Published: 05:00, 15 January 2022
"You will never see a pantomime in my time here."
Those are the bold words of the artistic director at the Trinity Theatre in Tunbridge Wells, Sean Turner. But his theatrical pedigree does support the pledge.
Best known for uncovering No Villain, the first show by Arthur Miller, directing its world premiere production and subsequent West End transfer, and for being the associate director of The Play That Goes Wrong in the West End, he knows a thing or two about theatre.
Presiding over the historic but bijou theatre's 40th anniversary this year, after joining last year, is also a time of great change for the Church Road venue, as Sean has big plans.
The biggest is to become a theatre which does not just stage productions, but creates them too.
"We are trying to move more into the realm of being a producing theatre," said Sean.
He is bringing a play which is in a similar vein to the Christmas show, the Prince and the Pauper – which was, Sean stresses, not a pantomime.
The Miraculous Mis-adventures of Robin Hood will run from Thursday, February 10 to Wednesday, February 16.
"It was a play I directed just before I first arrived here," says Sean.
"It is a folk tale – one of Britain's best-loved folk tales. It features five actors on stage trying to remember the story of Robin Hood and it's lots of fun."
Legally Blonde: The Musical will follow on Friday and Saturday, February 18 and 19, based on the Reese Witherspoon movie.
There will also be a major production, which is still under wraps, in the spring.
But the situation for theatres has been precarious over the last two years.
"I'm not going to pretend it hasn't been difficult. Just surviving from month to month has been a big part of it," he says.
"Looking forward and thinking about all these wonderful things we can do has been constantly tempered with will we get there?
"At the same time, it is incredibly exciting. I am excited for the future."
Other big changes include excavating the whole of the clock tower so that it will become an exhibition and heritage space, where there will be details of the history of the Grade II-listed building and the town.
It will eventually have a viewing platform, which has a bird's eye view of Tunbridge Wells, looking down the hill.
This is expected to be open around April or May.
"The plan here is to turn us into a nationally recognised centre for theatrical arts but at the same time we are also aware that we are very much rooted in the community of Tunbridge Wells," he says.
There will also be a series of literary events, called the Open Page, featuring famous authors, and bi-weekly music events with acoustic music and folk musicians.
Trinity also now runs weekly workshops and hopes to stage a mini podcast festival in the spring too, alongside chair dancing, cinema screenings and opportunities for young people to find out more about theatre.