Founder vows theatre company will rise from the ashes

Founder vows theatre company will rise from the ashes

Founder vows theatre company will rise from the ashes

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The founder of a theatre company whose home burnt down in a devastating blaze has vowed it will rise from the ashes.

Lewes Repertory Theatre lost its home when the Phoenix Theatre and Studio off North Street was wrecked in a fire on Saturday night.

Founder Sean O’Kane said he has been left “as gutted as the building” when he saw the level of destruc tion but vowed to keep the drama group moving forward.

He said he would draw on community spirit and the same powers that helped him recover from a debilitating intestinal disease.

The award-winning group is now looking for a temporary home to host two plays it has been working on: a one-man show called PlayingPinter and Richard Deferred – about the discovery of Richard III’s body in a council carpark.

Mr O’Kane said he was also hop- ing to arrange a Phoenix Theatre benefit gig at a later date.

The 63-year-old said several artists had lost their work kept at the studio.

The artists included Julian Bell, Chelsea Winter and Helen Turner. Mr O’Kane said it was too early to calculate the exact financial loss from the blaze.

Fellow drama company, the Lewes Theatre Club, which operates from the Little Lewes Theatre, has had to issue announcements that it was not affected by the fire following a misunderstanding.

Organiser Pat Shrimpton said the company’s production of Richard III would be running until Saturday as planned.

Meanwhile, local band Scott Free, whose members escaped the burning theatre as they prepared for a scheduled gig, have launched a fundraising webpage to help recover the loss of most of their instruments and sound equipment.

The Lewes Repertory Theatre was formed after Mr O’Kane suffered a debilitating intestinal dis- ease which left him in a coma for five weeks, hospitalised him for 18 months and left him disabled and looking for a new career after being an actor for all of his professional career.

He said he was “absolutely elated” that no one was hurt and that 15 people were able to get out of the building and reach the safety of the fire assembly point.

He said: “The shock set in on Sunday when me and my wife went down to see the site, and I have to say I was as gutted as the building.”

Mr O’Kane said that messages of support had been pouring in from all over the country and as far afield as Australia.

He said: “The main thing is to keep the momentum going.

“There is a fantastic amount of community spirit attached to the theatre and it would be churlish of me not to respond to that.

“We are trying to take something quite disastrous, which is a real slap in the face, and get up and get going again.”

The cause of the fire is believed to be accidental.

To donate to Scott Free’s fund visit scottfreeband. bigcartel.com /product/donations-for-equipment or for more information on Lewes Repertory Theatre visit www. lewesrep.org.uk.

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