Doncaster’s Cast theatre celebrates its first birthday

Kully Thiarai, the director of  Cast.

Kully Thiarai, the director of Cast.

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With 164 shows watched by a grand total of 71,784 people, you’d think Cast executive director Kully Thiari would be taking a well-earned break as Doncaster’s newest theatre venue celebrates its first birthday.

This time last year, the showpiece £22 million replacement for the town’s crumbling Civic Theatre had just opened its doors, a curious Doncaster public taking a peek behind its impressive Sir Nigel Gresley Square facade for the very first time.

Now, 12 months on, the venue has become a firm favourite on both the local and national theatrical scene and has welcomed everything and everyone from the worlds of dance, music, theatre, comedy and drama to the stage.

But Kully won’t be resting on her laurels. She’s determined the groundwork laid down in the last year will continue to make Cast a real force on the UK theatrical circuit.

She says: “It has been a great first year, the last 12 months have been really exciting and the feedback we have had from the public has been fantastic.

“When we first started, you’d talk to people and they wouldn’t know where Cast was and would have to ask.

“Now people know we are in Doncaster and what we are doing.”

The venue sparked controversy in its early days, with acts that had played the Civic in its heyday replaced by more modern contemporary productions and performers and there were complaints that Doncaster-based theatre and dance groups had been forced out.

However, Cast has moved to welcome in some old favourites and last year’s pantomime, Cinderella, proved to be a huge smash hit, bringing in some of the biggest crowds for the festive spectacular in years.

Adds Kully: “The range and diversity of the programme in the first year has provided something for everyone and we are pleased at how things have been welcomed.

“People still talk about The Glee Club (Cast’s opening production) and Cinderella in positive terms. We wanted to become Doncaster’s cultural living room and we think we have achieved that.”

The Arts Council has also put its faith in the building - increasing funding to the venue by 122 per cent - and the money will be spent on developing even more acts and shows over the coming weeks and months.

A birthday production of Yorkshire favourite Kes will completed its run yesterday and other major works lined up in the autumn winter programme include Shakespeare classic Othello, much loved poet and comedienee Pam Ayres, stand-up star Lee Hurst as well as scores of other music, drama and dance productions.

Kully says: “It actually feels like we have been here a very long time, far more than a year, which is a real marker of our success.

“We want to continue to grow and establish ourselves as a centre of excellence. We have had people from London, the north, all over coming to see us. My aim is to hear people talking about Cast in a few years time in the way that people talk about the big regional theatres.

“Cast is here for everyone and we’re looking forward to welcoming even more people through the doors in the years ahead.”