Wigan Little Theatre stars and fans speak about a year off-stage

Wigan Little Theatre has been “dark” for a whole 12 months - and it’s not yet clear how much longer it will stay so.

Monday, 29th March 2021, 9:15 am
Cast members of the WLT youth group's production of Alice in Wonderland which had to be pulled just before its run began

For 73 years members had presented season after season of first class entertainment without a break.

So the shock of having suddenly to close due to the pandemic rocked all those involved to the core.

Just as the dress rehearsal for the youth theatre’s production of Alice in Wonderland ended, Boris Johnson’s “stay at home “order was announced and the theatre closed its doors, and, except for essential maintenance,it has been closed ever since.

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Martin Green

Well, you can take the person out of WLT but you can’t take WLT out of the person.

Despite being unable to make theatre, members have stayed in touch online, on the phone or on social media.

Organisers say that small acts of kindness and support have been commonplace.

A spokesman said: “Let’s face it, you can’t stand on stage, in the wings, sit up in the gallery or prepare sets and props together without forming strong bonds.

“Members’ resilience gives us hope that when we are given some guidelines we’ll be on high alert to get back into auditioning and rehearsal.

“We will respond to calls to open with caution and ensure everyone, including our fantastic audience, feels confident and happy to be back.”

WLT says it cannot predict at the moment when that might be, although it says everyone can be assured that the committee have communicated throughout the closure and various options will be discussed and considered.

In the meanwhile, here are some comments (and in one case verse) from members when asked what they missed most during lockdown

Lesley Anderson said: “Nervously attending an audition, then the jubilation of landing the part!

“Yellow highlighter pen for underlining, the whole rehearsal process and then the play! And the last night and all the laughs in-between. I miss being creative so much I just can’t wait to get stuck back in again!”

Katie Davis said: “I’ve missed so many things. I’ve missed youth theatre, I’ve missed watching the pantomime. I’ve missed rehearsals, performances, last night celebrations.

“I’ve really missed directing my first show. Mostly I’ve missed my WLT family. I’ve missed having a laugh in the bar after a show with everyone. I can’t wait for WLT opening again. Bring it on!”

Louise Steggles said: “I’m like everyone, I miss every aspect, from seeing the audition notices land to the last night post-show drinks.

“But I really miss seeing the sign go up for the next show, (especially if it’s one I’m involved in) - you know opening night is near. Ahhh, miss it so much.”

Kevin Shirley said: “Missing the plays. The after show parties, the massive pizza order, the open mic nights, the acting, the circle (my favourite place to sit) the karaoke, the scripts. Then there’s ordering Jack Daniels and coke, the green room stories. The backstage laughs and the lovely people most of all.”

Director Martin Green wrote:

“The family, the friendships,

The audience, the lights.

Auditions, rehearsals,

Adrenalin on opening nights.

The Green Room, the bar

(Especially the wine),

Parties and glad rags,

Gossip beyond closing time.

The scripts and the stories,

Our corridor of the past,

Watching the talent

Having a blast!

Building a world,

Putting on a play,

Serving the public -

We’ll be back one day.”

Patron Brian Fairclough said: “I miss the entire experience of a night out at the theatre, the excellent productions, the actors/actresses, the atmosphere.

“Everything and everyone involved in making Wigan Little Theatre the fantastic place it is.”

And Niall Wilkinson said: “A theatre family of people I will always want in my life; individual and all important.

“Only when something is ‘taken away’ do we fully comprehend just how much it enriches our lives.

“The togetherness and creativity … getting into costume and preparing to share a character with our much cherished audiences.”

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