Waterside Theatre criticism surprises council boss

Waterside Theatre
Waterside Theatre
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The Vale’s political guardian of the Waterside Theatre says he is ‘very surprised’ at recent criticism of the venue.

Critics claim the theatre’s programme lacks quality shows and there’s too many ‘dark’ periods when nothing is on.

The departure of previous boss Jamie Baskeyfield after only a few months in charge and his replacement by former boss Elizabeth Adlington, who is also chief at Oxford, has also been attacked.

But David Thompson, cabinet member for leisure at Aylesbury Vale District Council, which owns the £47m theatre, said: “I’m very surprised.

“I wouldn’t class it as a B list theatre.

“We have a theatre on our doorstep where from time to time we get pre and post West End shows.

“We get a fairly good cross section of rock, pop, ballet, opera and plays.

“There is always a dark period in between various shows, but I am not aware that the Waterside is in any more of a dark period than any other.”

He is encouraging people to contact him personally with views about the theatre.

Mr Thompson meets every quarter with the operators and said: “We want to increase entertainment for people in Aylesbury.

“If it’s not working we need to know about it because we can have an input into the ATG programming.”

This year shows have included The Mousetrap, Birds of a Feather, Jack Dee and two Friars gigs as well as shows involving local groups and individuals.

More than £500,000 of taxpayers’ money is spent annually on the Waterside but Mr Thompson said he thought the taxpayers of Aylesbury were getting value for money.

Several readers have contacted The Bucks Herald complaining about the Waterside.

Frances King from Aylesbury said: “Go on the ATG websites for Aylesbury, Oxford and CMK and I think you’ll agree Aylesbury comes a pretty poor third.

“Every weekend we search the entertainment sections of the newspapers in the hope of spotting something worthwhile coming to Aylesbury, but rarely is there anything, whereas Oxford, CMK and even Wycombe are mentioned quite regularly.

“Perhaps AVDC made the wrong decision to employ ATG to promote Waterside. After all, it stands to reason, they don’t want to take the bums off the seats of their established Oxford and Milton Keynes venues.

“One thing is for sure, they are not ‘breaking a leg’ to promote our theatre. Things started to look up when Jamie Baskeyfield came on the scene.

“He seemed to be making moves in the right direction, but, woe is me, he was gone in less than six months and Elizabeth Adlington is back in charge.

“This is probably not good news for Aylesbury because she is now head honcho of both Waterside and Oxford – and no guesses as to which venue will benefit most!”

Another reader, who did not wish to be named said: “As a lifelong theatre-goer, West End and regional, I like to support our wonderful theatre, the best thing that has ever happened to Aylesbury in a long time,but with such a dire summer programme I am struggling.

“With so many repeats and some very curious productions I wonder who actually decides what is best for Aylesbury. Who for instance suggested Two of a Kind for a week long run, a Terrence Rattigan long forgotten play resurrected from the archives and not previously performed in the last 40 plus years – I wonder why, and another return to a second-rate musical Save the Last Dance for Me, which if anything like its previous performance could learn a lot from a decent amateur company.”

“Come on ATG give us the good stuff.”

They said of Mr Baskeyfield’s departure:

“He was a people person interested in what locals require and full of enthusiasm.

“How can the theatre possibly be at its best with only a shared manager, who pops in now and again.

“I sincerely hope that the council are in discussions with ATG to ascertain exactly what they are playing at.

“If, in the future, I read the theatre is not doing as well as expected due to attendances, that will be the responsibility of ATG and not the local population, who are crying out for first class entertainment.”The theatre, run by Ambassador Theatre Group (ATG) has been criticised by Herald readers for its ‘dire’ summer programme and under-use of its facilities.

Elizabeth Adlington was unavailable for comment.