Disappointment for some Havering parents as off-West End show moved to school

Months of pride anticipating their children perform in a “spectacular” show “off London’s West End” turned to anger for a group of parents after the show was transferred to a leaky school hall.

The Make Believe theatre school auditioned and trained children in Romford for a production advertised as: “An amazing experience… there is no fee for this opportunity.”

Parents were told however, that they needed to sell a minimum of eight tickets, priced �15-�25, for their children to take part in the Shaw Theatre production.

More than 130 performances took part in the weekend’s four shows, according to the company.

This week 17 parents or grandparents phoned the Recorder unhappy about last weekend’s shows, although other parents have backed it.

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Make Believe director Joel Kern said: “The show was a huge success and the majority of parents really enjoyed it.”

David Hart, from Rainham, watched daughter Chelsea-Lee, 12. He said: “Three weeks before the show they sent out a letter which said the theatre had changed their management and put their prices up by three times or more so it couldn’t be there anymore.”

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Lee Nolan, from Romford, who paid to see his daughter Layla perform, said: “He promised us a theatre and it was just in a school.

“They were so bunched up we couldn’t really see them on the stage.”

King Solomon High School, Barkingside, where the performances were held, is also the company headquarters.

Diane Grace, from Rainham, went to see her daughter Rebecca, 15, in the show.

She said: “She was really excited at first, obviously she wanted to do the show in the West End. The worst thing is that the children have been let down.”

But other parents defended the show.

Paula Cubberley, the mother of Sonny, 12, from Basildon, said: “My son has Asperger’s Syndrome, a form of autism, and since he joined Make Believe the confidence it has given him has completely changed him.”

Marion Mann, from Hornchurch, watched her daughter Gabrielle, 12. She said: “It would have been worse if Joel had had to cancel the show, he did the best he could.”

Mr Kern said that he would not give any of the unhappy parents a refund because it cost him the same amount to put the show in the school – when allowing for hired lighting and seating.

He added: “We’ve not actually made money on the shows. We have to give the children 20 weeks’ worth of training.”

A spokesman for The Shaw Theatre said that Make Believe had known the cost of venue hire, paid a deposit and agreed a contract, based on a price which did not change after they had booked the October performance.

Mr Kern said that there were “issues” with The Shaw Theatre, apart from the cost of hire, which he was unhappy about – meaning the venue had to change – but declined to say what they were.

He also admitted there was a leak in the ceiling of the hall but said it had been dealt with promptly.

To give your view on the performance email ian.weinfass@archant.co.uk, leave a comment below or Tweet us @romfordrecorder.

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