Like most entertainment venues, The Barn Theatre in Oxted has been quiet for much of 2020. With many of its planned shows cancelled, theatre staff, performers and audiences have been waiting patiently for the curtains to rise once more.
Thankfully, that opportunity came on Saturday, 12 December, via Angie Muscio and her Really Happy Company’s double performance of ‘A Not-So Silent Night’.
The Barn’s cosy (and Covid-safe) auditorium is already the perfect setting for live productions and for this it was further enhanced with festive decorations, including two twinkling Christmas trees framing the stage.
The show opened with charity single Christmas Again (The Show Must Go On), co-written and produced by master of ceremonies, and Caterham School alumnus Joe McNeice. Featuring 30 West End stars, it is raising money for the Theatre Support Fund+, an endeavour established in response to the difficulties faced by the performing arts industry this year. A Not-So Silent Night is also supporting this cause, as well as Reigate’s Open Hands Food Bank.
The audience was then treated to a variety of acts that showcased incredible local talent of all ages. Dance routines from Starmakerz Elite Mini and Junior Troupes, and Keady Irish Dancers were interspersed with singers (including youngest soloist Sky-Brooke D’Costa, aged 12), a monologue from The 39 Steps and a medley from Les Miserables. There was even a special appearance from the non-local, but welcome none-the-less, Kermit the Frog!
McNeice, who lives in Caterham on the Hill, has creative experience as a director and show manager, and is currently part of of the core team at Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre. He was glad everybody could be on stage once more:
“It’s really special to be doing live theatre again. There have been incredible initiatives during lockdown to keep people engaged, but it takes people coming back to theatres, big and small, to help them recover. This show may be for a limited time but it’s come at a time when it’s really needed. People are desperate for live entertainment.”
Bruce Reed, Chairman of the theatre added: “I’ve watched a lot of the cast grow up in this theatre and it’s great they are back here again. There’s nothing like performing to an audience.”
Shortly after this, The Barn received the news that it would have to close again from Saturday, 19 December, after Tandridge – along with all but one of Surrey’s boroughs – was moved into first Tier 3 and soon after, Tier 4. It brings more financial challenges for an already struggling industry and will be a blow to all involved with the theatre.
Looking to the long-term, however, the theatre is fundraising for Project Barn100, an undertaking that will see major improvements made to the entrance and front of house. Completion is planned for 2024, when The Barn will be celebrating its centenary. Information on this can be found at www.barntheatreoxted.co.uk