Prestwich born Victoria Wood on Bowness
Amanda Griffiths talks to Victoria Wood at the Old Laundry Theatre in Bowness to find out just what makes her keep coming back
Griff Rhys Jones has called it 'the theatre in the most beautiful location in Britain' and it's highly unlikely that Lancashire's Victoria Wood would disagree.
I caught up with theatre patron, comedienne, writer, actress and national treasure on one of her many trips to the Old Laundry Theatre in Bowness where she was preparing for the opening night of Talent, her comedy set back stage at a Manchester nightclub.
The avuncular Rhys Jones will be following her on stage later in the autumn season with his one man show.
'Coming here is always very special for me,' says Victoria, as she takes a five minute breather from the final dress rehearsal. 'The theatre directors Charlotte Scott and Roger Glossop are very old friends of mine. I met them in 1978 when I did my first play at the Crucible in Sheffield.
'I'm a patron of this theatre so I try to visit as much as I can during the festival. It's a great space with a great atmosphere - I've played it so I should know! It's quite a small, cosy place but big enough for a show like Talent. I think every town should have a theatre like this.
'It's very special for me to be able to work here with my friends. I've really liked directing this play which has a new section that I enjoyed writing.'
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The new version of Talent, which Victoria has produced in partnership with the Menier Chocolate Factory in London, was showcased in Bowness before London audiences had the chance to see it. That's a feather in the cap for the Old Laundry.
'The support we have means that we are a theatre that produces theatre and not just receives it,' says Richard Foster, General Manager of The Old Laundry, which is housed in the World of Beatrix Potter attraction.
'Charlotte Scott and Roger Glossop have long established links with Alan Ayckbourn. He came over to see what we were doing with the space left over from the Beatrix Potter attraction and he said it was about the same shape and size as the Stephen Joseph Theatre in Scarborough.
'He said that if we were thinking of doing something similar he would bring his theatre company here to perform on tour and that was the beginning of theatre in the round in Bowness.'
In fact, after Ayckbourn premieres his new plays in Scarborough he'll bring them to Bowness before taking them on to London.
'We survive largely with the support of the World of Beatrix Potter as well as ticket sales, which means we can't afford to be a 365 day a year theatre. We have to limit our season to the autumn each year. It normally runs from September to November, but this year's is the earliest because we had to fit in with Talent going to London.
'Of course, the great thing about this is the fact we can make sure the shows we are offering our audiences are really top notch.
'In many ways culture is becoming a big part of being in the Lake District now. The whole idea that people can come and enjoy culture not in a city but a rural setting is great. They can be out on the hills or the lake during the day and come inside when it starts to get dark.
'We find a lot of our audiences are now coming from further afield. It's like they plan there trips to the Lakes around the theatre programme (which is available on online at www.oldlaundrytheatre.co.uk). They come once, get on the mailing list and that's that.
'It's funny because it's not your traditional theatre experience but once you get used to the fact you're having your interval drinks in a room surrounded with pictures of Beatrix Potter characters it's fine,' he says.