Plymouth theatre honoured at National Lottery's Big Night of Musicals

·6-min read
The Theatre Royal Plymouth was invited to The National Lottery's Big Night of Musicals, celebrating musical theatre across the UK. Credit: Steve Haywood
The Theatre Royal Plymouth was invited to The National Lottery's Big Night of Musicals, celebrating musical theatre across the UK. Credit: Steve Haywood

A Plymouth theatre is applauding its partnership with The National Lottery this week after being honoured at The National Lottery’s Big Night of Musicals, a celebration of musical theatre that served as a ‘thank you' to National Lottery players who have been vital in helping to support the industry during the last 20 tumultuous months.

The National Lottery’s Big Night of Musicals, which was hosted by Jason Manford on January 24, saw performances from best-selling West End musicals and touring shows such as FROZEN The Musical, Dear Evan Hansen and Back to the Future at the AO Arena in Manchester to celebrate the vital £228 million received from The National Lottery to fund arts in the UK during the pandemic. The show will be aired on BBC One on Saturday 29th January at 7pm and will be available for 30 days afterwards on BBC iPlayer.

The event in Manchester captured the magic of theatre, shining a light on the difference it makes in communities and to individuals, while also showcasing incredible musicals from across the UK – and Theatre Royal Plymouth were thrilled to have been a part of it.

The Theatre Royal Plymouth is the largest and best attended regional producing theatre in the UK and the leading promoter of theatre in the South West.

The theatre, which is celebrating its 40th birthday this year, has three distinctive performance spaces – The Lyric, The Drum and the workshop space, The Lab – as well as another site in the city, TR2, which hosts workshops, wardrobe, and engagement and learning teams.

The cast of 'The Wiz' perform on stage during The National Lottery's Big Night of Musicals at AO Arena in Manchester. (Photo by John Phillips/Getty Images for The National Lottery)
The cast of 'The Wiz' perform on stage during The National Lottery's Big Night of Musicals at AO Arena in Manchester. (Photo by John Phillips/Getty Images for The National Lottery)

Theatre Royal Plymouth’s Chief Executive, James Mackenzie-Blackman, 41, who was part of the theatre’s youth group as a teenager and now lives just 300 yards from the stage doors, said: “The National Lottery is critical to the success of our theatre and helping us to deliver our charitable aims and objectives.

“We think a lot about National Lottery players and who they are, and want to demonstrate really clearly in our community that, thanks to people playing The National Lottery, they're investing back into their communities – we're a very people and community focussed organisation and clearly without The National Lottery and people playing the lottery, the culture sector in this country would be nowhere near what it is today.

“It means an awful lot to us and we're thinking about how to demonstrate the impact of those lottery funds and resources on the communities that we serve.”

Theatre Royal Plymouth first applied for National Lottery funding through the Arts Council in 1997 – and have since received a total of £13million, funding a range of engagement and learning work, as well as for a regeneration fund.

The Theatre Royal Plymouth serves the South West with a wide range of theatre including classic and contemporary drama, musical productions and the presentation of national opera, ballet and dance companies, as well as specialising in the production of new plays and has built a national reputation for the quality of its innovative work.

The theatre hosts many shows from around the UK, from intimate small-scale productions to large blockbuster musicals, such as Les Miserables, Phantom of the Opera and touring shows like Disney’s The Lion King.

Their most recent application for lottery funding to The National Lottery Community Fund was successful, and they were delighted to receive just under £257,000 to fund their Funky Llama festival, which promotes theatre to disabled and non-able-bodied adults.

Theatre Royal Plymouth's Funky Llama Festival continues to be a rousing success for disabled and non-able bodied people
Theatre Royal Plymouth's Funky Llama Festival continues to be a rousing success for disabled and non-able bodied people

“Our Funky Llama Festival delivered in Plymouth was incredibly successful,” said Mackenzie-Blackman.

“It’s gained a national reputation for really high-quality experiences for people with additional needs. Without the money from The National Lottery, we wouldn’t have been able to put it on and it wouldn’t have been such a success.

“We care passionately about getting children and young people to explore and discover the performing arts and support them on pathways into the industry too.

“We have amazing success stories of young people who have discovered a passion for theatre with us and are now West End stars and performers and those pathways wouldn't have been possible without The National Lottery.

“Theatre changed my life. Discovering the youth theatre as a teenager opened up opportunities to me that wouldn't have been available for me.

“Theatre is important because it makes communities better places to live and work, it fosters happiness, and helps people raise a smile or to think about the world differently, which produces happier and healthier communities.”

And performer, Clive, can adhere to that, discovering his passion for performing arts after being homeless for 23 years – and found his new home at Theatre Royal Plymouth.

Theatre Royal Plymouth has a big community base in Plymouth, and thanks to National Lottery funding, has been able to help the community discover a passion for the performing arts and theatre
Theatre Royal Plymouth has a big community base in Plymouth, and thanks to National Lottery funding, has been able to help the community discover a passion for the performing arts and theatre

He said: “I think I was at a point in life where I was just desperate for anything that would give me a break from what I was feeling.

“Theatre Royal Plymouth had put free tickets in The Big Issue office to try and cheer somebody up, and I got one of those tickets. I just got pulled into the production on the stage here. Being in here is just delicious.

“I’m very much looking forward to the future that I feel I can build here in this theatre.”

Marketing Officer of Theatre Royal Plymouth Megan Potterton, 25, who attended the one-of-a-kind night of musical theatre at Manchester’s AO Arena said, “My favourite performance was Jim Steinman’s Bat Out Of Hell - I absolutely loved that and the performers’ energy was amazing.

“It felt like a real show and to have everyone together to celebrate theatre was incredible - not just from the audience, but everyone on stage too.

“It was such a privilege to be there and a really exciting event to be at.

“To be part of something that's celebrating theatre in such a big way was an honour. Theatre Royal Plymouth are so grateful to The National Lottery for supporting us, in recent times and for many years, and so it was a lovely, happy celebration to recognise that relationship.”

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting