THERE was laughter and relief as the curtain went up at Swindon’s Wyvern Theatre for the first time in more than 17 months. 

Its stage had sat empty since March 2020 after the coronavirus outbreak saw the closure of entertainment venues around the country. 

People were clearly eager to get back to the arts as controversial comedian Russell Brand attracted a sold-out audience to mark the 635-seater theatre’s grand reopening on Thursday. 

"We were absolutely thrilled to be able to open the doors to the Wyvern again on Thursday evening to a sold-out crowd for Russell Brand after a long 17 months of closure,” said a spokesperson from the Wyvern. 

“It’s been a full team effort to get the venue ready and it was truly a momentous occasion to welcome in the first customers and see them enjoying live entertainment on our stage once again."

The occasion was marked with a balloon display and a ribbon cutting by theatre director Laura James and Julian Russell, the CEO of HQ Theatres. 

The spokesman continued: “The support from our patrons throughout our closure and preparations for reopening has been incredible and so positive – nights out at the theatre have clearly been missed over lockdown. 

“Following 18 months of uncertainty and change for theatres and hospitality, we have remained committed to bringing live theatre and performance back to our audiences as soon as we were able.”

Brand’s performance was followed by the child-friendly Pop Princesses show on Friday before musical comedy duo Flo and Joan’s rescheduled 2019/20 tour ‘When the Screaming Starts’ hit town on Saturday. 

“It’s a freaking joy to be back,” said Joan. “At every show the audience has been on a mile high!

“We are grateful that people are still wanting to come out and see us, because realistically it is a risk that they are taking.”

“But the venues have been amazing,” added Flo, “They’ve been great at keeping everyone safe and happy which makes things easier for us.”

The Wyvern is now set to bring people of Swindon a packed autumn and winter schedule of shows, with crime novel adaption Looking Good Dead and the Jack and the Beanstalk panto among highlights.