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Love local at the Merlin

FROME’S Merlin Theatre is celebrating all things local at the moment as the summer has popped a spring in the step of everyone who enjoys visiting, working for, volunteering at or performing on the stage and outdoor amphitheatre of the popular venue.

The Merlin is unusual in its status as a ‘professional community’ theatre which gives as much respect and attention to its non-professional performances as it does to those of visiting professional touring companies who bring their nationally-recognised shows to Frome. One week the venue will be hosting internationally renowned awarding-winning companies such as Illyria Theatre with Much Ado About Nothing or Pirates Of Penzance, and the next their auditorium will be packed with enthusiastic viewers enjoying a high-quality local community production such as Wyrd Sisters or the newly-penned musical The Haunting of Richard III.  

Written and directed by Frome Festival director and Somerset County councillor Martin Dimery, Richard III brings community and local input to a new level; not only are all the actors in the show from the town, performing for the fun of it, but the music was written by local musician, composer and musical director David Hynds and the show is produced by Frome resident Anne Dimery who, only two weeks ago, was starring in an ABBA fundraiser night on the stage herself. 

Nobody gets away with hiding their light under a bushel at the Merlin, as the other female half of The SOS ‘Sounds of ABBA’ was the theatre’s very own director Claudia Pepler.   

As Claudia explained “SOS Songs of ABBA night was just a joyous romp of the Swedish band’s well-known songs as a fundraiser for the much-needed new theatre lighting equipment.  It wouldn’t be fair to call it a ‘tribute’ as it is much more about energy and fun than trying to ‘be’ the band.  First and foremost, we did the gig as a fun community way to enjoy the warm evenings and to raise over £1,000 to support the new lighting fund!  Thank you, Frome.” 

In addition to local performers and local audiences, the night was staffed entirely by local volunteers who make up a vital part of the team enabling this unfunded theatre to carry on in some still very challenging times for the entertainment industry.  A recent appeal for more volunteers saw six new people step up to be stewards, front of house managers and a handyman, meaning that the Merlin theatre curtain will continue to rise and welcome visitors throughout this year, well into the future.   

The last word goes to director, Claudia who says, “In 2020 we felt a huge surge of love from the town as they helped us to keep our chins up in tough times.  The knock-on effects are financially still tough for us but the upside is that we have been reminded over and over again that Frome is the most amazing town and the willingness to support each other is surpassed only by the willingness to have fun.  We are now full-swing into the Frome Festival and then our outdoor theatre season booms with shows for everyone or all ages.” 

Full details of the summer and autumn ahead are on the theatre website at www.merlintheatre.co.uk 

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