Worthing theatre company fund-raising towards ghostly spring tour

Worthing-based Conn Artists Theatre Company are fund-raising towards their production and spring 2022 regional theatre tour of J M Barrie’s play Mary Rose.

Ross Muir
Ross Muir

A play about loss and hope, it’s a perfect piece for our times, says company artistic director Ross Muir. They just need to raise as much money as possible to cover some of the costs before the show hits the road.

Their Gofundme page can be found at: https://www.gofundme.com/f/connartists?utm_campaign=p_lico+share-sheet&utm_medium=copy_link&utm_source=customer

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“After the challenges of the past two years, such as not being able to tour our shows to theatre-loving audiences, as well as budget cuts to arts funding, we are asking you for your help,” Ross said.

“We recently received the disappointing news that we were unsuccessful in our Arts Council England funding bid, having been successfully supported in previous years. This led us to almost cancel the production of our latest show Mary Rose.

“But out of our love for producing high-quality theatre, and our understanding of how vital it is to the local community, to venues across the UK and to performers and creatives in the industry, we have decided to put everything we can together in order to take this beautiful and profoundly relevant play on a regional tour.

“We open at the Connaught Theatre on March 3 and all the venues are actually contracted now and the tickets are on sale. We have got more than 30 venues. I think it is about 32 and we tour until the end of April. It is our biggest tour to date and it could have been even bigger had we not had to reschedule the original tour for later. In the process of rescheduling we lost a couple of venues because of diary congestion but we have also gained some new venues which is good.

“But we did have the disappointing news that our Arts Council funding bid for the project was unsuccessful. This was our second attempt and I thought that we had rectified all the issues that we had with the first application. We thought we would get it this time because we had addressed all these things, but we didn’t. I said to my co-directors ‘What are we going to do? Are we going to go ahead?’ We decided that we definitely should and we decided to put together a crowdfunding campaign.

“We need money to support the pre-production. There is always an enormous amount of money and expense in terms of building the set and getting the costumes together and marketing and printing, the amount of posters and flyers we have had to get together. And it’s also the rehearsals and the cost of the creatives, all that work that you have to do before the opening night.”

The point is that ticket sales alone cannot possibly cover the cost of the production and tour – “certainly not if you want good-quality productions such as we are trying to do. We take brave decisions in the plays that we want to do, artistically rich and socially relevant pieces and that does mean that we need subsidy and unfortunately we haven’t got that so that’s why we are fundraising.”

Ideally, Ross would like at least a couple of thousand pounds.

As for the play: “It is such a beautiful relevant piece. It was written in 1920 after the Spanish flu pandemic and after World War One. It is a ghost story but a story that explores loss and love and hope.

“This girl Mary Rose disappears on a Scottish island with her family when she is 12 years old. She mysteriously returns a month later unaware that she has been away. She grows up and gets married and returns there with her husband and young boy and she disappears again, this time for 20 years and when she comes back she hasn’t aged but everyone else has.

“The final scene in the play is so moving and uplifting. It is between her and her grown-up son that she does not recognise but he knows it is her and somehow he finds a way of releasing her to find peace so that she can move on to the next world”

Ross added: “By donating to Conn Artists, you will be supporting our cast and creatives across our company, improving the quality of how much we can invest into the show itself, helping us to promote it to wider audiences, pay our dedicated team a fair wage for their hard work and ultimately to create unforgettable memories to the thousands of audience members that are part of our live show experience.”