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Managing director of The Mill at Sonning theatre expresses thanks to supporters for 'lifeline' donations

The managing director of a popular theatre in Sonning has expressed her thanks to supporters after receiving ‘lifeline’ donations.

The Mill at Sonning will reopen its theatre on Friday, October 30, following a nine-month closure due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Since celebrating its 38th birthday in July, the Mill has only been able to open its adjoining restaurant with the offer of reduced seating, however this, coupled with donations and fundraising from Mill Angel supporters and actor George Clooney and his wife Amal has given the theatre a ‘lifeline’ to ensure its survival.

Playwright Ray Cooney has also provided financial aid and will have the auditorium named after him.

The 2021 season is set to feature a series of productions, including a new production of Ray Cooney’s ‘Two into One’, Alan Aykbourn’s ‘Relatively Speaking’, Irving Berlin’s musical ‘Top Hat’, and the crime whodunit ‘Busman Honeymoon’, which will be directed by actor Brian Blessed.

Brian said: “Dorothy L Sayers is one of the greatest writers of The Golden Age of British crime fiction. This is her masterpiece.”

Due to the social distancing guidelines, the Mill will reopen at a reduced capacity of 70 customers for dinner and show.

Sally Hughes, managing director, told the Advertiser: [I’m] very excited about the reopening.

“All sorts of wonderful people have helped so that has kept us going because, we’ve gone from a theatre that has no subsidies, no grants. For 38 years, we lived on our box office, to suddenly having zilch, zero income coming in. So how do you cope with that with wages to pay and bills to pay?

“And also the customers, the customers really are the biggest angels because they have taken their tickets and put them into next year's season.”

She added: “The one man who has been amazing is the playwright Ray Cooney.

“He really helped us right at the beginning of the lockdown, financially, and he's rung me every week since and every weekend he rings. So we're having a special gala evening next August, on August 8, and we are naming the auditorium after him.”

Discussing the donations, she added: “[I want to say] just the hugest thank you.

“Every time I think about it I want to cry. It’s a very emotional thing.

“A few times I’ve opened an envelope and there’s been a cheque in there and I have burst into tears.

“I don’t think we would have got through without it. I mean, everything combined. And I count the customers that have moved their tickets into that fundraising, because that's been huge. So it has meant everything, it has meant survival.”

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