Beyond The Barricade Interview

Beyond The Barricade comes to Camberley Theatre on Saturday 1 June.

Tickets here.

Interview with Andy Reiss from Beyond The Barricade

Andy

How did Beyond the Barricade come about and what should audiences expect from the show?

The original concept came about when David and I were performers in Les Miserables. I saw the potential of creating a concert version of some of the most popular songs from the musical theatre genre. I wanted to make sure the songs were true to the original versions, so that the audience could invest in sitting and listening to a concert version, but be completely immersed in the storytelling of each particular song. The added bonus of having 4 principal performers from Les Miserables meant that we could also without doubt show the pedigree of the performers. We take our audience on a journey through some of the greatest stage musicals, including Miss Saigon, Phantom of the Opera, Blood Brothers, The Lion King, Hamilton, and of course Les Miserables.

What roles did you play in Les Mis?

My primary roles were the Factory Foreman and Combeferre, but I was very fortunate to perform Enjolras in Dublin and Edinburgh on many occasions, and also played Valjean in Edinburgh.

 

What first triggered your love of music, and at what age?

I was always surrounded by music from an early age with my parents and grandparents being involved in Hednesford Salvation Army brass band, and by the age of 5 I had learnt how to read and play music. I think that definitely gave me a good grounding in music for my future. I played in a few bands during my later teenage years, but I always loved performing in the local musical theatre societies too

 

So did you start working in musical theatre as soon as you left school?

I didn’t actually. I went to university and studied economics with child care law, and worked within that field for a number of years. However most of my spare time was given over to performing on stage. I then attended an open audition for the first production of Les Miserables outside the West End, just because I wanted to give it a go – and was very surprised when they offered me a contract! I thought it would just be 12 months work and I would go back to my day job. I never dreamed I would end up touring with the show in Manchester, Dublin and Edinburgh, and then transferring to the West End. It was also a great privilege to return to Les Mis, as the Resident Director for the first National Tour.

Katy

With such a wide variety of musicals would you say this is a show for Musical Theatre fans or would you say there is something for everyone?

We get terrific feedback after the shows. We have a lot of people saying that we have introduced them to new shows. We have just introduced Hamilton into our concert, so our audiences can also have a sprinkling of more modern musicals too. Beyond the Barricade can travel further afield to where the big touring shows don’t reach. People tell us that we have persuaded them to go and see more theatre which is great. It is the same with Les Misérables, amazingly even though it has been going for over thirty years, we still get people writing saying that we have introduced them to the music of this phenomenal show.

 

Beyond the Barricade obviously takes up a lot of your time, do you have time to do anything else?

Beyond the Barricade runs throughout the year except from mid July until the end of August. At that time, I usually work at Malvern Theatres and I direct their summer show. We’ve done Les Misérables of course, and also shows like Jesus Christ Superstar and Oliver. I also occasionally go to theatre groups and run masterclasses on Musical Theatre. It all keeps me very busy!

 

To tour with the same show for so many years is very impressive, do you perform nationwide?

We go all over the UK and recently we have also performed in Manila Singapore, Hong Kong, New Zealand and Australia. In Europe we have performed in Denmark, Spain and Malta, and also on the Cunard liners.

 

Doesn’t constant touring get tiring?

Yes a little, you can do a show and then have a three and a half hour drive home so it can be exhausting but it never gets boring The buzz of live performance soon wakes you up! At no time do I ever take anything for granted, and the only reason the show is still in existence is because people are willing to come out to see us. Each and every member of Beyond the Barricade never loses sight of that.

 

What is your career highlight to date?

That’s a tough one, as the business has been kind to me. Being picked to perform as part of a worldwide cast of Les Miserables performers to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the show was pretty major. The show pulled together the original company plus casts from the worldwide productions and performing alongside everyone at the Royal Albert Hall was very special. I am also proud that Beyond the Barricade was able to stage a concert at the Royal Albert Hall to mark its very own 10th anniversary.

 

Who is your greatest influence?

It’s difficult for me to name one great influence as I have been fortunate to have people spur me on at crucial times. My music teacher at Kingsmead, Alan Williams, was an amazing teacher, and then Jean Brown, a director well known in drama circles across Cannock Chase, gave me loads of opportunities before Ken Caswell, who was the Director of Les Mis, took a chance on me, as I had no formal training. Away from theatre, the raw power of the late, great Freddie Mercury was a great influence.

 

Have you ever been star struck or met your heroes?

I’m not sure it was being star struck – more like being amazed at the stature of the man – and that was David Hasselhoff! During my time as Director of Les Mis, he flew in to London to audition for the part of Valjean while we were rehearsing for the national tour, but he didn’t get it! I guess seeing the original Valjean – Colm Wilkinson – rehearsing for the 10th anniversary concert was also a wow moment.

 

What would be your advice for anyone looking for a career in the industry?

I believe hard work and respect go a long way. Of course there are moments you need that little piece of luck, but I can testify to having a productive career without any formal training. So I guess – never let anyone tell you that you can’t do it.

 

Why do you think classic musicals have stayed so popular over the years?

I think the success behind classic musicals like Les Mis, Blood Brothers, West Side Story – the list is endless – is that they are in themselves great stories. They have characters that the audience can relate to easily. The musical scores were written to complement the wonderful stories, so the two together just make a great recipe for success.

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Jonathan Rockefeller on The Very Hungry Caterpillar Show

Following seasons in London and New York, one of the most iconic characters in children’s literature will wiggle his way to Camberley this June, when The Very Hungry Caterpillar Show plays at Camberley Theatre on 15th and 16th as part of a UK Tour celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the book.

The Very Hungry Caterpillar Show features a menagerie of 75 enchanting puppets during a magical 60-minute show that faithfully adapts four of Eric Carle’s best loved books for the stage: Brown Bear, 10 Little Rubber Ducks, The Very Lonely Firefly and, of course, The Very Hungry Caterpillar.

VHC Full Cast

Jonathan Rockefeller is the creator and director of The Very Hungry Caterpillar Show, and here he talks about the process of adapting Eric Carle’s iconic story and illustrations for the stage.

 The book celebrates its 50th birthday this year and remains as popular as ever. What do you think are the reasons for its enduring appeal?

 “It’s pretty hard to believe that a little picture book could have such enduring appeal – until you pick it up and read it! Eric Carle’s bright, bold pictures are works of art, and nobody can resist playing with the holes in this book. The Very Hungry Caterpillar is not just a book, it’s what Eric describes as a toy book or book toy – something that is meant to be played with even before you learn how to read.”

The Very Lonely Firefly

 

The story is as much loved by parents as it is by children. Why do you think that is?

 “I think everyone has a positive memory of this book. It’s usually the first book you are given as a child,or give to your own child; and on first glance the pictures are enticing. But I think it endears itself with parents because it’s a deceptively simple book that enables children to associate words with everyday objects, and in turn helps teach children to read and communicate. Not to mention it’s a great story that brings joy and lots of laughter – especially the big, fat caterpillar.”

 

How did The Very Hungry Caterpillar Show come about?

“In 2012 I had a crazy idea that these wonderful, simple picture books that the entire world grew up on would make a great visual show. And so I sat down with my sketchbook and began. Getting Eric Carle on board is a whole other story…”

10 Little Rubber Ducks (4)

How did you and the creative team approach translating Eric Carle’s iconic illustrations for the 3D world of theatre?

“It was a challenge to translate these books because all of Eric Carle’s iconic illustrations are flat and seen from one angle, so we had to imagine what it was like to see the same object from all angles. The second challenge we had was each animal needed to move as seamlessly as it would in the real world. The colours were the third challenge to get exactly right too – bringing his painted tissue paper collage to life on a large scale. It took a lot of trial and error and revising scale, building patterns, and adapting our techniques – using industrial fabrics from construction sites instead of paper, and broomsticks as paintbrushes.”

Has Eric Carle been able to see the show?

“It was a long journey to bring the show to the stage, and took the collaborative work of my team and Eric’s team to ensure everything was perfect when compared to Eric’s illustrations. Eric has been so complimentary throughout the journey – he’s so witty and charming. Eric wasn’t able to see the show’s debut in Australia, but he came to the New York premiere with all his family, friends and his editor of many years. Aside from the excited children sitting around the group, I don’t think there was a dry eye in the house. Although everyone had been part of the journey, finally seeing Eric’s life work have a life of its own was moving for everyone. It was truly special.”

The Very Hungry Caterpillar Show is a great first introduction to theatre for young children. Why do you think this is?

“Eric Carle’s work has delighted young readers for generations. For so many children it is almost a right of passage to be introduced to reading from this book – and it is the perfect introduction to the theatre with 75 incredible puppets coming to life in front of their eyes!”

Why should families come and see the show?

“I asked a four-year coming out of the show why people should come and see it. He told me “It was the best-est most amazing, incredible show he had ever seen in his entire life, and I can not wait to see it again”. Coming from a four year old that’s the highest possible praise and why we do this show.”

The Very Hungry Caterpillar Show plays at Camberley Theatre on as part of a UK Tour celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the book. For more information and tickets visit http://www.camberleytheatre.co.uk

Lee Ridley AKA Lost Voice Guy Interview

Following the unprecedented success of his appearance on the final of Britain’s Got Talent 2018, BBC New Comedy Award winner and star and writer of BBC Radio 4’s comedy series, Ability, Lee Ridley (aka Lost Voice Guy) is setting out on a tour of the UK.

He comes to Camberley Theatre on Friday 22 March and you can get your tickets here.

Lee Ridley (aka Lost Voice Guy)

 Interviewed By Brian Donaldson

In the summer of 2018, Lee Ridley was already a popular figure on the comedy circuit. But when he scooped the crown of Britain’s Got Talent in June, Lost Voice Guy suddenly became a name everyone was shouting about. Winning a TV talent contest can take an act onto a whole new level of fame with doors opening more readily than they might have done before. As he takes to the nation’s stages with a touring show entitled I’m Only In It For The Parking, the County Durham-born Lee found that this was no more truer than in his case.

 

“The main reason I decided to audition for Britain’s Got Talent was obviously to meet Ant and Dec,” he half-jests. “But I also did it because I thought it would help me develop as a performer. Of course, I never expected to win it. In fact, I had to cancel my summer holiday because it clashed with the final. It was definitely worth it though. I think the look on my face when I won said it all. Winning the show has changed my life in so many ways. As a comedian, I’m busier than I ever was before. One of the best things to happen since I won is that people are engaging with me a lot more than they would have in the past. For the first time they seem comfortable talking to a disabled person. I’m used to being stared at for negative reasons so it’s nice to be stared at for positive reasons for a change.”

Lost Voice Guy - Tour photo by steve ullathorne

While Lee has plenty to say about those who have bigoted opinions about disabled people, he’s just as tough on those who are either patronising or overly keen to elevate the disabled into saints simply for being able to achieve something. And all of it is done in the most non-Geordie accent you can imagine, all plummy, middle England and computerised, with the voiceless Lee communicating through an iPad app. But why did he pick that particular voice to express his comedy with?

“To be honest, I didn’t have much choice. The app I use to speak only had a limited number of voices to choose from, and my particular voice was the best of a bad bunch. I’m quite used to sounding like a posh version of RoboCop now though, and I think the posh accent makes my jokes even funnier. I’ve sounded like this for most of my life now, so I do think of it as being my own voice. I think I’d feel weird if I had to change it now.”

Having started performing comedy in 2012, Lee won the BBC Radio New Comedy Award in 2014 and has created hour-long shows for the Edinburgh Fringe such as Disability For Dunces, Inspiration Porn and Laughter Is The Worst Medicine. He’s also co-written and starred in Ability, a Radio 4 sitcom about a man with cerebral palsy who moves out of his parents’ home, and penned a book which shares the title of this new touring show.

But with all that success on his CV already, where does he see his career going now? “I honestly don’t have any big ambitions. When I first started stand-up comedy, I just thought I’d try it for a bit of fun. I never expected to be this successful in my wildest dreams. So, I’m just taking it all as it comes and seeing what might happen next. I’m enjoying the ride and that’s the most important thing.”

Being on tour is something of a ride for any comedian, but for Lee, that adventure has extra obstacles and barriers inherently built into it. However, he is determined to make the most of these opportunities. “I think the best thing about being on tour is getting to see some really lovely places that maybe I wouldn’t have ever visited otherwise, and then getting to meet people from all different walks of life. I’ve got a lot of fans based all over the place so it’s nice to be able to get to meet them. One of the worst things is definitely being away from home. I quite like my home comforts such as my bed and being able to sit in my pants and watch television all day. So I miss that when I’m away.”

Audiences, of course, come in all different shapes and sizes, and life on the road wouldn’t be the same without some odd incidents occurring along the way. “You would be surprised at how many people come up to me after gigs and ask if I really can’t speak. Because, of course, it would totally be acceptable to pretend to be disabled for a laugh. I can safely say that I have never been able to talk. I have lived in Newcastle all my life, but for some reason I still haven’t picked up the accent. However, if you are trying to place my accent, it’s from PC World.”

Scope Ambassador Lee Ridley - with Clare Balding

Truth plays a major part in Lee’s comedy and he is often calling out politicians as well as the general public for their negative or dishonest approach to disability. The upside is that he’s rarely short of stories and anecdotes. One instance where he was ordered by a train inspector to give up his disabled seat for someone else inspired his episode on the Sky Arts Comedy Shorts series last year. “I think most of my comedy comes from my real-life experiences. On the one hand, that’s quite frightening because some of it is unbelievably ridiculous. But on the other hand, it gives me some great material. I’d be silly not to use these experiences, and if I didn’t laugh about it then I’d most definitely cry!” As the nation is about to find out, it’s not just Lee who’s laughing when his Lost Voice Guy airs his opinions.

 

 

“Here Come The Girls” INTERVIEW

Dianne Buswell and Amy Dowden have established themselves on the hit BBC show Strictly Come Dancing and Chloe Hewitt also joins the cast of pro girls to make it the first Girls tour.

For tickets for the show at Camberley Theatre on Friday 5th April click here.

We are very excited to be hosting Here Come The Girls, the all new show that brings an exciting mix of individual performances and group numbers with their supporting dance partners. The show will have a mix of Ballroom and Latin routines and has been choreographed by Patrick Helm, this show promises to be a fresh and innovative with amazing routines to dazzle and wow you. Patrick will also perform on the show with Dianne!

contact

 

How did your dancing career start?

Dianne: I began dancing at the age of five in Perth, Australia. I went on to compete from an early age representing Western Australia in National and International Ballroom and Latin events. I found success in Australian TV show “So You Think You Can Dance” at the age of 18.

Amy: I started dancing at the age of eight at my local dance school Shappelles in Caerphilly along with my twin sister. I soon joined the school’s formation team and immediately fell in love with the world of dance. I studied ballroom, Latin, freestyle, ballet and contemporary but my dream was to be a top competitor on the open Latin and ballroom competition circuit.

Chloe: My dance training began at the tender age of seven when I joined Pritchards Dance and Fitness Academy in Burleydam. I went on to win many dance titles but my proudest achievement was winning the World Championships at Blackpool Winter Gardens in 2015. I first appeared on TV on ITV’s Britain’s Got Talent in 2013 when I got through to the live semi-finals.

When did you join Strictly Come Dancing?

Dianne: I joined in 2017 as Strictly’s new professional dancer. My first celebrity partner was the Reverend Richard Coles who I sadly bowed out of the 2017 competition with during week three.

Amy: I was invited to become one of the professional dancers in 2017, partnering comedian Brian Conley. In this first year on the show I won the “Children in Need Strictly Special” with Mark Curry and danced in the Christmas special with Colin Jackson.

Chloe: In 2016 I joined the cast becoming the youngest ever professional to join the show at the age of 20 years old. My Strictly career has seen me dance in the 2016 Christmas Special with Gethin Jones and partnering the incredible Blue Peter presenter Radzi Chinyinganya for the 2017 “Children in Need” show.

Which celebrity dance partner has made you laugh the most?

Dianne: I’d say Joe because I was with him the longest but for the short amount of time I danced with the Reverend Richard Cole he made me laugh a lot so I’d have to say these two made me laugh equally.

Do you get nervous before you go on stage?

Chloe: I think it’s very natural to feel nervous due to all the adrenaline but I feel more excited than anxious. Competing makes me more nervous than performing but I try to channel the nerves into excitement instead of running and hiding.

 How does it make you feel being Strictly’s first Welsh professional dancer?

Amy: Incredibly proud. I’ve always been proud of my Welsh roots.

The Searchers: Farewell and History

Tickets for The Searchers at Camberley Theatre on March 29th 2019 can be bought by clicking here.

Well, it has finally happened.

After a non stop professional touring career of a mind boggling 56 years (they count their anniversaries from June 1962 when they threw in their day jobs to head over to Hamburg and the legendary Star Club) you might wonder how and why The Searchers have never slowed down or stopped.  It is a back breaking schedule that has constantly amazed their contemporaries in the heady world of pop music. But wonder no more because at last the band has decided to end the touring and enjoy a well deserved rest.

After this current run of two hour solo concerts the latter months of 2018 see them undertake yet another Sixties Gold package tour headlining over a bunch of their fellow friends and musicians which no doubt will pack the venues as they always do. And in January 2019 they begin their farewell series of solo presentations around the U.K culminating in a final show on March 31st. It is surely a sad time for their loyal and devoted followers who thought they would go on forever.

Black shirts

It was certainly not a case of the need to. They still undertake somewhere between 150 and 200 shows a year and their legendary solo concerts in which they present a potted history of the iconic band in music and anecdotes are invariably selllouts.

They have never fallen out of love with performing and never will but that fun element is only the tip of the iceberg. Still fit and looking decades younger than their years they finally decided they want a rest from the constant driving, the clogged up motorways which for the most part these days resemble car parks, and the hours of hanging about waiting for their moment to shine.

Back in the mid sixties when the incredible beat boom created by the Beatles saw so many bands riding on the crest of a seemingly unstoppable wave of success eventually subsided many simply disbanded and got on with their lives as best they could. Not The Searchers.

They stayed firmly in place, a constant unit riding out the bad times putting the twilight years of the cabaret clubs, looked on as anathema by some, to good use as they diligently honed their stage craft and upgraded the quality of their shows to please the more mature audience who had replaced the screaming teenage girls who had mobbed them in those years of chart topping glory. Such dogged determination was to stand them in good stead for the momentous nostalgia revival which was to lift them once again to national and international prominence.

The Searchers seemed to be both unstoppable and indestructible. They were arguably the hardest working band in showbusiness and their amazing datesheet was legendary in the music industry. No other unit played more dates for such a continuous period without cessation.

Their impressive run of hits in those glory years from 1964 to 1966 was worldwide enabling them to travel the globe constantly.

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Sweets For My Sweet, Sugar & Spice, Needles & Pins, Don`t Throw Your Love Away, Someday We`re Gonna Love Again, When You Walk On The Room, Love Potion Number Nine, Goodbye My Love, He`s Got No Love, Take Me For What I`m Worth, Take It Or Leave It, Bumble Bee, Sweets Nothings. Have You Ever Loved Somebody, When I Get Home, What Have They Done To The Rain.

They have performed for both The Queen and Princess Margaret, headlined over such Motown luminaries as Marvin Gaye, The Supremes, Martha & The Vandellas and The Temptations, entertained British troops in The Falklands, Bosnia and Belfast, toured Australia and New Zealand with The Rolling Stones and strutted their stuff in front of 80,000 people at Wembley Stadium as special guests of Cliff Richard.

In 2008 they found themselves back in the charts when the compilation album The Very Best Of The Searchers climbed to number eleven. It was only prevented from entering the top ten by Old Blue Eyes himself, Frank Sinatra.

As recently as 2014 they appeared in Las Vegas, the entertainment capital of the world, to great acclaim and not for the first time. This was their third engagement in ‘Sin City’ but in fact the U.SA has played host to them constantly over the years. And on one special evening in New York they allowed Searchers afficionado Marky Ramone of the legendary punk pioneers to sit in on drums for Needles & Pins.

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As well as The Ramones they can count Bruce Springsteen, Tom Petty, The Byrds, Marshall Crenshaw and others as musicians who came under their influence. In fact Roger McGuinn was recently quoted as saying that without The Searchers there would have been no Byrds. The Searchers modestly venture that he was being a tad over generous in such high praise but there are many who would underline the truth of the statement.

Roger McGuinn of The Byrds on The Searchers

Without The Searchers there would have been no Byrds.

Chris Hillman of The Byrds on The Searchers

“We were quite a bit into The Searchers beginning with their two- and three-part harmonies. Roger McGuinn had been playing 12-string guitar since his days as a folk singer on the Chicago scene in the late ’50s, he was using an acoustic guitar with a pickup on early Byrds tracks. He switched to the Rickenbacker electric 12-string after The Searchers (and, by then, George Harrison) were using one. Plus we appropriated their intro to ‘Needles and Pins’ for our ‘I’ll Feel A Whole Lot Better’. 

“The Searchers were a bit smoother than we were, and less adventurous. But I think we identified more with The Searchers than with The Beatles……..”

Tom Petty on choosing  When You Walk In The Room as his 5th favourite British Invasion Record

“I restrained myself from listing a bunch of their records. The 12 string guitar fascinated me and they had great voices”

 Quote from Steve Priest of The Sweet`s autobiography Are You Ready Steve? Regarding Frank Allen`s influence on his bass playing.

“It was while watching the bass player of The Rebel Rousers, Frankie Allen who later joined The Searchers, that my playing style changed. Instead of using his thumb to pluck the strings he used the three fingers of his right hand. I thought that looked really cool and went home and practiced. It was painful at first but I soon mastered it.”

 

In less happy circumstances they were even forced to take a former member to court in order to save their name and protect their future in the entertainment industry.

The Searchers were founded by guitarist John McNally (he started the outfit like so many other kids of the day as a skiffle group in the late fifties) and along with bassist/front man Frank Allen who left hit-making band Cliff Bennett and The Rebel Rousers to replace Tony Jackson on August 3rd 1964 they still maintain the heritage and reputation of the band which today is almost regarded as a national treasure. There have of course been changes in the line-up.

Following Jackson`s 1964 departure Chris Curtis, the drummer and charismatic showman of the band, was to quit at the end of a tour of Australia in March `66 where they had been co-headlining a tour along with The Rolling Stones, a coupling which Frank Allen has wittily described as putting Mother Theresa with Vlad The Impaler. An odd pairing perhaps but a hugely successful venture.

Curtis, in a mentally fragile state at the time, no longer wished to endure the rigours of touring and could not be persuaded to stay. In fact the drum stool, currently occupied by Scott Ottaway, has seen the most changes over the years. Scott is the fifth to fill the position since the band`s professional inception back in 1962 and has at this point been a Searcher for over five years.

In the vocal department things have been more constant with Spencer James taking over from Mike Pender in 1986 and still handling the majority of the lead vocals today. Pender`s departure saw them enduring one of the band`s least pleasant episodes in its history due to the inevitable court case that ensued when their right to the name was in dispute. McNally and Allen were successful and remain owners of that title in law.

The association with the aforementioned Cliff Richard provided them with their largest audience ever somewhat late in their career. In the summer of 1989 Britain`s first pop knight requested their presence to help him celebrate his thirty years as a star and in fact the audience numbered 80,000 on not one but on each of two days at the giant football stadium.

Indeed Sir Cliff on another occasion was backed by The Searchers during a charity show at the world famous Wentworth Golf Club and even Cliff`s Shadows would have to admit their accompaniment was not too shoddy at all.

Their presentation has changed radically over the years. In the first flush of chart success a top of the bill spot consisted of a mere twenty minutes giving them barely enough time for half a dozen songs. Nowadays, still in their iconic high cut three button black suits, white shirts and black ties, they occupy the stage for the entire evening presenting what is essentially a history of the band in music and anecdotes lasting for a full two hours.

Tales of their travels and amusing stories of happenings along the way occupy the spaces between the hits, the B sides, the album tracks and other selections that colour their career whether as tributes to fellow artistes or culled from their later recordings which, though maybe less well known are still in constant demand from their ardent followers.

The distinctive jangle of the twelve string guitar remains a most important feature of their sound and those rich and vibrant harmonies still embellish the songs that have provided a soundtrack to the lives of so many. The eternal popularity of this legendary group ensures that the demand for concerts is always there but the real reason for maintaining that exhausting work rate is the best reason of all, the love of their music and appreciation of their heritage.

It goes without saying that the final run of concerts are going to be sell-outs everywhere and the evenings ahead will be a mixture of both happiness and sadness for many. But the music is not going to die. It will be there forever and their songs will be sung forever and if at any time in the future The Searchers wish to come out of retirement for a concert or two there will no doubt be dancing in the streets. This is a much loved band. They appreciate everything they have been given and have always strived to give back in return.

Tickets for The Searchers at Camberley Theatre on March 29th can be bought by clicking here.