Herb Kanzell

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It is with great sadness that I learnt of the death of Herb Kanzell. Herb passed away on July 16, 2019, peacefully in his sleep.

Herb was a much-loved and respected member of Next Stage Theatre Company and was both a talented actor and director. Although in his 70’s and 80’s when he worked with Next Stage, Herb was as quick and as sharp as a person half his age. His twinkling smile and sense of fun won him many friends and he is particularly remembered as being part of the Next Stage cast of Comic Potential in The Mission Theatre’s inaugural play, in January 2005. Over the years, Herb and his wife Barbara, were regular supporters of both the company and The Mission Theatre. Everyone in Next Stage who knew Herb will be sad to hear of his passing and we send our love and condolences to his family.

Ann Ellison BEM

Artistic Director

Next Stage Theatre Company

Giles Cooper: Next Stage Youth class of '98

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It was a delight to go up to London last week to see Toast at The Other Palace Theatre, in which one of Next Stage Youth’s members from 1998 is starring in this auto-biographical play about celebrity chef: Nigel Slater.

Giles Cooper (bottom right) in  Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead

Giles Cooper (bottom right) in Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead

Giles Cooper first trod the boards with the company in our 1998 production of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead by Tom Stoppard. Appearing as one of the troupe of actors, alongside a youthful John Matthews as the Player (not to mention an even more youthful Andrew Ellison as Rosencrantz) Giles was at that time studying at Kingswood School, Bath.

Giles Cooper, Dave Dunn and Caroline Groom backstage at The Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough (2000)

Giles Cooper, Dave Dunn and Caroline Groom backstage at The Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough (2000)

In 1999 Giles toured with Next Stage actors Caroline Groom and Dave Dunn to the Stephen Joseph Theatre in Scarborough to perform in front of company Patron, Sir Alan Ayckbourn in Sir David Hare’s Skylight. After this exciting experience Giles left the company as he took up a place at The Royal Central School of Speech and Drama.

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Ann and Andrew Ellison next caught up with Giles when he was touring with Ruby Wax in The Witches in 2004. Since then Giles has pursued an ever more successful theatrical career including appearances at The National Theatre and The Globe Theatre in London. Giles has also worked on films and appeared on TV.

Now, 20 years from when Giles worked with Next Stage youth and adult companies, he is a West-End star! In Toast Giles never leaves the stage and holds the audience captivated with an entertaining and nuanced performance. Giles’ versatility and range is extraordinary as the production of Toast includes ingenious physical theatre and a moving story line in which Giles has to age convincingly from 7-17 years old . Along with the rest of the talented company, Giles dances, fights and cooks on stage. One moment the audience is laughing at the young Nigel Slater’s antics, the next they are moved to tears. Add to this entertaining play the delicious fact that food and sweeties are given out to the audience throughout the production, and you have a perfect night out!

Hurry though, Toast closes in the West End at the end of this week before the national tour in which Giles will be recreating the role of the young Nigel Slater.

Congratulations from all at Next Stage to Giles.

Giles Cooper and Lizzie Muncey in  Toast  (2019)

Giles Cooper and Lizzie Muncey in Toast (2019)

An extract from Time Out, London’s 4 star review of Toast:

Director Jonnie Riordan’s production is light and fluid: a heightened reality of family life and cooking sessions that take place against a kitchen set that looks like an illustration. At regular intervals, the cast pass cakes and sweets to the audience, tickling memories as well as taste-buds.

But while ‘Toast’ isn’t averse to nostalgia for a time of local butchers and old-fashioned sweet shops, a tartness undercuts the cloyingness. Dad’s patrolling of the ‘appropriate’ food for boys stirs a dollop of homophobia into the already complicated personal recipe of gay teen Nigel.

Cooper touchingly captures the young Nigel’s early culinary fussiness, blending this with confusion and aching vulnerability when Mum dies. Before this happens, he and Muncey are delightful together, bonding over a mixing bowl. In contrast, Marie Lawrence is deliciously over-the-top as Nigel’s perception of Joan: all piled hair, eye rolls and fags.

A ’60s soundtrack and funny fantasy sequences (mostly involving Joan) make for a pacier second half. But, crucially, ‘Toast’ also works out when to slow down. For all the preceding, audience-winking, ‘here’s one we made earlier’ food, a pivotal scene when Nigel invents – for the first time – a recipe and Cooper makes it from scratch on stage packs a genuine wallop. It’s a well-seasoned ending.

By Tom Wicker, April 12th 2019

Out with the old and in with the new!

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It has been a very exciting week for Next Stage Theatre Company! After parting with their beloved 15 year old Strand lighting desk, which has provided lights for over 150 Next Stage shows, and over 700 visiting productions since 2005, Next Stage has installed a state of the art ETC Element 2 Lighting desk.

Arriving last week, and safely installed by Next Stage’s technician, Kris Nutall, this brand spanking new piece of kit came just in time for Next Stage’s get-in and week long tech rehearsals for their upcoming production of Great Expectations. The new easy to use lighting board comes with a 22 inch” LED optical touch-screen monitor, a built in keyboard, 40 pageable faders and 1024 outputs - perfect for the size and technical demands of The Mission Theatre. The Next Stage team have already began making good use of the kit, easily, and quickly, programming over 130 cues for their Dickens’ tale!

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Along with a new lighting desk, 2 new QSC RMX850a amps have been bought and installed in The Mission’s Technical Cupboard. The old amps were both worn and dated, and had definitely seen better days. By having 2 new amps, crystal clear sound can be projected around the Main Auditorium through our 4 speakers, ensuring companies have the best quality sound effects, songs, microphone and instrument projection possible for their shows. These amps are the perfect partners for our year old Allen & Heath sound desk.

Next Stage strives to keep up with the ever-growing technology side of the theatre world in order to bring the best possible quality of lights, sounds and technical support to all our visitors.

Of course, lighting desks and 2 new amps come at a very hefty price! As a theatre which receives no public funding, finding the money to update equipment can be a big struggle. However, recent, generous supporters and patrons of Next Stage and The Mission who have financially contributed to these projects have enabled the theatre to expand and modernise.

Thank you to everyone who has donated, supported and helped fund this expensive upgrade.

A tour with a twist!

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On Wednesday 5th June, Next Stage Theatre Company’s Artistic Director, Ann Ellison and Company Director, Andrew Ellison were invited by Lord Don Foster of Bath to the House of Lords in London. Arriving promptly at the Peers Entrance, Ann and Andrew were warmly greeted by Don who led the pair on a 2 hour tour around the Palace of Westminster. As the tour proceeded, the extent of Don’s knowledge of Parliamentary business wowed both Ann and Andrew. As they walked with Don they discussed the working day in the life of a typical Parliamentarian, the architecture of the Grade I listed building, gained insight into many of the monumental events that have taken place over the centuries on this historical site as well as looking inside a few of the 1,100 rooms. Both Ann and Andrew were fascinated by their private tour with Lord Don Foster, brushing shoulders throughout it with some of the 15,000 pass holders who work in Parliament daily.

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The tour commenced in the 778 seater House of Lords - the second chamber within Parliament and this was followed by a visit to The Robing Room - a beautiful suite where the Queen puts on the Imperial State Crown and her ceremonial robes before making her way to the House of Lords at the Opening of Parliament. Stepping inside St. Stephens Hall, the oldest part within the Palace of Westminster, Don retold the story of the monumental trial of Charles I in 1649 which had taken place at Westminster. Next was a visit to the House of Commons where Ann and Andrew were also lucky enough to be introduced to 2 of the prestigious Doorkeepers with their historical badges. Perhaps the most interesting part of the whole tour was when Don took Ann and Andrew into Committee Room 12 and explained the business that goes on in these committee rooms out of sight of the public. Bills are drafted and amended by MPs who are serving on a committee, all of whom need to quickly grasp the legalistic language of all the documents. This fascinating and personal tour left both Ann and Andrew with a completely different outlook on Westminster and politics and for this they must thank Don for taking the time to give them this experience.

Lord Don Foster, a regular in the second chamber, has this week taken part in a debate regarding Theatre, and in particular, ticket prices and accessibility. Prior to his speech Don had quizzed Ann and Andrew about their experiences in setting up and running The Mission Theatre. They were thrilled to receive the Hansard account of the debate and to read, amongst others, the fascinating speech made by Don which mentioned The Mission Theatre’s excellent performances, as well as one of Next Stage’s 25th Birthday incentives to encourage audiences into the theatre: ‘Pay What it’s Worth’ Matinees. To be mentioned in this debate, in such a prestigious venue is very rewarding and Next Stage and The Mission are extremely grateful to Lord Don Foster for this inclusion.

To read the full debate please click HERE

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Next Stage Theatre Company 25 years old

Saturday 18th May saw the 25th birthday of Next Stage Theatre Company. After a last night of Here We Go Again - our Silver Anniversary show commemorating some of the best of the company’s past productions - the celebrations culminated with a wonderful 25th Birthday party in The Mission Theatre’s Main Auditorium. With over 100 invited guests, including Next Stagers and Friends old and new, The Mission was buzzing with excitement. Popular extracts from, amongst others: Peter Shaffer’s Royal Hunt of The Sun and Dennis Potter’s Blue Remembered Hills concluded with an extract from Willy Russel’s Educating Rita, Next Stage’s first ever production, performed by the original actors, Sian Swift and Adrian Philpott, as they had done on the opening night almost to the minute, 25 years previously.

Following the show The Right Worshipful The Mayor of Bath Patrick Anketell-Jones, Andrew Brownsword CBE DL, and Lord Don Foster of Bath all made speeches in which they paid tribute to the work and success of Next Stage Theatre Company and its founders Ann and Andrew Ellison.

Following the speeches (the last of which by Don Foster was based on the notion that Ann Ellison should be our next Prime Minister!) Ann, herself took to the stage. She thanked family, Friends and Patrons for their help and support over the years and then went on to thank the company for all the talent and hardwork that have helped to give Next Stage its enviable reputation. To commemorate its 25th Birthday, Ann surprised the company by presenting a new award: Tina’s Trophy for Excellence In Theatre, to be awarded annually, on or around May 18th, to a Next Stager who has excelled onstage or offstage or both. The first recipient of this award was Brian Howe who has been a member of the company since its formation in 1994, has been involved in countless productions, has provided invaluable support to Ann and Andrew and is still a positive force within Next Stage. Most recently, Brian compiled Next Stage’s 25th Anniversary book, which has been much enjoyed and admired by all. The book is still available for sale at £15 and provides a trip down memory lane with nearly 150 of the company’s main productions featuring in it with full-colour photos and contributions from many actors. Call 01225 428600 or email nextstagebath@aol.com for more information.

To finish off the lovely evening there was a party with canapés, cake and plenty of prosecco. At 10pm Andrew Ellison, the Company’s Director, proposed a toast and everyone sang Happy Birthday before the cutting of the Birthday cakes. Thank you to everyone involved in a great evening of entertainment, fun and friendship - the hallmarks of Next Stage Theatre Company.

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During the company’s birthday week audiences, visitors, Next Stagers and guests were invited to write a birthday message in a commemorative book. Thank you to everyone who has already provided a comment and If you have not yet had an opportunity to sign the book why not call into the theatre to do so, or email your message and we will print and stick it in the book for you.

Next Stage Celebrates Its 25th Anniversary

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Next Stage will be celebrating its Silver Anniversary on Saturday 18th May 2019, and we invite you all to celebrate with us. We have an exciting Birthday week of treats in store for you:

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  1. Here We Go Again

In the week leading up to the official birthday, come along and enjoy our 25th Cabaret-style show: Here We Go Again. Compiled by Artistic Director, Ann Ellison, this celebratory evening showcases extracts from nine of Next Stage's favourite past productions, featuring the original cast members. With a glass of bubbly (or a non-alcoholic option) to start the evening, plus a full-colour commemorative programme to accompany the performances, Here We Go Again is sure to be a night to remember with stand-out performances, laughs and quality acts and actors. Do come along and join Next Stage as the company takes a trip down memory lane for this extra special show.

Tickets £15 - Available HERE

2. Next Stage Theatre Company's Silver Anniversary Book

In honour of everything the company has achieved in the last 25 years, we have put together a 50 page anniversary book looking back at the near-200 productions that the company has staged since 1994. It includes a Foreword written by the company’s prestigious Patron Sir Alan Ayckbourn and congratulatory messages from Sir David Hare, Dame Harriet Walter and Robert Lindsay. Celebrating all of Next Stage's main theatre productions in full-colour, with photos and reminiscences, this book will be available from our birthday week onwards at a cost of just £15.

To place your orders, please call 01225 428600 or email nextstagebath@aol.com

3. Next Stage Merchandise

For sale:

- Next Stage 25th Anniversary 38 x 42cm tote bag  100% cotton - £8

- Next Stage 25th Anniversary drinks bottle, aluminium with a 350ml capacity and a twist top - £8

Next Stage 25th Anniversary tote bag - £8

Next Stage 25th Anniversary tote bag - £8

Next Stage 25th Anniversary drinks bottle - £8

Next Stage 25th Anniversary drinks bottle - £8

To place your orders, please call 01225 428600 or email nextstagebath@aol.com

4. New Website

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Next Stage has been very busy working behind the scenes on this exciting project which launches at the beginning of the birthday week - this brand-new Next Stage website! Easy to navigate and jam-packed with history, photos and important information this new website should be a delight for all. Have fun checking it out!

All of this is on offer throughout Next Stage's birthday week. We can't wait to celebrate this milestone with you all.

Milestone Birthday for Leading British Playwright - Sir Alan Ayckbourn!

Sir Alan Ayckbourn

Sir Alan Ayckbourn

Next Stage Theatre Company proudly recognise Sir Alan Ayckbourn’s support as the company’s longest-serving Patron of 20 years, and wishes him many happy returns for his 80th birthday this week.

Sir Alan Ayckbourn was the Artistic Director of the Stephen Joseph Theatre (SJT), Scarborough from 1972 - 2009, and is the author of many plays, more than half of which have been produced in the West End, including a number at the Royal National Theatre. Alan’s plays have been translated into over thirty languages and are performed world-wide on stage and television. He was the 1992 Cameron Mackintosh Professor of Contemporary Theatre at St Catherine’s College, Oxford and is the holder of several honorary degrees. He was awarded a CBE in 1987 and was knighted in 1997.

Sir Alan’s patronage with Next Stage has been highly supportive and encouraging. Aside from regular communications, he invited Next Stage to perform at the SJT in March 2000 and March 2001. The first play Next Stage took was Sir David Hare’s Skylight, the first Hare production to ever be staged at the SJT, and the second was Dennis Potter’s Blue Remembered Hills. Both productions were watched by Sir and Lady Ayckbourn during the company’s visits.

Sir Alan Ayckbourn and Artistic Director Ann Ellison BEM at Next Stage's 20th Birthday, the Roman Baths, Sunday 18th May 2014

Sir Alan Ayckbourn and Artistic Director Ann Ellison BEM at Next Stage's 20th Birthday, the Roman Baths, Sunday 18th May 2014

For Next Stage’s 25th Anniversary, Sir Alan has kindly written the foreword for the company’s Silver Anniversary book which records Next Stage's history from 1994 - 2019 and the near-200 productions that the company has staged. Next Stage has produced over 20 of Alan’s plays, including some of his more complex works such as Intimate Exchanges and House and Garden. Ayckbourn has always been extremely popular with Next Stagers and their audiences and the company has toured with Ayckbourn plays to New York, the Minack in Cornwall and various locations in the West of England. 

In December 1994, Next Stage’s produced Woman in Mind by Alan Ayckbourn beginning a close relationship between the company and the playwright. In the next two years, NS performed A Chorus of Disapproval and Alan’s trilogy The Norman Conquests consisting of Table MannersLiving Together and Round and Round the Garden (revived in January 2014).

In June 1998 Next Stage produced Sisterly Feelings in Bath and then toured it to the Minack Theatre. June 2000 saw a production of A Small Family Business, and in September 2001 Intimate Exchanges was staged for the first time (variations revived in April 2008 and May 2016). Next Stage took a second Ayckbourn play to Cornish audiences in 2005 with The Champion of Paribanou and later that year produced a Supper Theatre Cabaret performance which consisted of Alan’s two plays: Drinking Companion and Between Mouthfuls. January 2008 saw the production of Improbable Fiction and two years later, Time of My Life.

May 2014 marked a very special month for Next Stage, as it was the company’s 20th birthday, and Sir Alan and Lady Ayckbourn came to celebrate with the company and audience and family members. Sir Alan and Lady Ayckbourn watched productions of House and Garden before attending a reception for the company at the Roman Baths. Later on in 2014, for their own 20th birthday in October, Next Stage Youth Theatre Company performed Invisible Friends as part of their celebrations.

More recent productions include Haunting Julia in October 2015, Absent Friends in September 2017, and Bedroom Farce in December 2018.

In recognition of Sir Alan’s support over the years Next Stage will be reprising his 1985 play Woman in Mind in November, exactly 25 years to the day from when the company first performed it.

Circus Skills Workshop for Next Stage Youth

After a busy term working at their competitive drama extracts, Next Stage Youthers were delighted to relax at the final session of the term and enjoy a circus skills workshop. The session was led by Gizmo, a skilled juggler, stilt walker, plate spinner and balloon animal maker amongst many other things. Gizmo provided all the equipment the 30-plus youngsters needed for a fun-filled hour and a half in which they could all become the Greatest Showman!

Next Stage Youth now takes a break for Easter with the Summer term enrolment scheduled for Sunday April 28th at 4.30pm at The Mission Theatre.

Flying the Next Stage Youth Flag High at the Mid-Somerset Drama Festival!

On Tuesday 12th March members of Next Stage Youth Theatre Company took to the stage to perform their challenging extracts as part of this year’s Mid-Somerset Drama Festival. Now in it’s 118th year, the Festival saw a record number of 5000 competitors over 16 days. This year Next Stage Youth entered 5 groups across 2 acting classes in the competition. The extracts in class 57, Year 9 and under were from Alan Ayckbourn’s Invisible Friends and Simon Stephen’s award-winning The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time. In the Senior class, 19 years and under, the 3 extracts were from Sue Townsend's, The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole aged 13 3/4, Simon Stephen’s The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time and Noughts and Crosses by Malorie Blackman. All 5 performances were outstanding and friends and family watched from their seats in admiration as Next Stage's talented youthers competed with other groups, sometimes made up of much older children. 

After much deliberation, the results were in! Taking 1st place in the Senior group were Next Stage Youth Group D with Curious Incident whilst in the Juniors Next Stage Youth Group A achieved a distinction and second place with the same extract. The remaining groups all gave solid performances and scored between 84 - 86 marks earning commended certificates. Thanks and congratulations to all the NSY Tutors who helped their groups achieve these results and well done to all competitors, you worked very hard and delivered at your best.

Judge’s Remarks:

Clear and well defined...the cast were very mature in their handling of the material and told the story with care and compassion.
— Group A
The cast worked hard at demonstrating strong relationships and a good sense of togetherness. There were some wonderful facial expressions and reactions...
— Group B
A great deal of physical focus demonstrated by all members...the narration skillfully developed the ebb and flow of the scene.
— Group C
The diction and vocal interpretation was very clear and crisp...there was a strong sense of theatrical ebb and flow.
— Group D
Excellent relationships between the couples...the part of Adrian was played earnestly and with conviction by Max.
— Group E

Plenty of Excitement for Next Stage Theatre Company

Sir Dave Hare, Next Stage Theatre Company's Patron since 2000

Sir Dave Hare, Next Stage Theatre Company's Patron since 2000

Next Stage Theatre Company has enjoyed the patronage of Sir David Hare since 2000. Hare is one of Britain's leading playwrights and it has been a pleasure for Next Stage actors and directors to have worked on and produced a number of our patron's highly-acclaimed works over the last 25 years. 

In keeping with this tradition, and as part of the company's Silver Anniversary celebrations, Next Stage Director Alison Paine is bringing to the stage of The Mission Theatre, the company's production of Plenty written by David Hare in 1975 and widely regarded as one of his best plays. It will be performed by a talented, 11-strong cast of both new and old members. Full of passion, contrast and cutting humour, it is (as ever with Hare) an accessible and entertaining insight into British politics, equally scathing and satirical. Although it was written in 1975, Plenty's themes of political chaos, betrayal, moral outrage and a country searching for a new identity could not be more topical. It is fascinating in 2019 to note the modern resonances throughout a play written 44 years ago - notably Hare's take on the political confusion and duplicity of Suez, which culminated in international humiliation and the resignation of the prime minister. If you see no other, this must be the one play you see in Brexit week!

Marc Bessant as Raymond Brock, Hayley Fitton-Cook as Alice Park and Liz Wilson as Susan Traherne

Marc Bessant as Raymond Brock, Hayley Fitton-Cook as Alice Park and Liz Wilson as Susan Traherne

Next Stage Theatre Company first produced one of their patron's plays - The Secret Rapture in 1995. Following this the company went on to perform Hare's iconic Skylight in Bath, September 1999, before touring the production to The Stephen Joseph Theatre in Scarborough, March 2000. Before Next Stage opened in Scarborough members of the company had had the chance to meet and talk with Alan Ayckbourn, then Artistic Director of the SJT, and David Hare. Next Stage's production of Skylight was the first David Hare play to be produced at the SJT. 

Artistic Director, Ann Ellison and members of Next Stage with Alan Ayckbourn and David Hare in Scarborough (1999)

Artistic Director, Ann Ellison and members of Next Stage with Alan Ayckbourn and David Hare in Scarborough (1999)

Skylight  (2000)

Skylight (2000)

In December 2001 Next Stage produced Amy’s View; in September 2004, The Blue Room and in September 2014, The Judas Kiss .

As Next Stage Theatre Company approaches it's 25th Birthday on May 18th 2019, Artistic Director Ann Ellison BEM was delighted to receive the following from Sir David Hare:

All best wishes to the wonderful Next Stage on its 25th Anniversary, and most especially for its production of Plenty.
I send congratulations.
David Hare

Thank you Sir David for all your support and your acknowledgment of what Next Stage has achieved in the last 25 years.