MEMBERS of an over 55s theatre group have accused theatre bosses of ageism after the group was postponed.

Act V is a group for adults at the Mercury Theatre in Colchester which focuses on performing arts skills.

It takes place weekly and has about 30 members per week.

However, the theatre said it had to “pause” the group as part of its redevelopment project.

But for members like Sheila Lloyd, from Colchester, it was disappointing news.

She said: “At a month’s notice the Mercury Theatre management has announced Act V, which has been running for many years, is to be axed from Easter, or more specifically suspended for at least two years during refurbishment.

“The only reason given to this group of around 50 members is that no alternative provision can be found for the group for one daytime session per week.

“Whereas, it appears, plenty of effort has been made to arrange alternative after-school and evening provision for the various youth theatre groups.

“How sad that such an enthusiastic company of theatrelovers who have supported the Mercury and swelled its audiences over many years should be treated in this cavalier and high-handed fashion.

“Ageism? We’re assured not.

It is somewhat difficult, however, to ascertain how the Mercury management can continue to claim they have an education department which is inclusive and reaches out to all ages in the community when such discrimination is exercised.”

Robin Cantrill-Fenwick, deputy executive director at the theatre, said there is a chance the group could be relocated to the Headgate Theatre.

He said: “As we prepare to work across multiple sites during a busy redevelopment project, we have to temporarily trim our sails in some areas.

We decided to pause Act V and also to close our in-house restaurant later this year, ahead of a relaunch in the new building.

“Our commitment to people of all ages and every background is absolute and many strands of our work are particularly suited to older adults.

This will not change.

“We are working constructively with the Act V committee to secure an independent future for the group.

“We have offered training and financial support and are following up a proposal from the members to relocate Act V to the Headgate Theatre.”