Last year, we collected memories of The Watermill Theatre from audience members, creative teams, staff, and outreach participants celebrating our 50th anniversary year. Here's a collection of the memories shared.
Watermill Memory #14
'The Watermill is our home from home!'
Spend, Spend, Spend. Photo by Robert Day
I have been visiting The Watermill for over 25 years. I was introduced to the theatre by my mum and have been captivated ever since. Sadly she died in 2005 but I always think of her when I visit which is a lovely legacy for me.
My mum, treated my sons and I to the annual pantomimes. One show that stands out is King Rollo in 1988 and the wonderful after theatre afternoon teas with cakes and biscuits based on the characters in the play. Christmas at The Watermill is magical.
Since meeting my partner Neil 9 years ago, I introduced him to the theatre. Our first play together was Blithe Spirit. Since then we attend most productions along with a super lunch in the restaurant. Our favourite play of all time has to be Spend, Spend, Spend, which we saw three times and got to meet the super Mr Craig Revel-Horwood.
A few years ago, Neil said it would be lovely to have a seat named and, low and behold, we have now done this! We chose the wording from Shakespeare as his plays are a joy and how appropriate that 'all the worlds a stage' both on and off stage!
The Watermill is truly a 'theatre for all seasons'. The grounds are glorious in the Spring and Summer, the trees in the Autumn and the roaring fire in the restaurant during the Winter. It is our home from home!
Watermill Memory #13
A Shakespeare proposal in the Watermill restaurant
Roy and Carole Oldham
"My wife and I became engaged after a memorable performance in May 1983 of Romeo and Juliet. The production featured a young Sean Bean, in his first professional engagement as Tybalt, then known as Shaun Behan. After the performance, in the candle-lit restaurant, I had arranged for a bottle of champagne to arrive between the first two courses, after I had proposed. Afterwards we learnt that all the kitchen staff were behind the half-open kitchen door, observing progress, and on tenterhooks wondering what would happen to the champagne and the rest of the meal if Carole said ‘No’. In the event all went according to plan and we still have the champagne cork! Since that date we have seen almost every Watermill production. Even after 33 years of marriage, my wife still loves us both – me and Shaun Behan!”
Roy and Carole Oldham
Watermill Memory #12
Inspired by Cold Comfort Farm
My first visit to the Watermill was for a production of Cold Comfort Farm, back in the 80's I think. I was amazed, I had never seen theatre like it and it probably encouraged me to take up amateur acting.
Watermill Memory #11
Familiar faces becoming professional actors
Actors Peter Dukes (right) and Tom Chambers (left)
met the Coates family after performing in Crazy For You.
My husband and I used to ferry our now grown up children to local am-drams for many years. Many of the then aspiring actors became family friends. We keep in touch and come together to watch wherever each of them may be performing today. In 2016 such an occasions occurred when we came to watch Crazy for you which included Peter Dukes alongside a family favourite in Tom Chambers, we even got to meet them after the show in the Watermill bar. A fabulous evening was had by the whole family.
Watermill Memory #10
A Watermill wedding
My boyfriend and I moved to Newbury in 1991 and were soon regular visitors to The Watermill. When we got married we were delighted to discover that we could hold our wedding reception here. It was a very happy day - the food was delicious and the staff went out of their way to make sure everything went to plan. It was 22 years ago this year and The Watermill is still a special place for us, as we fondly remember our wedding day every time we visit. Our daughter Emily has also fallen under The Watermill’s spell. She loved doing work experience here last year and she’s now a member of Associate Youth Theatre, as well as volunteering as an usher and helping to run one of the Saturday morning children's groups. A member of the National Youth Theatre, she hopes to go on to drama school and one day dreams of being in a production at The Watermill.
Watermill Memory #9
26 years of Seasonal Sauce
Richard Smith fondly recalls annual visits to watch Miss Helen Watson’s popular Seasonal Sauce. This long standing Watermill favourite ran for 26 years!
I have 26 best memories of the Watermill… I am proud to say [that] i saw every one of the old time music hall productions (latterly named Seasonal Sauce). i took many friends and family every year and they were some of the happiest times for myself and for many others… Some more laughter... in a fast becoming dull world we need to laugh more and come out of the theatre feeling happy, uplifted and feeling good about the world... as we did with the music hall.
Watermill Memory #8
Oliver! Singing in the garden...
My husband and I, together with our friends, have over many, many years regularly enjoyed the fantastic and varied entertainment the Watermill offers which always rivals West End performances with their first-class acting. On every occasion we marvel at the use of limited stage space and clever scenery. So many fond memories. We particularly loved Oliver when we saw the workhouse children "working outside the theatre" keeping in their characters and then, during the interval, the cast set up a sing-a-long in the garden, playing their musical instruments - magical! Here's to the next 50 years!
John and Jean Bayliss
Watermill Memory #7
A favourite production
Christmas Cat and the Pudding Pirates
‘From many: Christmas Cat and the Pudding Pirates. About 25 years ago. The audience participation to make the sounds of the sea, and the Captain inspecting the front row. My son, then aged about 5, loved it so much we had to go again.’
Watermill Memory #6
Peforming on The Watermill stage
‘Over the 8 years of my visits to the Watermill, my most memorable experience must be partaking in The Bard Unbound 2 years ago when as part of a delightful small group we were asked to perform a small sketch from Shakespeare’s play The Two Gentlemen of Verona. After 5 or 6 rehearsals we had the privilege of performing on stage watched by a packed out theatre of fellow participants as well as our families. This was a wish come true for me, on many occasions as an audience member I secretly hoped to perform on stage.
My fiercest of critics (family members) said they dreaded watching me perform in case I slipped up and when our sketch was indeed successfully completed they apparently sighed with relief and oh, incidentally thought I was super on stage! Our love affair with The Watermill Theatre will no doubt continue.’
Watermill Memory #5
Shakespeare at The Watermill
I first came to The Watermill as a fan of Propeller. All my memories of those times are wonderful and we got to know quite a few of the actors. One of my best memories is seeing a stunning Winter's Tale and having coffee after with Tony Bell who was still wearing eyeliner and gold dust on his face from playing Autolycus. I hope there will be lots more of the great Shakespeare that Paul Hart has been directing in the last two seasons and that a great many young people will love the Bard as a result… The Watermill is one of my favourite places on earth... I always go home feeling invigorated.
Watermill Memory #4
From New York to Newbury
From my home in NY a visit back to the UK must whenever possible include a trip to your splendid bastion of English theater and cultural life - for us it has been a family tradition. This February it will be my special treat to bring my mother to celebrate her 95th birthday… Above is a photo of my mother with one of her great grandchildren who has already been to the Watermill several times. May she be bringing her children here in years to come!
Watermill Memory #3
Working at The Watermill
‘I did my work placement at the Watermill as an ASM from the technical course of the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in 1992 & stayed on for a bit; in total I worked on The Deep Blue Sea, The Card & Macbeth. I've never worked so hard since but equally I've never felt more part of a company, spending time with people more like family than colleagues who worked, ate & played together… the happiest of days.’
Watermill Memory #2
Remembering stormy seas in The Tempest
‘The production which had me hooked on going to the Watermill was The Tempest. I took my youngest daughter and we both felt so completely immersed in that first scene that we thought our seats were being rocked by stormy seas and we could almost feel the salty spray on our faces. The best theatre experience ever. The Watermill has taught me that the best theatre experiences can be had from small theatre spaces.‘
Watermill Memory #1
Christmas tea with Sleeping Beauty
Approximately one year ago, David and Gwenda Withnall celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary with their granddaughter Lily at The Watermill’s Christmas production Sleeping Beauty…
Lily with Rachel Winters, Beauty in Sleeping Beauty
On this 'our' 50th Wedding Anniversary we recall bringing our 3 year old granddaughter, Lily to see Sleeping Beauty. We sat on the edge of the stage and Lily's love of the show was enhanced whilst having her special tea, in the conservatory - the bad/good fairy AND Sleeping Beauty herself came to our table to say 'hello'! How sweet of them!'
David and Gwenda Withnall