We Are Chester’s Paul Crofts has been a part of Tip Top Productions for many years. He has performed in a number of productions and has also been a key part of the backstage team, including leading on publicity for the popular local theatre company. He shares the latest on the news announced this week about the next chapter in Tip Top’s own story. Featured image: A scene from Tip Top’s 2017 panto, Cinderella. Photo: Mark Carline.
A theatre company which has become a firm favourite with theatre goers in Chester and the surrounding areas has announced exciting plans for its future as it prepares to leave its city centre home.
Theatre company Tip Top Productions has announced that it will leave The Forum Studio Theatre in Chester in 2021. The move is due in part to ongoing preparations which will see the venue making way for phase two of the Northgate Development.
The company, founded by Peter Swingler OBE in 1989, moved into the former Chester Gateway Theatre building initially for a period of just one year in 2007 and has been a popular addition to the cultural life of the city for the last 13 years, during which time it has built up a reputation for staging high quality shows including Chester’s very own traditional family pantomime as well as playing host to live music events and touring shows.
Speaking about the company’s decision to bring the curtain down on their Chester home, Brian Fray, chairman of Tip Top Productions said: “The time is right for an exciting new chapter, we are extremely proud of all that we have achieved at The Forum Studio Theatre.
“We took on the building to do just one season of shows way back in 2007 and no-one then could have predicted that we would go on to enjoy 13 very successful years.
“There are lots of happy memories. I would like to pay tribute to all our members, volunteers and audiences for their continued support.
“As a registered charity, the board have done an extremely good job in protecting our finances over the past eight months and this is fundamental for our survival and ability to be able to continue to stage large scale productions in the future.
“Whilst our exit from The Forum Studio will be brought forward ever so slightly, the most important thing now is that we remain in really good shape to enable us to continue producing both small and large scale productions when the time allows us to do so.
“We have some exciting plans in the pipeline for future shows so watch this space.”
Since making the announcement to members at its AGM and via social media to its friends and supporters, Tip Top has been overwhelmed by countless messages of support including from Angela Ferguson, editor of We Are Chester who tweeted “It’s the end of an era for @tiptoptheatre in Chester, we’ve so many fond memories of our visits to the Forum Studio Theatre but now we look foward to seeing what the next act in Tip Top’s story has in store for us” whilst Tony Chester of popular Chester blog @sh*tchester tweeted “Very sad to hear Tip Top Productions are leaving The Forum, looking foward to supporting @tiptoptheatre in the future.”
Another supporter said “Thank you so much for keeping the arts alive in Chester and the building singing since the Gateway Theatre closed in 2007. So sad to leave all the memories behind but the start of something new and exciting”.
Many comments centred on Tip Top’s legendary pantomimes, with several supporters saying how much they will miss their festive visits to the intimate surroundings of The Forum Studio Theatre. including one who said “We have lots of wonderful panto memories at The Forum. It’s been our Christmas Eve tradition for a good many years.
“My boys and I will miss it terribly, such a lovely intimate show every year, we look foward to hearing where your new venue will be.”
Speaking about the company’s future plans, Steve Davies, Tip Top’s Artistic Director said: “In our early days, prior to our time at The Forum Studio Theatre, we performed predominantly at The Gateway Theatre, Wrexham Studio Theatre within Yale College, and The William Aston Hall within what is now Glyndwr University in Wrexham. But we didn’t have a home.
“We rehearsed in lots of different places – scout huts, church halls, schools, etc. There was a wonderful feeling of community and a brilliant excitement about getting together to create these big productions.
“So, my job for the next few months is to create a season of productions very similar to those we used to stage prior to being at The Forum.
“I’m going to be working closely with existing partnerships – for example Theatr Clwyd – but also revisiting old haunts and investigating new relationships too.”
Steve Davies added: “We already know that we potentially have two weeks pencilled in at Theatr Clwyd for 2021.
“But COVID is still playing a big part in that process. We have to wait for confirmation of what’s allowed in theatres before we can make a decision.
“Playing to a full house of 450 will be very different to playing to a socially distanced capacity of 100, spread out across the Anthony Hopkins auditorium for example.
“As soon as it’s safe to do so, we will be back on stage doing the thing we all love, the show must go on!”
Meanwhile, Tip Top’s lockdown season of virtual events continues online via Zoom with festive events now being planned. Full details can be found at www.chestertheatre.co.uk to register to take part, email firstname.lastname@example.org