Aylesbury Theatre set to be 'one of the first in the country' to reopen

Aylesbury’s Queens Park Arts Centre is set to reopen its Limelight Theatre later this month, making it one of the first in the country to welcome audiences back to live performances since theatres closed in March 2020 at the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Gareth Johnson, Kati Herbert, Erika Sanderson, Stephanie Hull, Robert AldingtonGareth Johnson, Kati Herbert, Erika Sanderson, Stephanie Hull, Robert Aldington
Gareth Johnson, Kati Herbert, Erika Sanderson, Stephanie Hull, Robert Aldington

The debut performance at the venue will be of a brand-new play entitled ‘Funny Voices’, presented by QPAC’s award-winning in-house production company Unbound.

The official synopsis for the play reads:

"London, 1984.

"Jolly Joyce' Burrows returns to the Regency Theatre to perform her one-woman show.

"The venue holds all manner of memories for her, and she's about to relive them.

A series of visitors to her dressing room lead her to recall her long life and career, from the music hall stage and the golden age of radio, to film sets and sitcoms. So many stories, so many characters, so many funny voices.

"But what of the story that began when the laughter ended?

"In spite of Joyce’s best efforts, it's time for that tale to be told as well…"

‘Funny Voices’ features a talented cast of local actors led by award-winning actress Erika Sanderson as lead character Joyce Burrows. Erika trained at the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama, and has performed in a large number of projects including international tours and acclaimed audio series.

She’s joined in ‘Funny Voices’ by Kati Herbert, Robert Aldington, Stephanie Hull, and Gareth Johnson – all familiar faces from previous Unbound productions both at QPAC and on tour.

Described as “a love letter to stories and those who tell them”, ‘Funny Voices’ has been written and directed by Dario Knight – QPAC’s theatre manager and Unbound’s creative producer.

The creative team were reunited to begin work in April, following a month of weekly Zoom calls to run through the script.

“Returning to the rehearsal room after so long was a surreal experience for us all,” says Dario.

“Although we’ve kept ourselves busy with audio and film projects throughout the pandemic, being together on stage felt a little like a distant memory.

"However, our cast have been incredible in picking up where they left off and juggling the demands of rehearsing under COVID-secure guidelines”.

“We’re all incredibly proud of the play and can’t wait to welcome audiences back to the Limelight to watch it. It’s at turns celebratory and bittersweet. Though set long before the pandemic, it’s a timely examination of what it means to all of us to work in the theatre, and why we’re so grateful to be in front of an audience again”.

Queens Park Arts Centre will be reopening to the general public on Monday 17 th May, with ‘Funny Voices’ debuting on Friday 21 st for a four performance run.

QPAC has maintained a busy online profile throughout the pandemic, from leading its #LiveCreativelyQPAC campaign encouraging artistic endeavours during lockdown, to offering more than 50 digital workshops run by professional artists and tutors.

Most recently, the Centre presented a special ‘Women in the Arts’ online festival, in which six inspirational female artists led special online classes in a variety of art forms.

QPAC’s production company Unbound have completed a prolific number of projects in the last 14 months, producing everything from feature films and interactive online games to audiobooks, web series and podcasts.

“We’ve managed to keep our talented team of actors, writers, directors, technicians and illustrators busy throughout the three lockdowns,” says Dario.

“They’ve been amazing at learning how to produce content remotely – whilst it’s been tough not to be in the same room for so long, their creativity has produced some truly amazing work, and the feedback from audiences has been incredibly heartening.”

Queens Park was able to reopen for a limited period at the end of last year, running weekly COVID-secure workshops throughout the autumn. Unbound made use of the time too, reuniting in a specially-adapted recording studio to work on further audio projects, as well as performing a 24-hour live stream that raised over £1200 for QPAC’s fundraising appeal.

“After such a challenging year, it’s extraordinary to look back at everything Queens Park’s community of artists, makers and storytellers have achieved since the start of the pandemic,” says QPAC’s artistic director Sarah Lewis.

“With the Unbound team in particular proving just how adaptable the arts can be in times of crisis, we’re enormously proud that Queens Park is ready to welcome attendees once more to

discover and develop their creativity. ‘Funny Voices’ is a perfect way to round off our reopening week – Unbound were the last group to perform at the Limelight in March

2020, so it’s only right they’re the first to return”.

‘Funny Voices’ runs at Queens Park Arts Centre’s Limelight Theatre from 21 st -23 rd May.

Tickets are on sale now at www.queenaparkarts.com, which also feature details of QPAC’s extensive roster of workshops, exhibitions and events.