From the outside, Abbeydale Picture House looks like a monument to faded glory, shabby but architecturally impressive.
Step inside and you’ll see the results of nearly a decade of blood sweat and tears by a dedicated team of volunteers committed to restoring the iconic landmark in Sheffield.
Their campaign to save the 93-year-old building has reached a critical stage. The building was repossessed by mortgage lenders, following a change of mortgage policy which increased repayments from £600 to £2,600 a month.
Bought by the Friends of Abbeydale Picture House group seven years ago, the organisation has been scraping together funds to keep it afloat.
Curious to see what improvements had been made by the Friends since my last visit six years ago and an invitation to review the holiday rock show HI-de-Hi led me back to this atmospheric building.
The biggest transformation was in the auditorium, where rows of comfortable seats replaced rickety chairs and tables and floor covering made the journey down the central aisle so much easier.
Improvements like this don’t come cheap, which is why Abbeydale Theatre Company mounted its one-off production last week.
Producer and director Ben Miller assembled a company of amateur actors who spent nearly a year bringing the tale of a British holiday camp in 1959 from the page to the stage.
Their hard work was apparent as bright yellow blazers, sunshine smiles and cheery catchphrases such as HI-de-HI and Welcome Campers lit up the vast dark, auditorium.
Spectators were invited up on stage to take part in ugly face and knobbly knees competition, with sticks of rock for the winners, and join in a summer sing-song.
Most popular yellow coat girl crown went to Sylvia (an excellent performance from Molly Needham) who got the audience on side by working the tables in the Hawaiian-decorated bar prior to curtain up.
But as any Hi-de-Hi devotee will tell you, the show is all about Peggy the chalet maid, Gladys the queen of the tannoy and Jeffrey the posh entertainments manager.
Charlotte Gascoyne, who cut her teeth in Dronfield’s Gosforth Youth Theatre, was on sparkling form as Peggy. She made the most of her role the endearingly batty trolley-pusher who dreamed of becoming a Yellow Coat.
Agnetha Spencer’s brought a subtle Welsh accent to the role of Gladys as well as a powerful singing voice and stage presence.
One of the best performances came from Toby Steers who gave his stuffed shirt character Jeffrey a cut-glass accent and awkward manner. He also made a great job of playing drunk.
Comic routines from the prima donnas of ballroom dancing Barry Stuart Hargreaves and his wife Yvonne were beautifully handled by Gareth Carson and Helen Critchley.
A pat on the back too for Adam Walker, playing Ted Bovis, who had just a few days to learn the part after the originally cast actor had to pull out due to family commitments.
Technical issues meant the start of Saturday’s matinee was delayed for 15 minutes, microphones crackled and popped a bit in the second half but it didn’t detract from the feel good holiday atmosphere created by the cast.
Photos by Alan Thompson