, Fortune Theatre & Tour. He will be joined by Sam Cox as Joe (A Woman of No Importance, Vaudeville Theatre, West End and A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Young Vic) and Clive Llewellyn as Ken (Twist of Gold, Polka Theatre and Beckett In Brixton, National Theatre).  
Haunting Julia tells the story of Julia Lukin, a nineteen year-old musical prodigy – nicknamed ‘Little Miss Mozart’ in the tabloids. She was composing symphonies aged eight. By nineteen the world was at her feet… until her dead body was found mysteriously in a dingy attic. Twelve years on and her father Joe has never come to terms with this. Was it really suicide? Or was someone else with Julia the night she died? Joe wants answers and tonight he will get them…
This hauntingly tense study of grief and the supernatural is punctuated with trademark wit from Alan Ayckbourn. Ayckbourn is an Olivier and Tony Award winning playwright and has written more than 80 plays which have been produced in London’s West End and New York, as well as around the world. Ayckbourn’s inspiration for Haunting Julia came from the thrilling stage adaptation of The Woman in Black, written by Susan Hill, adapted for the stage by Stephen Mallatratt. The original production of Haunting Julia was performed at the Stephen Joseph Theatre and had its first performance on 12 April 1994, with a London premiere on 27 May 2011.
A Sign Language Interpreted Performance of Haunting Julia will take place on Wednesday 14 November at 7.30pm and Audio Description is available via a headset at all performances from 5 Nov.
Haunting Julia runs at the Queen’s Theatre Hornchurch from 1 – 17 November. Tickets are £12.50£29 (plus an additional 65p QNew Transformation fee), with £8tickets available for Under 26s(Tue – Thu & previews).
For more information about Haunting Julia at the Queen’s Theatrecall the Box Office on 01708 443333or visit  


Once receives six London theatre award nominations at the Queen’s Theatre Hornchurch

 Once company - Photo credit Mike Kwasniak

The Queen’s TheatreHornchurch is thrilled that its regional premiere of Once, co-produced with the New Wolsey Theatre Ipswich, has received six nominations in the prestigious Off West End Theatre Awards.
Assessors from The Offies (Off West End Theatre Awards) have nominated Once for Best Musical Production, Ben Goddard for Best Musical Direction, Emma Lucia for Best Female Performance in a Musical,Daniel Healy for Best Male Performance in a Musical, and Sean Kingsley and Samuel Martin for Best Male Performance in a Supporting Role in a Musical.
The website, which champions London’s independent theatres, launched the annual awards – also known as The Offies – in 2010 to celebrate excellence in productions outside the West End. The Queen’s Theatre is one of over 80 participating venues across the capital and a final shortlist of nominees will come out early next year.
Featuring an ensemble of cast of actor-musicians, Once tells the unforgettable story of a Dublin street musician and a funny Czech woman, drawn together by their shared love of music. As they assemble a band from her wild family and his quirky mates, the music flows and they fall slowly in love.
★★★★★‘A phenomenal production’ spyinthestalls
★★★★★‘Moving, beautifully produced musical that’s good for the ears and heart’ Everything Theatre
★★★★★‘Cracking performances all-round, from an outstanding cast of actor-musicians, combined with hauntingly novel songs and music’ ActDrop
Once runs at the Queen’s Theatre Hornchurch until Saturday 20 October. For more information about the show call the Box Office on 01708 443333or visit

Casting announced for homecoming revival of cult classic Abigail’s Party at the Queen’s Theatre Hornchurch

The Queen’s Theatre Hornchurch is excited to be bringing Mike Leigh’s cult classic comedy Abigail’s Party home to its Essex roots from 30 August 22 September.
Playing the socially awkward, aspirational hostess Beverly is Melanie Gutteridge. She is best known for her roles as PC Emma Keane in The Bill and Amy in Not Going Out. Her recent credits include the British-American horror film The Watcher in the Woods(directed by Melissa Joan Hart) and on stage in Roaring Trade at the Park Theatre.
She will be joined by Liam Bergin(Danny Mitchell in EastEnders), Amy Downham(Jen Gilmore in Hollyoaks), Susie Emmett(she performed opposite Richard E Grant in the film The Man Who Married Himself) and Christopher Staines(Hamlet, National Theatre) as Laurence.
According to Leigh, this delicious 70s comedy that cracks open social climbing suburbia was set in theoretical Romford and is notorious for its references to cheesy-pineapple and Demis Roussos. Made famous by the BBC Play for Today starring Alison Steadman, which was seen by 16 million viewers, audiences will not want to miss this great night out at the drinks party from hell!
This production is directed by the Queen’s Theatre’s Artistic Director Douglas Rintoul (Priscilla Queen of the Desert, Rope, Made in Dagenham) and co-produced with Derby Theatre, Wiltshire CreativeandLes Théâtres de la Ville de Luxembourg.
A Sign Language Interpreted Performance of Abigail’s Party will take place on Wednesday 19 September at 7.30pm in addition to a Dementia Friendlyperformanceon Thursday 20 September at 1.30pm. Audio description is available at all performances.
Audiences can enjoy Abigail’s Party and two more Queen’s Theatre productions (Once and Haunting Julia) from just £45 (£15 per show) with a Jump the Q season ticket. £8 tickets are available for Under 26s (Tue – Thu & previews only).
The Queen’s Theatre and Derby Theatre have also commissioned a brand new play, Abi, which is a contemporary response to Abigail’s Party. Abi is part of Derby Theatre’s RETOLD series and is written by one of Britain’s most exciting new writers, Atiha Sen Gupta(Skins, Holby City). RETOLD is a series of new one-woman plays commissioned by Derby Theatre. It stars Safiyya Ingar(LAVA, Nottingham Playhouse; GrowthUK Tour, Paines Plough) and is directed by Sarah Brigham, Derby Theatre’s Artistic Director. Abi runs at the Queen’s Theatre from 4 – 22 September.
Discounts are available for theatregoers who purchase tickets for Abigail’s Party and Abi together, or Abi and a Jump the Q season ticket.
For more information about Abigail’s Party or Abi at the Queen’s Theatre call the Box Office on 01708 443333or visit



The Reject Theatre company are returning to the stage with their latest production The Rise and Fall of Little Voice at the Headgate Theatre, Colchester

The Rejects were originally formed in 1988 by its founding members Stephen Emery, Barry Hester and Kevin Richards. Bringing a fresh new approach to the theatre they performed to critical acclaim The Long and the Short and The Tall, Bouncers, Twelve Angry Men, Private Wars and The Dumb Waiter amongst others. The company finally disbanded in the 90s as the members pursued their careers but now Kevin Richards and Barry Hester have decided to bring the company back to life again. So…. the first of the newly reformed Reject played a revival of their smash hit Bouncers in August 2017 at The Headgate Theatre, Colchester and again in October 2017 at Zinc Arts Theatre in Chipping Ongar.
Following the revival of Bouncers, the company have recently brought their version of the hilarious play, A Bunch of Amateurs, written by Ian Hislop and Nick Newman, to local theatres. This was very well received at ZincArt Theatre in Chipping Ongar and the production had a further outing in January 2018 at the Headgate Theatre in Colchester where it was a sell-out. The Company is currently working on its latest production, The Rise and Fall of Little Voice by Jim Cartright.
Performing nightly at 7:45pm from 30th May to 2nd June. This award-winning comedy tells the story of a shy reclusive girl named Little Voice and her larger-than-life mother Mari. I
 In this heart-warming tale, Little Voice, desperately missing her dead father, spends her time locked in her bedroom listening to his old record collection and perfecting astonishing impersonations of famous divas such as Shirley Bassey, Marilyn Monroe, Judy Garland and Dusty Springfield. Her remarkable talent remains a secret until she is overheard by a local talent scout.
 Cast: Tamara Anderson, Barry Hester, Kieran Bacon, Robyn Gowers, Kevin Richards Diana Easton and John Sullivan
Suitable for age 12+
Tickets: £13.50, £11.50 (conc)

Casting announced for regional professional premiere of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert at the Queen’s Theatre Hornchurch

Full casting has been announced for the Queen’s Theatre Hornchurch’s regional professional premiere of the glamorously feel-good musical, Priscilla, Queen of the Desert. It runs at the theatre from 27 April – 26 May.
Mark Inscoe is thrilled to be reviving the role of Bernadette having previously performed the part in the West End production. Playing Tick is Tom Giles (Ragtime, Charing Cross Theatre; Muse of Fire, Shakespeare’s Globe) and Adam will be performed by Daniel Bailey (Motown the Musical, Shaftesbury Theatre; The Lion King, Lyceum Theatre).
They will be joined by Miracle Chance, Michael Cuckson, Molly-Grace Cutler, Clara Darcy, Lemuel Knights, Natasha Lewis, Tom Self, Lauren Storer and Josh Tye.
Priscilla, Queen of the Desert will be directed by the Queen’s Theatre’s Artistic Director Douglas Rintoul (Rope, The Crucible, Made in Dagenham). He says, ‘Following on from our hit production of Made in Dagenham, I was keen to make another regional premiere of a great modern musical at the Queen’s Theatre. Priscilla, Queen of the Desert is absolutely ripe for a new, more intimate, stripped back, actor-musician midscale production. The film blew me away back in the mid-1990s – it’s a great story of friendship and empowerment and is packed full of top tunes, fierceness, fun and poignancy – what more could one ask for?
This uplifting and heart-warming production will be designed by Joanna Scotcher, musical director is Adam Gerber with lighting design by Mark Howland, sound design by Adam McCready, choreography by Darragh O’Leary and fight director Bethan Clark.
Based on the smash hit movie starring Terence Stamp and Guy Pearce, audiences are promised a highly entertaining new take on an iconic musical.
The Queen’s Theatre Hornchurch is delighted to announce that it will be providing a dementia-friendly performance on Thursday 24 May at 1.30pm in addition to an Audio Described Performance on Saturday 19 May at 2.30pm and a Sign Language Interpreted Performance on Wednesday 16 May at 7.30pm
For more information about Priscilla, Queen of the Desert at the Queen’s Theatre visit


Chelmsford Young Gen present ‘West Side Story’ 

Photos: Claire Jefferies
Chelmsford Young Gen are excited to be celebrating 50 years and are doing it in style, by performing one of the all-time greats of musical theatre – West Side Story!  Having received nominations and awards for their recent shows the Young Gen cast (from 8 – 18 years old) wow their audiences time and time again with the highest quality performances.
The rehearsals look amazing and this next production of West Side Story promises to be another outstanding musical. An award-winning adaptation of a classic romantic tragedy that explores the rivalry between the Jets and the Sharks, set in the west side of New York City.
The original 1957 Broadway production, directed and choreographed by Jerome Robins, was an immediate ‘hit’ and has earned the place as a firm favourite of many ever since. With Bernstein’s magnificent score for the musical including “Something’s Coming”, “Maria”. “America”, “Somewhere”, “Tonight”, “Jet Song” and many more, along with the fantastic lyrics from Sondheim, you are guaranteed an incredible show!
Young Gen are directed by Jeremy Tustin with musical direction by Bryan Cass.
Performance Dates & Times:
Tuesday 17th, Wednesday 18th, Thursday 19th & Saturday 21st Matinee: £16
Friday 20th & Saturday 21st Evening: £17
A £1.50 booking fee is applicable per transaction.
 To Book Tickets:
Visit the Civic Theatre Box Office, Fairfield Road, Chelmsford, CM1 1JG
Call 01245 606505
Online at









Developed by Perfect Pitch

Co-produced by the Mercury Theatre Colchester and TBO Productions

PIECES OF STRING  – Book, Music & Lyrics by Gus Gowland

Directed by Ryan McBryde; Designed by Fin Redshaw; Musical Direction by Paul Herbert

20 April – 5 May     A Made in Colchester production

Mercury Theatre Colchester and TBO Productions today announce the world première of the brand-new musical – Pieces of String with book, music and lyrics by Gus Gowland. The production, directed by Ryan McBryde and designed by 2017 Linbury Prize Finalist Fin Redshaw, opens on 27 April at the Mercury, and runs until 5 May.
When Jane returns from her father’s funeral to start clearing the house she grew up in – packing away the family photographs, closing a chapter – she isn’t prepared for the untold story she’s about to discover threaded through her past, a story that threatens to unravel her relationship with her own children and shake her understanding of who she is.
A new musical set simultaneously in the 1940s and in the present day, Pieces Of String tells how Jane’s father, Edward, came back from the Second World War with a secret that would change his life forever – a secret that he would carry until the day he died.
With hauntingly beautiful music and a heart-rending human story, Pieces Of String is a tender, funny, emotionally-charged exploration of how three generations of one family learn to deal with a story that nobody’s been brave enough to tell until today.
Times may have changed but some battles still need to be fought.

Chelmsford Theatre Workshop present ‘Mad Forest’ by Caryl Churchill

13th to 17th February 2018

Directed by Tom Tull

Mad Forest rehearsal 3 - Copy

In 1990 the playwright Caryl Churchill and ten students from the Central School of Speech and Drama travelled to Bucharest to research and develop a new play. Whilst studying in Romania, they spoke to local drama students and their families about the revolution that was unfolding before them. Mad Forest involves real-life statements from people that were living through the revolution. The play creates a web of interwoven perspectives on the impact of the revolution, giving the audience insights into the revolution including the use of Verbatim theatre. The play lays bare how political and social upheaval can split families and their loyalties.

Professional ballet dancer joins The Chelmsford Ballet Company for Snow Queen

James Parratt in action

The Chelmsford Ballet Company takes on the classic Snow Queen this yearwhich will see professional ballet dancer James Parratt join the much-loved company cast as Kay.
James Parratt trained at Penny Taylor School of Dance and went on to train at Central School of Ballet, where he graduated with a BA Hons in Professional Dance and Performance. Whilst at Central James competed in the Genée International Ballet Competition, where he was a Finalist. During his third year of training James was a part of Ballet Central, and performed with Kidd Pivot in Polaris, choreographed by Crystal Pite at Sadler’s Wells.
After graduating in 2016, James moved to Dresden, Germany where he was a Guest Apprentice with Semperoper Ballet, and he performed in Kenneth MacMillan’s Manon. He then danced with New English Ballet Theatre where he performed pieces by Jenna Lee, Daniela Cardim and Valentino Zucchetti at Sadler’s Wells and other UK theatres.
Based on Hans Christian Anderson’s classic fairytale, Snow Queen tells the age-old story of the fight between good and evil. Audiences will be swept along a magical journey with siblings Gerda and Kay, danced by Georgia Olley and Parratt respectively. The Chelmsford Ballet Company will return to its classical roots with this tale; Gerda seeks to break the cruel spell cast by the Snow Queen, embarking on adventure through enchanted forests, meeting fantastical animals, and seeking to triumph over evil.
The Chelmsford Ballet Company will perform Snow Queen from 21 – 24 March 2018 at the Civic Theatre, Chelmsford. Tickets are now on sale; to purchase tickets, contact the box office on 01245 606505 or visit



our house logo

Coming to the Civic Theatre this November…
Young Generation will be performing Our House, the Olivier Award-winning musical by Tim Firth, featuring the fantastic songs of Madness.
This is definitely one you will want to see!
 Our House promises an unforgettable evening of fun and energy, with a moral and emotional storyline that tells the story of how one decision can change your life.
The musical is based on the story of Joe Casey, who, on the night of his sixteenth birthday, breaks into a building site and finds himself at a crossroads. The police turn up and he has to decide; does he stay and help, or does he flee? At this point the musical splits into two, following the story of ‘good’ Joe and ‘bad’ Joe, as the consequences unravel and his life unfolds.
A pacey, multi-layered story with a great pop score from 80s Ska band Madness. Featuring all their top hits including House of Fun, Baggy Trousers, Driving in my Car,It Must Be Love and, of course, Our House.
Young Gen are directed by Sallie Warrington with musical direction by Bryan Cass. For a fabulous evening of high energy dancing and great songs, book your tickets today!
Performance Dates & Times
Tuesday 7th, Wednesday 8th: £16 (concessions £14)
 Thursday 9th & Saturday 11th Matinee: £16.50 (concessions £14.50)
Friday 10th & Saturday 11th Evening: £17 (concessions £15)
 To Book Tickets
Visit the Civic Theatre Box Office, Fairfield Road, Chelmsford, CM1 1JG
Call 01245 606505
Online at
A £1.50 booking fee is applicable per transaction, except for cash and debit payments made in person and by telephone.
Follow Young Gen on twitter @cygams, Instagram, Facebook and Snapchat. Plus visit