An important stage of my life

The Felixstowe Spa Pavilion.

The Felixstowe Spa Pavilion. - Credit: Archant

Despite being used and loved by many local theatre groups, the Spa Pavilion has closed; a sad reflection of the harsh economic climate. Lynne Mortimer looks back on happier Spa days.

As a young woman, Felixstowe Spa Pavilion was the scene of some of my greatest theatrical triumphs.

It was more so for my husband, who played a number of leading roles with Felixstowe Musical Theatre including (this is not an exhaustive list), Sky Masterson and Nathan Detroit in Guys and Dolls, King Arthur in Camelot, scarecrow in Wizard of Oz and Professor Higgins in My Fair Lady. He also directed Oklahoma! Oliver! and Fiddler on the Roof. It is not true that he looked for a third one-word musical with an exclamation mark before deciding on Fiddler.

It was his first role with FMT that made me realise just how committed he was to the theatre. He played an American pilot in South Pacific and had to appear in a grass skirt with a ‘bra’ comprising two sea shells. What some people do for their art.

Nothing so daring for me. I played Eliza Dolittle in My Fair Lady and, type cast again, the Wicked Witch of the West in Wizard of Oz.

We rehearsed at the Welcome Hall in Trimley (not too far for a’Ipswich girl to travel) and the transfer to the Spa for the week of the show was always a highlight... with whom would you share a dressing room, for example? And, more importantly, what would happen in the dressing rooms... I am forbidden to talk of the incident with the silver glitter spray on the last night of Camelot.

Together, we also appeared in a number of Gallery Players shows at the Spa including Cowardy Custard, A Little Night Music and Company. Additionally, my husband has been in some of Ipswich Operatic and Dramatic Society’s Sounds Familiar.

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We have also enjoyed watching countless amateur and professional shows there including Dennis Lowe’s pantomimes, Felixstowe Drama Festival plays, Stage Door productions, and the likes of Jimmy Tarbuck and Don Estelle and Windsor Davies.

Walking down from the car park through the Spa gardens was part of the enjoyment. In winter, an angry sea and the bright dock lights in the distance; in summer, the sound of the tide dragging pebbles back into the sea and the bright displays of bedding plants.

There would always be people we knew in the audience and often in the orchestra pit too - not audience members who had fallen in, but musician friends who played for many of the shows.

Now after 103 years, amid tears and with abiding sadness, the Spa has closed. No one wants it to close and those of us who love it will be hoping for a solution that does not end its life as a theatre.

Today, there are so many calls on our time that we can’t always make it to the theatre. But if you didn’t see my Eliza Doolittle, you missed the treat of seeing the little cockney flower girl vainly trying to scoop up the coins thrown to her by Professor Higgins. I say vainly because, being very short-sighted without my specs, I attempted at every performance to pick up a blob of paint splipped on the stage.