A Question of Culture

Over the last couple of weeks I’ve been asking the five prospective parliamentary candidates for Swindon a series of questions. One of the questions concerned the town’s cultural environment.

I’m a great fan of live shows, specifically theatre and musicals (gay cliché #1 P), but frustratingly for me, the best stuff is always on somewhere else. Swindon’s theatre – the Wyvern – is pretty small and it’s not a very attractive building.

Whenever I’ve been there over the years, the show’s haven’t been filled up, the small audience only half full (or half empty depending on your view), most recently a Joe McElderry concert (gay cliché #2 P) and the other a big band concert with my granddad.

I also saw the Avenue Q musical when it came to town a couple of years ago, although, this time the theatre was slightly fuller.

It seems that the people of Swindon don’t really go to the theatre, but is that because the residents of the town aren’t theatre folk, or is it because they just simply don’t think of the theatre as an option?

When big name comedians come to town, they’re announced months before, and the tickets sell out in a matter of minutes – most likely to the ‘Friends of the Wyvern’ who get advance notification of such things.

Swindon needs a bigger theatre for those events, but for most of the time, the theatre is too big.

Why am I rambling on about the Wyvern? Well, because I went there earlier this week to see the stage adaptation of the Peter James book Dead Simple starring Tina Hobley, Jamie Lomas and Gray O’Brien.

Also Rik Makarem whom I quite quickly fell in love with thanks to his tight fitting top (gay cliché #3 P)

I’ve read quite of a few of James’ books, including Dead Simple – the book opens with a character trapped in a coffin, a stag night prank that has gone wrong. The book is told from Inspector Roy Grace’s point of view, while the play focuses on the characters that are being investigated.

I could write for ages about the fascinating way this play was produced, how the adaption changes the presentation of the same story significantly, how the change of format gives a different insight into the characters.

I’m not going to talk much about the show itself – a) I don’t want to give any spoilers, but b) I’ve known Peter James for several years, and as a rule I avoid reviewing works by people I know well on the basis that I feel can’t always be honest – or come across as not sounding biased.

Needless to say, Dead Simple was highly enjoyable and Tina Hobley specifically gave a magnificent performance.

There have been quite a few posters for the show around the town, more so for this than any other play that has been performed at the theatre – knowing Peter James as I do, I suspect that this is largely down to him – and as a result, the audience was pretty full.

An actual play in Swindon, and people went to see it. Hopefully now, this means more plays will tour in Swindon, and perhaps that will mean more people of Swindon start going to the Wyvern, and start seeing the full raft of shows that are available.

Maybe then, we’ll start to see the audiences fill up a bit more. Maybe then we’ll see a regeneration of the theatre, and maybe then there’ll be more seats available when the big names come to town.

Maybe that will help improve Swindon’s reputation.

The question I asked the candidates was what they could do to help change the image of the town. Now that I think about it, the town like the theatre doesn’t need a massive cash injection, or to change it’s direction, it just needs to shout about itself a bit more.

It’s not difficult. In fact… it’s dead simple.

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