Ivan Cutting is the Artistic Director of Eastern Angles, the touring company which has been blazing a trail for nearly 40 years. With its Centre in Ipswich now occupying all of the former Record Office Building, he talks of what it can offer people of all ages this autumn
I was born in Shotley, brought up in Ipswich, did drama at the University of Bristol then my first job was at Sheringham Little Theatre and TIE at Ipswich Wolsey theatre. Then I started Eastern Angles in 1982 with four others.
We were about to open Red Skies, a play I had written over 10 years ago and were about to take on a 10-week tour, when the PM said on television that people shouldn’t got to the theatre. This was a blow, but we did feel that if ever people came back to the theatre, it would be to small halls with people they knew, and so village hall touring sounded like a good bet. But we only thought it would last about six months. 18 months later we still have our fingers crossed.
We just stopped touring, put everyone on furlough we could and waited for stuff to open up again. However we were able to get some stuff online like our young writers masterclasses, some monologues for ‘a sense of place’, and applied for money to convert our theatre into a social distanced cabaret space with livestream options and then adapted our 2020 Christmas show to go in there and create both live shows for 50 per cent capacity and livestream options for when the dark nights return (we did some livestream shows but it coincided with the first bit of sunny weather, which doesn’t really work well with TV output!)
Taking over the whole of the former Record Office Building is very exciting and means we can have a community group up one end of the building, offices in the middle, and at theatre at the other end (all with their own kitchens and loos) and so all happening at once! It will get even more exciting as we find projects that appeal to those who live just outside our doors.
Later this year we will be able to offer digital drop-in sessions for young people with homework and older residents with a desire to find out how all this digital stuff works and what you can do with it. I will be attending myself if I can sneak in.
As for future plans, anyone who is making definite plans for next year must be a great optimist.
The Ballad of Maria Marten opens at Bury Theatre Royal on September 16, plus it’s at Lowestoft Marina on October 14 and 15. Visit Eastern Angles. Part of the previous Record Office building has been the long-term home of the Sir John Mills Theatre operated by Eastern Angles Theatre Company and visited by Sir John in 2000. Suffolk County Council handed over the remainder of the property to Eastern Angles in May. This will provide the company with long term security and allow them to expand their range of arts provision in the local community and across the wider county and East Anglia.