Sir Alan Ayckbourn

Sir Alan Ayckbourn

Sir Alan Ayckbourn is the long-standing Artistic Director of the Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough, and the author of many plays, more than half of which have been produced in the West End or at the Royal National Theatre.  The plays have been translated into over thirty languages and are performed world-wide on stage and television. He was the 1992 Cameron Mackintosh Professor of Contemporary Theatre at St Catherine’s College, Oxford and is the holder of several honorary degrees. He was awarded a CBE in 1987 and knighted in 1997.

Sir Alan’s contact with Next Stage has been highly supportive and encouraging. Aside from regular communications, he has invited Next Stage to perform at the SJT’s ‘The Round’ auditorium on two occasions in the recent past. The first play Next Stage took to the SJT was David Hare’s ‘Skylight’ shown in March 2000 and the second was Dennis Potter’s ‘Blue Remembered Hills’ shown in March 2001. Both productions were watched by Sir Alan and his wife, Heather.

In May 2014, Sir Alan and Lady Heather Ayckbourn helped Next Stage to celebrate their 20th Birthday by attending the performances of Ayckbourn’s plays House & Garden on Saturday 17th May. Sir Alan and Lady Heather also joined members and supporters of Next Stage at a gala reception, held on Sunday 18th May the famous Roman Baths. To see pictures and read an article on Next Stage’s 20th Birthday celebrations, please click here.

Keith Michell

Keith Michell - 1st December 1926-20th November 2015

Keith Michell was a young art teacher in Australia when he gained a place at the Old Vic School and went on to become a leading actor with the Young Vic, Stratford, and the Old Vic companies. In 1968, he was invited to join the company for the prestigious Chichester season and in 1974 he was asked to become Artistic Director of the Festival Theatre itself, acting in, or directing and designing a number of innovative, memorable productions.

Keith starred in a number of musicals including Robert and Elizabeth, Man of La Mancha and, most recently, Aspects of Love. He also played a number of major roles in a video series of the Gilbert & Sullivan operas but probably reached his widest audience with the internationally acclaimed Six Wives of Henry VIII.

Again, his support of Next Stage was not limited to name only. In May 1996, despite a very busy schedule, Keith found the time to design the publicity material for Next Stage’s production of Our Country’s Good.

In 2012, Ann and Andrew Ellison were delighted to meet with Keith Michell once again when he visited Bath to open an exhibition at the Costume Museum - read the full article here.

Sadly, Keith Michell passed away on 20th November 2015. To read an obituary by Artistic Director Ann Ellison, click here.

Sir David Hare

Sir David Hare

Sir David Hare is one of the leading figures in British theatre. Born in Sussex in 1947, his first play, Slag, was produced in 1970.  A founder member of the Joint Stock Company with William Gaskill and Max Stafford Clark, David Hare worked at the Royal Court before his involvement in 1971 with the National Theatre. Since Plenty in 1978 the National Theatre has produced 11 of his plays, including the highly acclaimed Racing Demons, Murmuring Judges and Absence of War.

Whilst recognised as a skillful social commentator, Hare’s most recent successes at the National, in the West End and indeed internationally, have been plays that deal with the complexity of human relationships: Skylight, Amy’s View and The Blue Room.

Skylight was performed for the first time in Bath by Next Stage in September 1999, which was then followed in December 2001 by a production of Amy’s View and, in September 2004, The Blue Room. More recently, the company presented a production of The Judas Kiss in September 2014.

Sir David Hare wrote to the company saying he was “flattered” to be asked to become a patron. In November 1999 the company and crew of Skylight met and talked to David at the SJT following a platform performance in which he spoke movingly of his own experiences on stage in Via Dolorosa.

Harriet Walter

Dame Harriet Walter

Dame Harriet Walter is an experienced and popular actress who has covered a wide range of drama, appearing in many productions for the Royal Shakespeare Theatre Company in Stratford.  She won an Olivier award for her performance as Helena in A Midsummer Night’s Dream and has also played Imogen (Cymbeline), Helena (All’s Well That Ends Well) and Lady Macbeth opposite Anthony Sher.

At the Royal Court she played Ophelia opposite Jonathan Pryce’s Hamlet and she has just finished appearing in Harold Pinter’s highly praised production of Simon Gray’s The Late Middle Classes.  Television appearances include Unfinished Business, The Price and Lord Peter Wimsey, and she played in the Oscar winning film Sense and Sensibility.  Harriet has recently written her new book Facing It and been involved in some film and television work. Ann and Andrew were delighted to catch up with her in 2014 during the Bath Literature Festival. Read more about it here .

When asked on a visit to Bath to become Next Stage’s first female patron Harriet’s response was “It looks like a good and necessary enterprise and I am all in favour of groups such as yours springing up ...”.