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Ipswich theatre company to open £1m venue

Designs for the new Avenue Theatre in Ipswich
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Ipswich theatre and film company Red Rose Chain is to open a 120-seat flexible venue this autumn, which will enable it to produce more work year-round.

The Avenue Theatre will allow the company, which currently stages shows in the summer at an open-air 600-seat auditorium at a nearby farm and other site-specific locations, to increase its programme and create smaller productions.

Plans are being developed to build the £1 million venue – which will be designed to look like a barn – on the back of the grade-II* listed Tudor manor house where the company’s offices are based.

Plays, musicals, concerts and comedy nights will be programmed in the new space, which will also be available for hire to visiting companies.

The Heritage Lottery Fund has contributed £800,000 to the build, while Suffolk County Council, Ipswich Borough Council and private donors have provided the remaining £200,000.

Red Rose Chain artistic director Joanna Carrick said the company would continue to stage its open-air Theatre in the Forest programme in the summer.

She added that the new space would provide a hub for the local communities it works with, such as those who have mental health conditions or are recovering from drug addictions.

Carrick said: “This new space means a massive deal to our company. We work with the most marginalised people and this building will intensify that and give people a place to be. For all our audiences it will be a really inclusive place and will mix up audiences with participants in an interesting way.”

The Avenue Theatre will launch in September with a new play written by Carrick about Queen Elizabeth I visiting Ipswich in 1561.

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