ENGLAND'S last surviving rep theatre bursts back on to the stage at Frinton's McGrigor Hall this week.

Frinton Summer Theatre returns with its traditional seven plays in seven weeks kicking off with Strangers On A Train which opened on Tuesday and runs until Saturday.

Artistic director Clive Brill says it's an exciting time for the theatre.

"It's a little bit of theatrical England that time has forgotten," he said.

"No one else puts on a play every week - we are the last one.

"My ambition is to secure its future so I've turned it into a charity this year. For the first time ever we are allowed to try to get funding to secure the future for another 78 years.

"Hopefully it will never stop.

"Having Richard Wilson as our patron helps to get the word out so I think the future looks pretty rosy, but only time will tell."

House of Eliott and Holby City actress Stella Gonet stars as screeching soprano Florence Foster Jenkins in Glorious! which was recently made into a film with Meryl Streep and Hugh Grant.

Amanda Root also has numerous TV and film credits, and makes her directorial debut in the same show.

The curtain closes on the season with A Little Night Music at the end of August.

Clive said: "I've always wanted to do Stephen Sondheim but we've never put on his music here before so that is very exciting.

"I think we are being a little bit more ambitious with a cast of 14. I'm not sure how everyone is going to fit on the stage, but we are going to give it a go."

Another highlight includes The 39 Steps - with a cast of just four playing all the parts..

"It is an amazing comedy based on the John Buchan novel," said Clive.

"It's being allowed to be produced in Britain for the first time.

"I know Patrick Barlow who rewrote it and he helped us persuade them to agree to let us do it in Frinton."

Meanwhile, the actors are settling in for the summer.

Clive said: "We have five directors and 44 actors coming to town and only about seven have been here before so they are all discovering the joys of Frinton.

"As usual, the good citizens of Frinton open their doors and put them all up.

"The actors keep talking about how they are being smothered with love. One said he went back to his digs to have peanut butter and jelly on toast. His landlady said 'Is that really what you are having for supper?' and cooked him an omelette instead.

"The community is so loyal and really cherish Frinton Summer Theatre.

"It's become an absolute must and people put it in their diaries almost as the event of the year.

"So many people look forward to it – it's a glorious seven weeks."