Wyvern’s Summer Youth Project 2019

Wyvern’s Summer Youth Project 2019

August 2019

Wyvern’s Summer Youth Project Serve up a sweet treat with Chitty Chitty Bang Bang

If it’s late August that can mean only one thing: Wyvern’s Theatre Summer Youth Project 2019.

Running since 1994, the summer youth project has become a highlight of the Wyvern’s calendar.

Hear theatre director Laura James talking about the SYP: https://youtu.be/TMuT3eTpBMY

I’ve been to several of them now and they do seem to get better each year. They do a damn good job – all them. On stage and off – the standard is VERY high. All kudos to the Wyvern, to the foundation and to the kids themselves.

2017’s Summer Holiday was lovely and in last year’s production of Oliver, the then 16-year-old Archie Fisher made a big impression with a mature-beyond-his-years performance as Fagin.

I said it then – and I’ll say it again. That young man has ‘it’. So when, in a few year’s time, you see his name in lights remember: you saw him here first.

Here again, in the Wyvern’s Summer Youth Project 2019, in the lead role as Caractacus Potts, the still-only-17-year-old Archie gives a credible performance as as father to two young mother-less children.

Archie Fisher as Caractacus Potts with Ben Brindle as Jeremy and Mollie Avenell as Jemima. Wyvern theatre summer youth project 2019.
Archie Fisher as Caractacus Potts with Ben Brindle as Jeremy and Mollie Avenell as Jemima.

A host of memorable performances

But I can’t only talk about Archie Fisher. The production boasts a full complement of super performances. There are not one but two lovely comic duos. Michael Kerr gives a good turn as the infantile Bulgarian Baron – one feels apologies are owed to Bulgaria – and so does Rae Alexander as his long-suffering, indulgent wife.

Amy Gordon made a fitting Truly Scrumptious with her sweet singing voice fitting the role well.

Also deserving a particular mention are Maddy Stimpson-Duffy and Marcellus Hill as Cloris and Goran, the Baron’s bumbling spies sent to get hold of Pott’s car. Lots of laughs from all four! Super stuff.

Both the youngsters playing Pott’s children were scene stealers of course. But I have to give a special word about Mollie Avenell – I felt she too had a notable stage presence.

If you’re at a loose end tonight and you can get a ticket – go! https://swindontheatres.co.uk/Online/tickets-chitty-chitty-bang-bang-swindon-2019 It’s such fun! Scrumptious even. Truly!

Credit: All photos – screenshots aside – Anthony Hunt Photography

Things you might not know about Chitty Chitty Bang Bang

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang is a 1968 British-American musicaladventurefantasy film.  Ken Hughes  directed it. Roald Dahl wrote it, loosely basing it on Ian Fleming’s 1964 novel Chitty-Chitty-Bang-Bang: The Magical Car.

Albert R. Broccoli ( often known as Cubby) famous for being a regular co-producer of the James Bond films produced it.

The film starred Dick Van Dyke, Sally Ann HowesAdrian Hall, Heather Ripley, Lionel JeffriesJames Robertson JusticeRobert Helpmann, and Gert Fröbe.

From the 1960s film: https://youtu.be/-P2jiRPlq2U

Christmas at the Wyvern Theatre

Christmas at the Wyvern Theatre

July 2019

I confess I didn’t know that Christmas in July is a thing in Down Under. I rather like the idea I must say. Amazing what you discover when writing about Christmas at the Wyvern Theatre.

What Christmas in July is in this country though, is a marketing opportunity. A quick root on a well-known search engine* brings up all sorts of marketing suggestions for business of all kinds. But in particular for hotels, restaurants and theatres to showcase Christmas menus and events. Makes sense.

*Other search engines are available. Like Ecosia for example which plants trees.

So – cue somwhat surreal silliness at the Wyvern Theatre for their Christmas in July event.

Born again Swindonian and Father Chritmas.

After sharing this on Twitter, Santa came online to apologise profusely for his drunken behaviour. Too many sherries and Santagrias he said. True story!


So we gorged on pigs in blankets, as is only right and proper it being Christmas, while the lovely Wyvern marketing team told us what’s going down at the theatre over the forthcoming festive season. And I know it’s only July BUT – JC’s birthday will hurtle towards us at the speed of light once we get into August.

Being all about the food and drink, my ears pricked up at mention of a new service being planned (I don’t think it’s here yet) whereby you’ll be able to get interval drinks brought to your seat. Which will be nice!

Now, I spend a fair amount of time in Surrey at my daughter’s and Esher has an Everyman cinema – go to an Everyman and you’ll never go to a multiplex again. The Everymans have couches and cushions and tables and tons of leg room. You order food and drink before you go into your film and they bring it to you. It’s amazing. I wish we had an Everyman in Swindon.

Sooo – back to the point – I’m liking this plan from the Wyvern.

Christmas Dining

Leaflet of Wyvern theatre Christmas menu

The Wyvern Theatre offers a range of pre-show dining experiences. All the info on their website here: https://swindontheatres.co.uk/Online/eat_drink

Christmas Paaaaartttyyy!

Leaflet/programme for Wyvern Theatre Christmas party.

If you want to get a group of folk together for a Christmas party event there’s all the info here.

He’s behind you!

Then last, but by no means least, there’s the Wyvern Christmas Panto. I’ve been to a few of these – they’re a great night.

This year’s panto is Sleeping Beauty, starring Michelle Collins (I’ve heard of her) and Chris Jarvis (not heard of him – but that means nothing. I’m not exactly current.)

Front of flyer for Wyvern Theatre Christmas pantomime

Full Wyvern Pantomime details are here.

Oh yes they are!!!

In the Spotlight!

The top floor venue for Wyvern Theatre dinner parties or pre-show dining.

Social media

The Wyvern Theatre on facebook: https://www.facebook.com/WyvernTheatre/

On Twitter:

On Instagram:

Shoebox Theatre

Shoebox Theatre

At last! It’s been my intention to feature the small but perfectly formed Shoebox Theatre on here for ages of a crow. Yet somehow or other I’ve failed. Never mind – they’re here now!

Who or what are they?

shoebox theatre

The box office/cash desk/reception at the Shoebox Theatre

As it says on the about section of their website:

‘The Shoebox Theatre is a 50-seat flexible studio space in the heart of Swindon’s award winning GWR Railway Village. *

Managed by the Wrong Shoes Theatre Company, the space supports new and contemporary work, hosts an exciting programme of contemporary theatre and provides quality theatre training.’

*In truth the historic and important Health Hydro/Milton Rd baths lie just outside the boundary of the actual railway village conservation area. Though they are in the railway village.

Having been in the Artsite/Postmodern/old post office building on Theatre Square, the theatre company are now ensconced in Milton Road baths in the former laundry rooms. Here, in collaboration with GLL and the Wrong Shoes theatre company, they’ve converted these historic rooms into an affordable fringe theatre and rehearsal venue.

It seems to me that this theatre and arts space is a fabulous addition to Swindon’s cultural offering. I love that they have Swindon-born (well Purton but close enough for government work) Billie Piper as a patron! Before she filled our screens as Rose Tyler in Dr Who, my awareness of her had been a passing one. I’m sure as heck aware of her now as she’s gone from strength to strength. Well done Billie.

Having been in the Artsite/Postmodern/old post office building on Theatre Square, the theatre company are now ensconced in Milton Road baths in the former laundry rooms. Here, in collaboration with GLL and the Wrong Shoes theatre company, they’ve converted these historic rooms into an affordable fringe theatre and rehearsal venue.

It seems to me that this theatre and arts space is a fabulous addition to Swindon’s cultural offering. I love that they have Swindon-born (well Purton but close enough for government work) Billie Piper as a patron! Before she filled our screens as Rose Tyler in Dr Who, my awareness of her had been a passing one. I’m sure as heck aware of her now as she’s gone from strength to strength. Well done Billie.

An Interview with Luke Marquez

A superb way to find out more about Shoebox is to read this interview with Luke Marquez, the artistic director of the theatre.

He’s right in this: ‘Swindon has an abundance of talented young performers and emerging artists but, like me, they were seeking theatre out of town and more importantly they relied on creative opportunities further afield. We needed an affordable creative space to create new work and so do the other amazing talents in the town and that’s what we want to achieve with the Shoebox Theatre.’

The theatre runs an educational programme, with weekly classes for beginners, advanced classes for the more experienced. Also weekly stage combat classes and masterclasses with theatre professionals. Find out more about the theatre’s education programme here.

All in all Shoebox Theatre is a perfect fit. No blisters here! Long may that continue.

The theatre on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/wrongshoestheatre

The Journey

The Journey

15th December 2018

The Journey

Last weekend saw me – and many others – in Swindon’s Old Town being part of The Journey.

The Journey, as described on photographer Elmar Rubio’s website, was ‘an immense, immersive theatrical telling of the Christmas story’. It entailed a processional performance that unfolded throughout Old Town that showed ‘the true nature, the faith and the fearlessness of those chosen to birth and raise Jesus Christ. It was truly epic, beautiful and moving and I offer my biggest and most heartfelt congratulations and thanks to all those who made it happen.

It began at Lethbridge School with crowd scenes, and the Romans telling the residents of Nazareth that they had to return to their birth place to be counted – for a census. The Journey progressed down to Wood Street, through a bazaar, and into Christ Church for the Nativity – with a real baby!

A couple of images below of this wonderful theatrical event, with thanks to Elmar Rubio for permission to use them. There’s dozens more here – follow the journey in fantastic photographic detail. Elmar is a brilliant photographer.

Mary and joseph

Mary and Joseph and the infant Jesus - The Journey

Mary and Joseph and the Infant Jesus

As I walked along with the performance it occurred to me how much the Christmas story carries resonances for all of us. Whether you’re a firm believer in God and Christ, are on the fence or strongly of the opinion that it’s nothing more than the greatest story ever told – it has resonances. Because, aside from the birth of Christ element, the Christmas story is one of people being made to move en masse, without fault and without choice. Whether it be fleeing from war, or famine or natural disaster – or forced from their homes for racist/political reasons – people have suffered mass exodus since time immemorial. The world hasn’t come to anything. Such atrocities were ever thus.

The residents of Nazareth, and all towns and villages in the region, were forced to undertake a long and arduous journey to Bethlehem because the Romans decided to count the population in its occupied territories. No matter if you were old, or sick or, like Mary, heavily pregnant – you had to go. Many must have died along the way.

And mass exodus is something that moved David Bent to paint his Movement 2000 collection. These works took David two years to paint. He undertook the project from feeling moved, inspired – driven even – to create a major piece of work in celebration of the new millennium. When he chose ‘Movement’ as the umbrella title for these paintings he was inadvertently prescient. Why? Because around this time the Balkan/Yugoslav raged. And, as we know, where ever conflict exists there are refugees. Where ever there is conflict there are people on the move seeking sanctuary.

You can view images of Movement 2000 on the David Bent studio website here.

So as I toddled along reflecting on all this, I considered how apt that this performance take place in a town that is home to the Harbour Project, aiding refugees and asylum seekers and is Swindon City of Sanctuary. And I reflected too, how so so very fortunate I am – that I am not them. I reflected that, to coin a cliché – there but for the grace of God go I. Go you. Go all of us.

I’m not wholly a fan of T S Eliot – but I do think that his The Journey of the Magi conveys how difficult that journey was. 

On the subject of the Harbour Project and Swindon as a city of sanctuary see also this post. 

Journey to safety mural

Journey to safety mural at Drove Primary School




Aladdin at The Wyvern

Aladdin at The Wyvern

12th December 2018

Aladdin at The Wyvern

Aladdin: Saturday 8th December – Sunday 6th January 2019

Aladdin at The Wyvern

To clear any doubt: the story of Aladdin didn’t start life as a Disney franchise. Aladdin is, in fact, is a folk tale originating in the Middle East.

Aladdin is one of the tales in The Book of One Thousand and One Nights (The Arabian Nights) as told by Scherazade* – even though it wasn’t part of the original Arabic text. It’s thought that a Frenchman, Antoine Galland, attributing the tale to a Syrian storyteller called Youhenna Diab, added Aladdin to the collection of tales in the 18th Century.

Read about Scherazade, the inventor of the cliffhanger, in ‘Scherazade the story of a storyteller’ here.

Yet, despite all that, and as Interesting Literature.Com, points out, Aladdin is not Arabian but Chinese. Nor is he an orphan but a ne’r do well. And  I can testify to that. Pictured below you see a Collins book of Fairy Tales given to me in 1966 (Yes – I AM quite old!). You’ll see from the image of the text at the story’s start, that Aladdin is indeed Chinese and a lazy so-and-so.

Whatever – Aladdin and the Magic Lamp is one of the best known and oft repeated of pretty much any fairy tale you care to mention, since its first appearance. Hence its place as part of the pantomime repertoire. Which brings us to Swindon’s Wyvern Theatre and the 2018 panotmime production.

Aladdin: Saturday 8th December – Sunday 6th January 2019

Aladdin at The Wyvern Theatre

Check out performance times and prices here.

So last night (11th December), I donned my festive top, antlers and flashing light bulb necklace in readiness for some Swindon panto-style silliness. As my companion and I took our seats in a chock-full auditorium the excitement was palpable. We were ready for the off.

It has to be said, Adam Woodyatt makes a pretty good bad-guy. Last year he was swashed his buckle as Captain Hook in Peter Pan, and this year he’s encouraging boos and jeers as Abanazar – the villain of the piece.  FYI: Abanazar is the inspiration for Jafar in Disney’s version of Aladdin.

Should you be wondering where this version is set, Arabia or China  – well that would be spoilers eh? And do they have Aladdin cast as lazy ne’r do well or a good son? Well that would be spoilers too!

What I can tell you is that all the panto elements you know and love are here. So, there’s booing and hissing and jeering and cheering. There’s a pantomime dame – of course. The genie proper looked the part! There’s the ubiquitous ‘he’s behind you’ – mild peril section and of course the audience participation section. My 2-year-old granddaughter had moved on from the infamous, viral Baby Shark song mod late. Thus I’d just about got that particular ear-worm out of my head. Now it”s well and truly back in there. So thanks for that Wyvern! Should you be lucky enough to have escaped it thus far – here, for your listening pleasure and subsequent insanity – it is: https://youtu.be/GR2o6k8aPlI

In summary then …

All the festive panto family fun you know and love. It’s a cracking night out so if you’ve not booked yet then do it. You’ll have a blast. Oh – on the subject of blasts …. did I mention the nerf guns?! No? Well I have now. Be warned! 

Check out performance times and prices here.

And finally – to whet your appetite – a few photos from Anthony Hunt photography – https://www.facebook.com/anthonyhuntphotographyofficial/


The Summer Youth Project do Oliver!

The Summer Youth Project do Oliver!

August 2018

The Summer Youth Project do Oliver!

Summer youth project oliver

Summer Youth Project Oliver

WOW! I’ve been to several summer youth project performances now and they’ve never failed to delight. But – last night, I saw them perform Oliver and it blew my socks off. The case were rewarded with a standing ovation that they deserved without a doubt.

Everyone was wonderful, a terrific ensemble cast, BUT – I HAVE to give special mention to Archie Fisher for his portrayal of Fagin. I saw Archie last year as Cyril in Summer Holiday – and he was fab. But as Fagin? For a sixteen-year old boy he gave a bravura performance, channelling the late, great, Ron Moody. Well done Archie – you are brilliant in the role. A name to watch I feel.

A great voice too from Nancy, played by Rhea Thorpe.

A cast of thousands

What I love best about the SYP is the seeming ‘cast of thousands’. The auditorium is used to great effect making you feel part of the action. It’s so very well staged! The Greatest Story Ever Told has got nothing on this. 🙂

What a super talented bunch they all are – my heartfelt congratulations to every single one of them. They’re all amazing and work so hard to get this production up and running in less than two weeks. Yes – that is what I said – TWO Weeks.

There’s no need to review this situation – go see it and consider yourself a damn good evening!

The Beadle and an Urchin



About Summer Youth Project


‘The first Summer Youth Project took place at the Wyvern Theatre in 1994 with Bugsy Maloneand was one of the first community ventures of its kind in the local area. Since then it has become an annual tradition and many young people have been involved in the Projects over the years.

The aim of Summer Youth Project is to provide up to 200 youngsters aged 9 – 21 with the opportunity to work together in a professional theatre. The two week project culminates in five performances of a full-scale musical under the supervision of a highly skilled creative team including a professional Director, Choreographer, Musical Director, Musicians and Technical team all in less than 2 weeks! … ‘

About Oliver


‘Oliver! is a 1968 musical drama film directed by Carol Reed and based on the stage musical of the same name, with book, music and lyrics written by Lionel Bart. The screenplay was written by Vernon Harris. Both the film and play are based on Charles Dickens‘s novel Oliver Twist. The film includes such musical numbers as “Food, Glorious Food“, “Consider Yourself“, “As Long as He Needs Me“, “You’ve Got to Pick a Pocket or Two“, and “Where Is Love?“. Filmed in Shepperton Film Studio in Surrey, the film was a Romulus Films production and was distributed internationally by Columbia Pictures … ‘


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