25 January 2022

Rachel’s Theatre Challenge 2022 – I’m off!

By Rachel Sloane


Theatre number one: Gallery Studio, Ipswich 22.1.22

The Gallery Studio, Ipswich

After the disappointment of the postponed Queen Extravaganza tour at The Regent, Ipswich, the first theatre I’ve been to in 2022 is the Gallery Studio in Ipswich to see the Common Ground Theatre Company, on the closing night of their Christmas tour of ‘Sherlock Holmes meets Count Dracula’. 

Common Ground Theatre Company tour 2021-22

A mad two hour romp of music and laughter, written by Pat Whymark, we had coffins, spooky brides, smugglers, a ‘body’ suspended from a wall, bats, rats, a giant  crab….oh, and contraband sausages featured heavily! The main characters were Julian Harries, (playing Sherlock Holmes, accordion and keyboard) Emily Bennett, (Mrs Hudson, keyboard and violin), Dick Mainwaring (Dr Watson), and Philip Michell (Dracula and guitar), but the cast created multiple characters, swapping wigs and costumes almost faster than you could blink. If you sadly missed the tour, watch out for another feast of non-panto madness in December 2022/January 2023. The Common Ground website will have details of all their productions. www.commongroundtc.co.uk

So… to the Gallery Studio, Ipswich. 

Built as a chapel in 1812 then used as a store for Ipswich Museum, it is owned by Ipswich Borough Council . In 1992 it was opened as a 100 seater studio theatre for small scale productions by the Wolsey Theatre, (now the New Wolsey) just down the road. 

The Gallery Players, was formed in 1985 by the late Pat Taplin, to produce rarely performed plays and musicals to a high quality, that larger companies would find uneconomic or which only use a few actors. In 2021 the dream came true for the Gallery Players, to have their own theatre, taking over the lease and creating the Gallery Studio. It has a colourful and welcoming bar in the entrance hall with stairs, (and a lift) to the upper floor’s intimate performance space, with its raked tiers of seating and excellent sightlines. 

“The Studio opened less than a year ago, just after the last lockdown ended,” Steve Taplin from Gallery Players told me. “Despite everything that’s been against live theatre this last two years we’ve been very pleased with our first 6 months. The audience is starting to grow, and we have a full programme for this year with a wonderful variety of plays and musicals to tempt back our loyal audience to the unique experience of live theatre.”

I have already booked for ‘Celebrating Sondheim’ a Gallery Players production on 19th February. (They have a reputation for excellent Sondheim productions. I will report back!)

The Gallery Studio is available for hire. 

Details of their programme for 2022: 


Rachel Sloane has challenged herself to visit every theatre in Suffolk in 2022. BBC Radio Suffolk is following her journey on the Georgy Jamieson show on Monday nights, and reports will be on Rachel’s website and social media. A roundup of the year will be in the January 2023 edition of Suffolk Norfolk Life magazine, where the challenge was launched in January 2022. .