A SOMERSET-BASED theatre company is “desperate” to return to putting on live shows and performances after receiving a vital share of the Culture Recovery Fund.

Metta Theatre was founded in 2005 by writer/director Poppy Burton-Morgan and designer William Reynolds, and the interdisciplinary company is now based near Frome.

In December, the company was forced to cut short its run of a brand-new musical, The Rhythmics, at London’s Southwark Playhouse theatre after two of its nine actors tested positive for Covid.

Artistic director Poppy described the show’s cancellation as “demoralising” after so much work went into the project from the company’s creatives.

Poppy also estimated the company lost around £150,000 to £200,000 from the shows not going ahead – making it vital to secure other sources of funding.

Last week, Metta Theatre was listed as one of 340 organisations across the UK that benefitted from the final round of the Government’s Culture Recovery Fund.

The final round of funding was used to help organisations in need of financial support after the emergence of the omicron variant of coronavirus in December.

Since August 2020, the fund has distributed £1.57 billion to around 5,000 organisations and sites.

Somerset County Gazette: A production shot of The Rhythmics. Picture: Alex Brenner A production shot of The Rhythmics. Picture: Alex Brenner

Metta Theatre received £160,000 from the Culture Recovery Fund, distributed by Arts Council England, which will help it revive The Rhythmics next spring at two as-yet-unannounced venues in the south west.

Speaking to the County Gazette about the funding, Poppy said: “It’s crucial. If that money hadn’t come through, we would probably have folded the company.

“It’s going to pay back the actors who had to finish four weeks early and cover the other costs of cancelling the performances.”

The company still has around £200,000 to raise before the revived show can go ahead, but Poppy said: “We know we have got a show that works.

 “We’re desperate to get back doing live performances.”

Somerset County Gazette: The Rhythmics is set to be revived at two theatres in the south west. Picture: Alex BrennerThe Rhythmics is set to be revived at two theatres in the south west. Picture: Alex Brenner

Metta Theatre will put on a Christmas show at the Brewhouse Theatre in Taunton this year and have been able to commission some new musicals – in part due to the emergency funding it received.

“We are super grateful,” said Poppy.

“It gives us hope that the theatre ecology can recover. It makes all the difference.”

Somerset County Gazette: Crowds at the Cheese & Grain's café/bar. Picture: Frome Cheese & GrainCrowds at the Cheese & Grain's café/bar. Picture: Frome Cheese & Grain

Another Frome organisation to benefit from the Culture Recovery Fund was the Cheese & Grain live performance venue, which received £45,000.

It secured a share of the funding after showing its predicted income would not cover its £1.4 million annual running costs and because it is an accessible venue with a wide-ranging programme that provides opportunities to new and emerging talent.

A spokesperson for the events venue said: “The venue is delighted to receive this critical support for which it's extremely grateful. 

“The cash will primarily go to helping the venue meet the wage bill for it 50 staff members. 

“Normally, the Cheese & Grain, despite being a registered charity, sees all its income coming from tickets sales, hall and room hires, its café/bar, and external catering.

“While social enterprise provides the income, expenditure includes funding music education, vocational training, and activities for local children and families. 

“The Cheese & Grain is basically self-funding and does not ask for, or receive, public revenue funding.

“This is a position we are expecting to return from this summer onwards.”

The Cheese & Grain also secured money from the fund to help it cover the costs of restricted audience shows in May and June 2021, and another grant last winter to help with running costs.

Somerset County Gazette: The Cheese & Grain live entertainment venue in Frome. Picture: Cheese & GrainThe Cheese & Grain live entertainment venue in Frome. Picture: Cheese & Grain

Art Council England has also met the fees of several bands, including the Vaccines and Wolf Alice, to “help us back on our feet and give the venue a boost”.

The spokesperson added: “Just as critical to our survival and recovery was the support of our customers who held onto tickets of hundreds of Covid-postponed gigs rather than claim the refunds they were entitled to.

“Customer loyalty and thousands of pounds in small customer donations helped to see us through.”

Other Somerset organisations to benefit from the last Culture Recovery Fund payments were the Creative Innovation Centre CIC, illumaphonium, and The Pyro Studio Ltd.