ONE of the most atmospheric venues in the region is the Shelley Theatre near the clifftop at Southbourne. Originally the private theatre for the Shelley family (Percy, son of Mary, the author of Frankenstein and widow of poet Percy Bysshe).
It is a charming Victorian gem, an ongoing restoration project which is hidden within a health centre and adjoining apartments. In the time it has been open, it has become the focus for some of the most exciting music, cinema and theatre in Bournemouth, and a regular venue for the Arts By The Sea Festival.
The Shelley’s varied and adventurous programming is a joy for those of us old enough to remember that Bournemouth used to have a really vibrant arts and cultural scene – back in the days when the Palace Court Theatre at the back of the Palace Court Hotel (now the Premier Inn on Westover Road) had a rep company as well as being the home for the local theatre club, when the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra was based at the Winter Gardens, which was also a brilliant rock venue (Gay saw The Beatles there) and the Pavilion regularly hosted wonderful ballet and opera from Sadlers Wells and tours by the Royal Shakespeare Company.
The January and February programme ranges from an “adult” pantomime to the brilliant folk duo Edgelarks, from a silent film extravaganza to John Peel’s Shed!
Bourne Free performs A-lad-in, “Bournemouth’s alternative pantomime,” from 9th to 13th January, followed by a stylish soiree with Musique a Trois, recreating the classic French chanson, on Friday 18th.
The Cabinet of Living Cinema has a double bill on Saturday 19th with live music accompaniment to the classic German Expressionist film, The Cabinet of Doctor Caligari (1920) and Mary Shelley’s Future Shocks, a graphic novel animation which combines the words of Frankenstein with Yuval Harari’s vision of “upgraded” humanity from his book Homo Deus. The performance also features extracts from sci-fi films of the 1920s. This amazing evening begins at 7.30pm.
Folk singer Steve Knightley, a singer-songwriter in his own right as well as half of duo Show of Hands, comes to Bournemouth Folk Club at the Shelley on Friday 25th, and the brilliant Edgelarks (Philip Henry and Hannah Martin) are the guests on 23rd February.
There is laughter and music from Tim Fitzhigham and Duncan Walsh Atkins in Flanders and Swann: At The Drop of a Hippopotamus, on Saturday 2nd February, and fun and laughs in Bumper Blyton: The Improvised Adventure with The Make ‘Em Ups on Saturday 9th.
Valentine’s weekend brings romantic music from local star violinist Jack Maguire, a former leader of the BSO, on Friday 15th, and horror on Saturday 16th when Dirt in the Gate Movies present Nightmare on Elm Street 1 and 2.
Big Litttle Theatre School students perform an adaptation of Louisa May Alcott’s much-loved Little Women on 20th to 22nd February, and the month ends with John Osborne in a one-man show with music, telling stories about John Peel and playing records from the legendary broadcaster’s collection, on Thursday 28th.
Pictured: The Cabinet of Dr Caligari, and Edgelarks.