Letter from Marion

Letter from Marion

Dear Lyceum,

Ours wasn’t a family that went to the theatre. The occasional Variety Show at the Palladium, or the treat of a Panto at the King’s, but you were a near neighbour (I grew up in the West Port, a few streets away from your home in Grindlay Street). We did go to the cinema, me and my brothers, to the Poole’s Synod Hall, which backed onto you, in Castle Terrace. My first memory of you was when my Mum worked as a barmaid in the Garrick Bar, as it was in the 1960s, when I was around 12 years old. I particularly remember her and my dad going to a production of Sean O’Casey’s ‘Juno and the Paycock’, with comp tickets given to her by one of the actors.

I had always enjoyed being in plays at Primary School, and my interest grew at Secondary School, when we started studying Shakespeare. I don’t remember many school trips to see live theatre, but I enjoyed reading plays and taking part in school productions. I left school when I was 16 and started work in an office. One of my colleagues belonged to an amateur drama group based in a church in Leith and sold me a ticket to see a production of Arthur Miller’s ‘All My Sons’. I joined the group - Kirkgate Church Dramatic Society (now Leitheatre) in January 1971 and that is when I became a regular theatre goer, and the Lyceum was, and still is, my favourite.

I have a spreadsheet of (most) of the theatre shows I have seen from 1973, not complete, but pretty accurate and you are my most visited theatre, 315 times. (The next nearest is the Traverse, at a mere 162 visits).

When I first started visiting you regularly, a lot of the productions were in the Lyceum Little Theatre and it was where I first saw Gregor Fisher, playing an old man in Entertaining Mr Sloan. Other memorable productions I saw there were A Midsummer Night’s Dream with David Rintoul, and, in 1980, a production of Bent, by Martin Sherman. Bent stays in my memorybecause I went to see it with my friend Irene. Irene was, and still is, a member of another local amateur theatre group, Edinburgh People's Theatre. On the night we went to the Lyceum Little Theatre to see the play, the performance was cancelled, I think due to cast illness. A few of the audience and cast retired to the main theatre bar. Irene and I spotted one of the cast, Alan Rothwell, being talked at by someone we knew as being a bit of a bore, so, after having a few wines, we decided to rescue him. We managed to start a conversation with Alan, and he was absolutely charming. We knew him mainly as playing Ken Barlow's brother David in Coronation Street. At that time, Irene was a teacher of hearing impaired children at St Giles school in Edinburgh, and during our conversation with him that night, he agreed to come and talk to her children, at the school, about his career, and the life of an actor. (Many years later, at the Lyceum's 50th Anniversary party, I saw Alan in the foyer, and reminded him of that production. He was his usual charming self, and told me that he had come that night to celebrate the occasion, because he had such fond memories of his time here, and the wonderful, warm welcome that the theatre, and Edinburgh, had extended to the company.)

That was in the early 80s when, I think, the Season Ticket was introduced, and I went regularly to see all the productions. During the 1985 season, my friend Kathryn was working as ASM for the company, and we would meet her after shows to hear all the backstage gossip.

In the late 80s and early 90s I had to curtail my theatre going a bit to look after my children, but soon got back, and carried on visiting you, my favourite theatre, and introducing the children to the wonders of live theatre by taking them to the brilliant Christmas shows you put on.

My daughter joined a drama class when she was eight, and it was from then on that she decided she wanted a career in theatre. Once again, the Lyceum became even more a part of our life when she became a member of LYT when she was eleven. For the next eight years, as well as attending shows in the main house, we saw many ‘sharings’, and full productions on the main stage, the highlights being when she as one of the creatures in the 2008/09 Christmas show ‘The Lion, The Witch and the wardrobe and playing Lucy in ‘‘Success’ in 2009 as part of the NT Connections Festival. Kim went to RSAMD (now Royal Conservatoire of Scotland) to study on the Contemporary Performance Practice course, and when she graduated in 2013, her first job was as an intern at the Lyceum, working with the Youth Theatre. (Another link to the you and other parts of our lives, we saw the production on The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie in February 2003, when the whole audience was made up of staff, pupils and parents from James Gillespie’s High School, which was celebrating its 200th anniversary.)

Two years ago, I joined the Creative 60 group, and, even now, we meet through video link so we can continue to be creative in these strange times. So, from attending as an audience member, being a season ticket holder since the start, a parent of a LYT member, and now creating performances with my class, you have always been a part my life. I found out today that you will not be opening again until Spring of 2021, and am really sad that it will be so long before I can sit again, in the Stalls, seat J15, waiting in anticipation for the house lights to go down, and the curtain comes up on another wonderful play. However, like all my absent friends, you will be forever in my thoughts, and when we do meet again, I am sure our friendship will continue. Thank you for all the memories, for being such a big part of my life, and for giving me so much joy over the years. Until we meet again, take care.

Love, Marion

Marion Donohoe

Tags: From Audience