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New theatre boss star-struck by sea

PUBLISHED: 21:19 10 May 2002 | UPDATED: 11:53 03 March 2010

THEATRE boss Paul Ryan knows he is looking at an awesome act with power, presence and personality.

But Paul – the new man in the hot seat at Felixstowe's Spa Pavilion – isn't admiring an artiste rehearsing on the venue's stage.

THEATRE boss Paul Ryan knows he is looking at an awesome act with power, presence and personality.

But Paul – the new man in the hot seat at Felixstowe's Spa Pavilion – isn't admiring an artiste rehearsing on the venue's stage. No, he is looking out of the window.

For he just cannot take his eyes off the sea.

"It's hypnotic, wonderful, so calming. I cannot get over being this close to the sea – seeing it every time I glance out of a window or step outside," said Paul.

The 25-year-old, who has just taken over as general manager of the 913-seater seafront theatre from Dominic Stokes, has always been an inland man.

He was brought up in Accrington, went to university in Manchester, and then worked at Clear Channel theatres in Swindon and Birmingham before being offered the chance to manage at the seaside.

"I know I made the right decision in coming here – it is fantastic, and everyone is lovely, so friendly and helpful. After the hustle and bustle of Birmingham, it is so refreshing to find people say good morning and spend time to chat," he said.

"People are very enthusiastic, too, about their theatre. The Spa certainly has a special place in the lives of people in Felixstowe."

Paul studied physics and astronomy while at university, but spent his evenings watching stars of a different kind as he worked at the Palace Theatre and Opera House in Manchester.

He was front of house supervisor at one – doing everything from selling ice creams and programmes, to showing people to their seats – and head barman at the other.

He had been in a few amateur plays, including Yeoman of the Guard, Annie Get Your Gun and Sound of Music, but now he was well and truly bitten by the theatre bug and knew where his future career was destined.

"People are often astonished when they find out that I did physics and astronomy at uni and not business studies or performing arts. But theatre management is a lot about numbers and solving problems, using computers, and finding solutions to situations and so the degree course helped a lot," he said.

After working at a 600-seater council-owned theatre managed by Clear Channel in Swindon, he moved to the 1,400-seater Alexandra Theatre in Birmingham.

He sees the Spa – where he arrived as Spirit of the dance was playing to a full house – as a mixture of the two venues.

"The Spa is a family venue and I think it can go from strength to strength. I want to see the programme continue to develop as it has done over the past few years and to carry on providing a diverse range of entertainment," said Paul.

"People are very willing to try different things and many people will enjoy a real diversity of shows, so we need shows to suit all tastes."

n Dominic Stokes, 26, has moved from the Spa to manage the 1,875-seater Sunderland Empire – ironic as he is a keen Ipswich fan and the two towns are locked in a relegation dogfight.

He said he had had a "wonderful year" at the Spa but the new job was an opportunity which was "too good to refuse".


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