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Theatre partying all week

It was a real joy and privilege to be a special guest at  The MTA’s tenth birthday party, Gradunion, last week. It combined the annual graduation ceremony with a glorious get together people connected with  TheMTA .

Over 10 years ago, Annemarie Lewis Thomas, whom I didn’t then know at all, contacted me to tell me that she was starting a radical new musical theatre college. Would I come and sit in on some auditions and then perhaps write about her new venture in The Stage?  Well I did both and since then TheMTA has, in its first decade, gone on to achieve extraordinary things.

It now has alumni, known in MTA-speak as “ambassadors” busily working professionally all over the world, in regional theatres across Britain on tours etc and, of course, in the West End. There are only 154 of them to date because theMTA is resolutely small but, my goodness, they get about  – not least because over 70% of them remain in the industry and that’s more than twice the percentage in most colleges.

TheMTA, determined from Day One to punch above its weight, is also the only organisation ever to have won The Stage’s School of the Year award twice – the second time to mark its pioneering commitment to mental health and its efforts to spread that attitude across the performing arts industries.

It’s been quite a decade. Happy 10th birthday TheMTA. Here’s to the next ten years and thank you for letting me share the sheer joie-de-vivre and talent of your new industry-ready cohort as they sail into professional life.

I was also looking forward to seeing the newly re-opened Fairfield Halls in Croydon in its first week so was delighted to be reviewing CODA’s production of The Producers in the Ashcroft Theatre on Wednesday. The show was a delight and I’m impressed by the decision to give the space over to a local community company in the opening week.

Otherwise I was a bit disappointed – although I have yet to see and experience the main concert hall. I expected a great deal more rebuilding than appears to have happened. The layout of the 1962 foyer is exactly as before – just  face-lifted with glitzier lighting and brighter décor. There are also facilities for foyer events and I very much enjoyed the local schools performing  music there so I was  pleased I’d accidentally arrived early.

The ladies’ loos are already showing signs of wear. And when my phone rang in the very noisy foyer I tried to duck through a door marked “to studio theatre” simply to get a step or two the other side of a sound barrier. An officious Fairfield Halls employee barked delightedly at me “You can’t stand there. Staff only”. Some welcome.

And once you get through the lacklustre, subsidiary foyer to the Ashcroft there is almost no change except it’s now very cramped. They’ve taken out part of the centre aisle in order to get more seats in – but they’re the same old red velvet seats  complete with a few threadbare patches.  Sustainability? Theatrical glamour? No, it feels like uncelebratory meanness.



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Susan Elkin Susan Elkin is an education journalist, author and former secondary teacher of English. She was Education and Training Editor at The Stage from 2005 - 2016
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