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Dancing debate sparked at town theatre

PUBLISHED: 11:54 15 November 2018

The Marina Theatre in Lowestoft. Picture: The Marina Theatre

The Marina Theatre in Lowestoft. Picture: The Marina Theatre

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Exciting shows, musicals and top-quality tribute acts are continuing to prove popular at a town theatre.

But much like the plot of the hit film and musical Footloose, dancing is sparking debate at the Marina Theatre in Lowestoft.

The popular theatre has launched a new dancing policy at the venue and is keen to hear from customers on the issue. As the theatre enjoys sell-out shows, it also means that some of the audience want to be able to get up and dance during performances, while others believe that dancing at shows should be banned altogether.

Paul Bain, operations manager at Marina, said: “We want our audience to really enjoy themselves when they come to see a show at the theatre and, when people come to watch a band or tribute act, of course we love to see them dancing and having a great time.

“The problem is that our building is very old and we are limited as to what we can reasonably accommodate. The regulations we have to abide by mean that we can’t have people standing or dancing in the aisles, meaning that people can only dance in front of their seats.

“This then presents another problem: this often means they’re blocking the view of the person sitting behind them. We have to be considerate, not everyone is able-bodied and some people may not want to be standing during a music event.”

In order to try and accommodate all, the Marina trialled splitting the auditorium in two in April – allowing dancing in the stalls, but not upstairs in the circle where the incline is too steep.

Mr Bain said: “This appears the best way forward, then we do have to consider that some people – such as wheelchair users - might not be able to climb up the stairs to be in the non-dancing area in the circle. If we had a lift in the building, the answer to the dilemma would be quite clear.”

The acquisition of funding for a lift has been on the theatre’s radar since it became a charitable trust in 2011.

The theatre’s chief executive, Emma Butler Smith, said: “We are putting accessibility at the forefront of our plans for the future. The theatre belongs to the town and we want the whole town to be able to use the space and enjoy it.

“The comfort and safety of our audience is always our top priority.”

Dancing policy

The theatre’s chief executive, Emma Butler Smith, said: “The installation of a lift would be immensely beneficial, but the cost and the structural work required is significant.

“The theatre must receive funding to implement developing the building in that way and it is now, more than ever, necessary.”

In the absence of a lift, or any other cure-all solution, the theatre publically launched a new dancing policy with the release of their new brochure.

Emma Butler Smith, said: “Dancing is not allowed in the Circle or the aisles of the Stalls. Dancing is allowed within the Stalls, with the exception of the three rows at the front.

“These will be reserved for those who wish to remain seated. It’s not a perfect solution, but it’s the best we can manage at this point in time with the resources we have.

“We are, of course, happy to receive feedback from customers on the issue and have this ongoing conversation.”

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