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Raise the curtain! New exciting summer plans for the Merlin

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FROME’S Merlin Theatre is preparing to open for summer outdoor professional shows and indoor live streaming following the latest partial unlocking of government restrictions and thanks to what they describe as “ incredible generosity “of local individuals.

The much-loved local theatre in Frome has announced two exciting new summer plans.  The Merlin Theatre building will be opening in cinema style for safe-seated screening of classic and contemporary live-screened plays, plus it will be holding an outdoor Summer Festival Season of professional theatre and music events, throughout August, on the purpose-built ECOS amphitheatre.

Director Claudia Pepler, returning  to work after nearly four months of furlough said, “This has been a very difficult time.  We are not out of the woods yet, but we will be capturing some of the ECOS spirit of hope and goodwill this summer, with the first steps back into live performance.  The whole country, not just our town, is both in the midst of challenge now and facing further challenges this year, so this festival  will celebrate the brilliance of local professionals, honouring them as well as our audiences by filling the space with excitement, life and applause.  

“If people can bear with us as we get our new processes in place, this is a different way of working for us as well, then we are certain that we have a wonderful few weeks to look forward to. Raise the curtain!”

Organisers say, “The Summer Festival Season has been curated with professional performers only in a joint fund-raising venture to support individual artists and companies who make their livelihood from the arts at the industry’s most difficult time in living memory.  

“Whilst the recent announcement of a £1.57billion investment in the arts is welcome, the money is highly unlikely to reach the many self-employed artists themselves or indeed small, regional theatres so this creative, resourceful response will feature Frome located and South West professionals and will celebrate ‘Home-Made’ or indeed ‘Frome-Made’ local talent.

“Included in the month-long celebration event will be such offerings as Illyira Theatre, the UK’s best known outdoor touring company of actors as well as the inspiring, interactive children’s live music favourites Rocktopus,  loved by so many. The space will host imaginative and beautiful story-telling from Kerchief Theatre,  skilful and wildly funny ‘Dangerous Dave’ puppetry from Noisy Oyster.  Kate Lissauer, renowned head Buffalo Gal, will bring her own championship Bluegrass fiddle playing along, accompanied by the extraordinary Appalachian flat-foot percussive dance of Sibs Riesen in an performance that will almost have audiences feel they have managed to take a summer holiday in the United States this summer after all. 

“These are just some of the varied acts making a splash on the stones. The full details of timings and ticket prices will be available on the website and through local media, but the Merlin theatre ask everyone to ensure they book in advance; spaces for seating will be allocated prior to the release of tickets and a process for safe arrival, safe seating and appropriate distancing within households and ‘bubbles’ will be implemented so audiences are asked to follow directions given online as well as at the venue.”

Details of indoor live-screen plays and the outdoor summer season and instructions on how to book are available on the theatre’s website  www.merlintheatre.co.uk

Located next to the Merlin building, ECOS, the European Community of Stones amphitheatre, was designed by Barry Cooper and Laurence Knee. Opened in 1992, it consists of twelve monoliths, one from each of the original twelve nations of the EU, arranged in a semi-circle above the six tiered grass banks that make up the beautiful seating area for audiences.  The stones were placed with the aim of creating a forum for future prosperity, peace and goodwill between the people of Europe.  It has been the home of many outdoor theatre shows in its 28 year history and this return to use for the month of August marks a favourite tradition for many locals as well as visitors who normally gather there as part of the annual Frome Festival.

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