MILTON Keynes Theatre has a new face at the helm, and Mike Keane will be anything but a faceless boss.
Keane by name and keen by nature, he is a passionate ambassador for the venue, and he has previous experience of our new city, as he told leisure editor Sammy Jones.
“For many, many years people were working hard and lobbying to make this dream happen,” Mike says, gesturing around the theatre building we are sat in.
“There is an enormous passion for this theatre, a real love affair for the venue, and we have to cherish that.
“We have to endorse it and make sure people understand their venue – because it is their venue, is in good hands and that we are looking after it and doing the best that we possible can do.”
Mike has spent nigh on 13 years working within the Ambassador Theatre Group where his previous roles have included customer services manager and general manager at venues including The Regent Theatre, and Victoria Hall in Stoke-on-Trent.
His role in Milton Keynes might signal a new challenge, but this isn’t unknown territory for him.
“I did live here many, many years ago – back then, when you arrived at the train station all you could see as far as the eye could take you was mounds of earth,” he recalls.
“I’ve always felt a certain connection with MK,” he says earnestly.
“I know it has such a different press and people take a different view, but I actually feel very at home here and think there is something quite special about it.
“I came to MK Theatre when it first opened, and if I am honest, I was a little bit jealous – the design is exceptional, and whenever I have been here to watch a production I have walked through those front doors and never failed to be inspired by the grandeur of the building.
“Some people have a passion for those old theatres and their red seats and gold plate, but hands down, I prefer this style of venue,” he says, clearly enamoured with his subject.
“What surprised me when I stood on the stage is how intimate it feels.
“It’s a big space but you really feel that your audience is with you.”
Nowadays, stepping to the stage is something he will only do after the audience has gone home, but Mike admits that he would have loved a life on the stage, as opposed to looking after it.
“Like most people who work in theatre, there is an element of frustrated actor, or singer in my case.
“Although I can’t sing for toffee, I do love singing,” he laughs.
“I’ve always been very happy and inspired by the theatre, and did amateur dramatics for a while.
“It was all probably quite grim, but I did a couple of pantomimes and it was great fun – it’s in the blood somewhere.”
Currently Mike commutes from his home in Newcastle Under Lyme, which isn’t leaving too much room for other activities – “While I’m negotiating with the commute and having a touch of man-flu, it’s more about going home, collapsing and sleeping,” he laughs – but usually free time is absorbed by his passion for walking – “I live not too far from the Peak District, so a half hour drive and you are in the most beautiful countryside” – and music.
Mike’s father was a saxophonist and clarinettist, and while he is partial to all music, it is maybe not such a surprise to see where his passions really lie.
“I love Ella Fitzgerald, I love jazz, I love Sarah Vaughan - I’ve just rediscovered her and I’m downloading her music left, right and centre.
“I listen to it in the car and it really does set the hairs on the back of the neck standing.”
As do many of those productions that flood the theatre with wonder all year round.
As we look forward to the onset of the autumn season including that dreamy month-long stay by The Phantom of Opera, MK Theatre is in new, but incredibly safe, hands.
“We work in this wonderful unique environment, and you have to have a passion for it,” he exclaims.
“All the staff here do...I think we’re all barking mad sometimes too. Theatre gives us a lift, an escape.
“When you watch something that has really touched the spot, and you leave afterwards, it makes life feel a little bit nicer.
“I think that level of impact is great, and want people to know I share their passion.”
And that much is clear.
For future MKT productions, visit GO! or head online to www.ambassadors.com/miltonkeynes