Sunday, 24 October 2021

Mill Theatre auditorium renamed in honour of playwright

THE Mill at Sonning theatre has renamed its auditorium to thank a playwright and actor who helped to ensure its survival.

The new Ray Cooney Auditorium is in honour of the comedy writer who helped reduce the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on the business.

Managing and artistic director Sally Hughes said Mr Cooney offered financial help from the very beginning of the crisis and would reguarly call to ask when the theatre would be re-opening.

A ceremony was held to mark the new name with a gala dinner and the latest performanceof his comedy Two Into One, which is currently on a run at the theatre.

Mrs Hughes said: “In 1989, the Mill produced its first Ray Cooney play Run For Your Wife. Dennis Slim Ramsden directed and played the part of Porterhouse.

“During the run, Slim became ill and was rushed to hospital.

“Ray sent the understudy down from his West End production to rescue us. That is the moment that the warm and safe arms of Ray Cooney encircled our theatre for the first time.

“From that moment a special bond was forged between the Mill and Ray.

“He has helped us in many ways over those 32 years. Whenever we put on a Ray Cooney comedy we sell out and we have performed most of his plays three times. Last year, when the future looked bleak, Ray came to our rescue — yet again — in a big way.

“I can’t think of a better way to thank him for everything he has done for The Mill over three decades than by naming the auditorium after him.

“He is an amazing man and a real theatre man who has entertained our customers. There are theatres which have been named after people but we can’t really change ours so I thought it would be nice to name the auditorium after him.”

The naming ceremony was attended by many of the stars who have appeared in Cooney’s shows at the Mill over the years.

These included radio presenter and TV personality Debbie McGee, who lives in Wargrave, actress Sue Holderness, who is known for playing Marlene Boyce in Only Fools and Horses, and Jeffrey Holland, who played Spike Dixon in Hi-de-Hi and Carol Royle, who is starring in Two Into One with Mark Curry.

Other guests included Judy Buxton, Wendy Craig, Annie Rogers, Michael Cochrane, Anita Graham and Richard Harris.

Mr Cooney said: “This evening is the happiest occasion for me for a very long time.

“It makes me so happy and proud to have my name associated with one of the best theatres in the world.”

First performed in 1984, Two Into One features the adventures of hapless cabinet minister Richard Wiley, who is trying to arrange an intimate afternoon liaison with a young lady in a London hotel.

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