Bringing the West End to West Street...Life at the Spotlight

Manda Holderness and Oprah Kitchen
Manda Holderness and Oprah Kitchen

The stage is set for an influx of new stars at Bridlington’s thriving amateur theatre.

But the team at The Spotlight in West Street are not just looking for performers, they want to welcome all sorts of volunteers in 2018.

Manda Holderness, Oprah Kitchen, Beth Sanderson and Lara McLeod put on make-up ready for the curtain going up

Manda Holderness, Oprah Kitchen, Beth Sanderson and Lara McLeod put on make-up ready for the curtain going up

The venue is busier than ever, and the shows must go on, but that means more and more people are needed to make sure everything runs smoothly.

And one of the key aims for this year at the theatre is to get more young people through the doors, in the audience or as actors, technicians and backstage helpers.

Chairman Mike Sheldon said: “We want to be more of a community theatre and get away from the idea of an amateur operatic and dramatic group.

“As a theatre group, we want to get more young people involved. People who will eventually take over.

Duncan Hughes working on a new prop backstage. (PA1804-7c)

Duncan Hughes working on a new prop backstage. (PA1804-7c)

“We are all moving on in life and we need people who will take things on.

“If young people see young people here, they will realise there is a buzz about the place and it is not just a bunch of fuddy-duddies.

“It is a passion, it is a great hobby and you are giving something back to the community.”

Mike admits he’d love to find someone from the younger generation to run its social media operation.

Lara McLeod in the wardrobe department, which has hundreds of costumes from down the years. (PA1804-7b)

Lara McLeod in the wardrobe department, which has hundreds of costumes from down the years. (PA1804-7b)

One job which is no longer needed is someone to build and paint the sets. That’s because last year, the theatre took charge of a £20,000 state-of-the-art LED screen which allows any backdrop to be projected on it.

“We’ve done really well considering how difficult it is to get funding and sponsorship.

“Ideally, we need somebody who knows what they are doing when it comes to filling in forms to help us, because this is turning into a really busy place.”

The emphasis is really on getting younger people involved in day-to-day life at the Spotlight.

Technician John Allanach repairing one of the spotlights (PA1804-7a)

Technician John Allanach repairing one of the spotlights (PA1804-7a)

Trustee and committee member Duncan Hughes said: “We have recently put a sub-committee together, to specifically look at attracting new members to the society.

“The first thing we have done is this feature, letting the public know what we are about. The next thing we have planned, is to organise an open day, to get people into the theatre itself to see what is actually here, I’m sure you will be surprised - ‘oh yes you will’.

“After this we will be looking at putting on a talent competition, giving the acts chance to appear on an actual stage, being able to work with the stage crew and get full use of the facilities available.

“If acting or singing is not your thing, there are all the things that people forget, that go on to make the show go on, the backstage stuff. This includes lighting, sound, tech, wardrobe and general stage craft, there’s something for everyone.

“A lot of our newer members started off working backstage, before being attracted by the smell of the grease paint and lights.

“If you are looking at starting at a new hobby, because your sporting career has come to an end, like this frustrated rugby player, or you are bored with the one you are doing now, or the kids are at that age now that you have some free time, come and give us a go.

Mike Sheldon on the sound and lighting deck (PA1803-4h)

Mike Sheldon on the sound and lighting deck (PA1803-4h)

“If students are looking at going into to the theatre, acting, singing as their career, come down and see what we can do to help build up your CV.

“We have a section for or younger members, aged 14 to 21, to do their own thing, called the Northern Lights Theatre, who perform their own productions, as well as joining in on the main shows.”

The Spotlight Theatre opened in November 1999 and staged its first pantomime, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, the following year.

Before that, BAODS rehearsed in Springfield Avenue and hired the Spa for shows.

Mike said: “We bought this place just for rehearsals really, but Bob Downing (the current treasurer) was instrumental in it and he said ‘I think we could do a play in here’, and then ‘I think we could do a panto in here’.”

From there, it has grown year on year, and a recent £90,000 extension means the venue is bigger than ever, and now it regularly shows live-streaming of some of the world’s most popular operas and ballets on its large screen.

In February, you can sit in the Spotlight and watch Tosca from the Royal opera House. In March, see La Boheme and Carmen from New York without Bridlington, and there will also be a screening of ‘a blockbuster arts event’ featuring David Hockney at the Royal Academy of Arts.

“It’s another avenue we have gone down, to try to be more than just musicals and pantomimes and the live screening has been a big success.”

The Spotlight Theatre in West Street

The Spotlight Theatre in West Street

The view from the stage

The view from the stage