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Gallery: Emotion-charged night as final curtain comes down at Spa Pavilion

06:00 09 January 2013

Emotions ran high as the last ever panto was performed at the Felixstowe Spa Pavillion this evening.

Emotions ran high as the last ever panto was performed at the Felixstowe Spa Pavillion this evening.

Archant

IT’S hard to believe that Felixstowe’s Spa Pavilion theatre might never stage another show.

The auditorium has echoed to gasps, gales of laughter, cheering, tears, sharp intakes of breath, and thunderous applause and standing ovations for more than a century, but has now become the latest statistic for the world of showbiz in which many towns’ theatres are struggling to survive.

It is reckoned a venue is closing every week – and very few new ones are being opened.

The top-of-the-bill high-earning end of the showbiz whirl is enjoying huge dividends. Arenas like the 02 can pack in 20,000, paying up to £50 a ticket for a star comedian.

At the lower end, small, community theatres, far from the big cities, are losing money, suffering from falling audiences, over-priced entertainment, and a diet of tribute bands, performers who have seen better days or cannot fill such big venues.

Felixstowe’s Spa Pavilion has now closed its doors – its owners Suffolk Coastal no longer prepared to pay the £250,000 a year it costs to run the venue, and unable to afford the estimated £8 million needed to refurbish it to a standard which will attract regular theatre-goers and better shows.

It was appropriate that it was the Dennis Lowe Theatre Company which performed on the last night, the final curtain on their panto Aladdin being the moment the theatre went dark.

The company had been playing at the Spa for nearly 50 years presenting pantos, Easter shows and children’s summer holiday season matinees. Its founder, the late Dennis Lowe, would not have been able to believe his beloved Spa could close – and would have been heartbroken to see his adopted town without a venue for live entertainment.

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