First look inside magician’s amazing brand new £150k theatre
When the curtains are lifted on this brand new theatre at Suffolk’s famous Stonham Barns, magician Robbie James is under no illusions that he has the opportunity of a lifetime.
For he has been generously built a £150,000 new performing arts venue to make his own - and has big plans for how he can get audiences clapping and cheering.
Mr James had spent a life on stage, at one point working abroad for Thomas Cook, when Stonham Barns owner Alan Forward saw one of his magical Christmas shows.
Mr Forward was so impressed, he offered Mr James the chance to perform at Stonham Barns - and then said he said he would build a £150,000 theatre which Mr James could run.
It was something that even seemed beyond the possibilities of a magician.
"When he first approached me about it, I was like: 'Yeah, whatever,'" said Mr James, who is theatre and entertainment manager for the new venue.
"I thought this man was talking rubbish."
But it was no magic trick - and the Pavilion Theatre, complete with its black and gold colour scheme and traditional red curtains, is getting ready for a grand opening in January 2020.
"It does make you think: 'Am I really good enough for this? Can I prove myself?' Mr James said.
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The theatre, built from scratch on a piece of grass at Stonham Barns, began construction in October last year and was finished in April.
It had planned a Halloween Spooktacular and a Christmas pantomime this year - but the theatre has been closed since April after Mr James and Alex Morley Productions, which ran the events there, decided to part ways.
The departure was amicable but Stonham Barns took the opportunity to fully refurbish the theatre ahead of its new opening date of January 11 2020.
It will boast its own bar and seating area for those looking to have a drink before shows, and despite the black and gold theme Mr James said: "I'm going to have red stage curtains, because I don't think a theatre is a theatre without one."
A chandelier so grand it did not fit through the front door was ordered, meaning it had to be taken apart and reassembled inside.
Mr James has already written a show calendar for the whole of 2020 and has promised there will be "something for everyone", from a children's pirate show at Easter, to murder mystery evenings and a talent show in July.
It will open with a Tommy Cooper tribute show - and Mr James has promised to keep prices low, so families can visit the theatre as part of a day out at Stonham Barns.
"I'd rather charge £10 for a ticket and have people come to the theatre and then have a meal at the restaurant.
"There are going to be a lot of people who will be there for the day, and that's where we're going to have a huge opportunity.
"It saddens me that you've got many theatres which are revamping themselves as cinemas. I don't think you can recreate that atmosphere."
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