The seasonal theatre productions in St Edmund’s Hall in Southwold are amongst the highlights of the summer for many residents and visitors to the town.
The theatre was formed in 1980 by a small group touring popular classics in East Anglia. Under the directorship of Jill Freud early performances included The Canterbury Tales and Cider with Rosie. On the opening night of the summer programme in July 1984, Jill’s husband Clement Freud said, ‘I have lost a wife this summer but Southwold has gained a theatre’. That year the company had purchased a mobile theatre with ranked seating, meaning that larger audiences could now be accommodated.
Subsequent performances have grown annually in both popularity and size. Performances remembered most fondly by local residents include A Funny Thing Happened on the way to the Forum (1997), 39 Steps (1990) and Jane Eyre (2000). Children’s shows are also performed each year, currently there are six children’s shows each season.
Broadcaster and Journalist Libby Purves looks back fondly on her annual visits to the theatre saying; ‘Thank goodness we have a perfect summer theatre’. Local residents are proud of the theatre and what Jill and her team have achieved. Many are involved with the running of the performances year on year, from box office to back stage.
Local support for Jill Freud and her work for the Southwold Theatre is shown by the immense support received from local business. Each Spring the Southwold Theatre raises 20,000 from sponsors and benefactors: an indication of just how important an institution the theatre company has become for this part of the Suffolk Coast.