The Mayflower Theatre, in the heart of Southampton, celebrates its 30th birthday today (3rd September 2016). As the largest theatre on the South coast, with a seating capacity of 2,100, the theatre has become a cultural hub; housing many of the nation’s best loved shows. Having grown up in Southampton, and as an avid theatre goer, the Mayflower has been a very significant part of my childhood. It was the place where I saw my very first show (Postman Pat Live – yeah I’m cool), and also the place where I saw my favourite musical for the first time. I also had the honour of performing on its stage in a children’s choir many moons ago (though I don’t remember the occasion, I distinctly remember singing a song about the wind…). Over the years, the variety of shows there has widened and improved in leaps and bounds, and I feel privileged to have seen the number of shows that I have there. In honour of today’s special birthday, I’ll run through some of the best shows I’ve seen there over the last two decades.
Beauty and the Beast
As one of the earliest performances I ever saw at the Mayflower, Beauty and the Beast remains one of only two Disney shows that I’ve had the privilege to have seen live, the other being The Lion King. Admittedly, I don’t remember much of the performance apart from a few glimpses and where we were sat, but nevertheless, I hold it dear to me. The musical’s soundtrack is one I’ve revisited often in my teen years, and one that has made me fall in love with the animated film on which it’s based even more. As I’ve yearned recently for the unfulfilled wish to see it again, I feel happy to know that I did get the opportunity to see it, and in my own town.
Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat
This musical was one of the key parts of my childhood, and though the time I saw it was years ago, it has come to the Mayflower Theatre many times since. Only around a month ago, it’s most recent tour came to Southampton, starring Joe McElderry in the lead role. Being raised watching the Donny Osmond DVD way more than was probably socially acceptable, it was at the tender age of 6 I got the chance to see what was my then favourite musical live. This show is probably one of the first that I can actually recall, and I especially remember my favourite song in the show, ‘Close Every Door’. Every time this show has come to the Mayflower it has been met with wonderful reviews, and it brings so many people joy. I remember when some friends of mine saw it a few years back, and talked of a woman in the audience who not only came in her own technicolour coat, but danced in it in the aisles to the point where the cast joined her. If that’s not fun, I don’t know what is.
As the UK’s longest running musical, Les Misérables very rarely tours the country, preferring to stay resident in its London home of the Queen’s Theatre. However, in 2010, in honour of Les Mis’ 25th anniversary, a UK tour took place, and joyously Southampton ended up on its list of places to stop at. With an incredible cast featuring the likes of theatre veterans such as John Owen-Jones and Katie Hall, as well as Pop Idol sweetheart Gareth Gates; the show was a stunning performance of a classic. Although we were sat up in the balcony, I drank up every moment of it and fully immersed myself in the performances. This was the first time I was exposed to Les Mis, and thus began my love for it which is yet unrivaled by any other musical (though Hamilton, you’re getting close).
Having missed it the previous time it had come to Southampton, when I got to eventually see Hairspray, it was well worth the wait. A super fun show which had my Mum laughing the entire journey home, this performance at the Mayflower is one close to my heart. With Marcus Collins from The X Factor as Seaweed, among many other crazy talented performers, it was a wonderful cast and I’m glad it’s the one I saw. We had pretty good seats as well! Most memorable though, was during the number ‘Timeless to Me’, where the actors both started corpsing, and the entire auditorium couldn’t help but laugh along with them. See The Edge‘s review of Hairspray here!
One of the first of the Mayflower Youth Theatre’s summer project performances in 2013, their Bugsy was absolutely wonderful. Showcasing the talents of young actors from the local area, they were endlessly professional and put on a brilliant show. It was fun, moving, and all the young actors were so wonderful. Having me singing along to the songs both in the theatre, but also when I went home, the show was a great opportunity to show the prime location of the theatre and the ways it had inspired young people in the area to act.
When it was announced that Wicked would be ‘flying into Southampton’, I was absolutely thrilled. Having seen the show in London with school a few years before, I couldn’t wait to take my family along and see it in my home town. This was also made special by the fact that I paid for our tickets with my wages from my first job. The show was magical. Just as much of a visual spectacle as its London counterpart, the UK tour was even more special because I was watching this show I love in a venue which I adore. We happened to see it on a bit of an exciting night too – having fallen ill part way through the show and unable to hit the big notes, the standby for Elphaba took over, and we got to see two bad-ass women being awesome and green and that.
There are so many other shows I’ve seen over the years: Starlight Express, Sister Act, Peter Pan, Oliver!, Singing in the Rain; and so many that have come that I didn’t quite get to: To Kill a Mockingbird, Phantom of the Opera, Stomp, Dirty Dancing… The point is though, this venue is an exciting one, and so many of the country’s biggest titles have frequented this establishment. In the next year alone, Mamma Mia! and Billy Elliot are both visiting, and needless to say I am extremely eager to try and see them. As well as musicals, the theatre also gets many comedians, including Jimmy Carr and Sarah Millican, as well as ballets and operas. It is certainly an exciting venue, and I look forward to seeing the ways in which it progresses in its next 30 years. Most of all, I look forward to making even more memories in the years to come.
Happy Birthday to one of our favourite theatres, and one of our biggest supporters, The Mayflower Theatre! Love from your Edge friends x
Find out more about the Mayflower Theatre on its website.