Friday, January 13, 2012

Reasons To Be Cheerful Part II

(If you're wondering what this is all about, click here.)

So, it's back, after a hiatus of well over three years. In that time, it's fair to say that previous subjects of this feature haven't exactly prospered: the QI Building closed down, the Big Bang was shut down to make way for property development and the Kite got rid of its TV licence and went downhill.

I'd certainly hope the same fate won't befall the next in the series - unlikely, given that it's been in operation since 1952 and the building's a lot older than that...

#8 - The Unicorn Theatre

Part of the Abingdon Abbey Buildings, the Chequer Hall was a mere shell of a gallery/barn transformed by the vision of one man, Alan Kitching. For the last sixty years, it's been a thriving little theatre, all stonework and timber beams and the sort of character you'd be hard-pushed to find in your average arts centre.

The Unicorn is run by the people (the Friends of Abingdon) for the people, and demonstrates that very often the best form of conservation isn't to wrap a place or building up in cotton wool but to keep it in regular use. And regularly used it certainly is, with Abingdon boasting an impressive clutch of different amateur dramatics societies for a small provincial town. Few months pass by without a performance of some kind of another.

We last went along to see Breakaleg Productions' version of P G Woodhouse and Guy Bolton's Come On Jeeves, in which the valet, on loan from Wooster, is forced into helping another upper-class twit, the Earl of Towcester (pronounced "Toaster"), out of a pickle. As is the way with these things, the quality of the acting was uneven - some a bit ropey (Lord Carmoyle, the Earl of Towcester himself) and some worthy of note (particularly the foolishly romantic American Mrs Spottsworth) - but it was an enjoyable enough romp all the same.

And the setting certainly added to the experience. It felt rather Midsomer Murders - we were half expecting Joyce Barnaby to be somehow involved in the production and for one of the thesps to be accidentally-on-purpose given "wine" laced with arsenic, stabbed with a supposedly fake knife or crushed by a falling lighting rig...

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