REVIEW: Glorious Winter Gardens tribute

Sea Breeze collaborators Elizabeth Willow and Jonathan Raisin with former theatre worker Barbara Mann.
Sea Breeze collaborators Elizabeth Willow and Jonathan Raisin with former theatre worker Barbara Mann.
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Read on to find out what our reviewer MICHAEL NUNN thought of Sea Breeze: A Seaside Spectacle, shown recently at the Winter Gardens, Morecambe

With the audience seated on the stage (a rare treat in itself), we were treated to a 30-minute spectacle in and around the auditorium which looked at the theatre’s rich and glorious history through the eyes of some of the countless thousands who had worked there and been entertained there. The performance comprised a deft, seamless mixture of elegiac poetry, evocative music and stunning lighting effects, all focused around a single actor playing a former sweeper-upper who moved twice daily (thrice if there was a matinée) the normal debris from the auditorium – cigarette remnants, hairpins, discarded tickets and other objects.

The light and video show stimulated recollections of long-gone past moments of the excitement of theatre in all its forms – circus (did you know that the stage was specially built to support the weight of an elephant?), music, opera, dancing and plays – as well as the town’s once-famous Music Festival, patronised by no less an Edwardian celebrity Sir Edward Elgar, who loved visiting the resort.

The evocative verse lucidly and hauntingly narrated the evening.The dramatic impact on the audiences – from young to old – was tremendous. I was particularly moved because our family came to Morecambe (‘Bradford by the Sea’) on holiday regularly in the late 1950s. Yet these reminiscences were nothing to do with negative regret for how the town and resort has declined, but much more a positive celebration of its glorious past, a tribute to both those who provided and those who were spellbound by the magic of the theatre. I hardly felt the stiff chill of the breeze on leaving the theatre.

This multi-media, interdisciplinary collaboration in this wonderful, historic building was a triumph for all involved in its creation and performance, as well as for the building and the town it has graced for so long.