For the last 22 years, one specific stage and theatre has played a leading role in Barry Milner's life. He has many great memories of his time at the TET Kings Theatre.

Barry has worked at the theatre for over two decades now, and got the role after playing a different one.

"I was in a play at the Kings Theatre, a musical called Lust, and the person doing the makeup for the show was Gwelfa Burgess. She was the relieving manager at the theatre then and persuaded me to work at the theatre."

He had returned to Stratford from Christchurch to care for his mother and aunt and so, after a little more persuasion from Gwelfa, began work at the theatre.

'All the world's a stage, and all the men and women merely players'

A life working in theatre wasn't the only thing Gwelfa introduced to Barry. She also introduced him to her daughter Viv, who Barry married "about 10 happy years ago".

Barry has now retired from his role as theatre manager, and has a few projects in the pipeline.

As well as staying on in the fundraising bookshop which is part of the theatre building, he is working on some local documentaries, the first of which will be about Gwelfa and the Cardiff Hall variety concerts..

The theatre, the first place in New Zealand to show a "talkie", or a movie with sound, has a rich history in the community, says Barry.

"I stand outside the bookshop and everyone walking past says hi. I know everyone in the town. Over the years they've come to the movies as kids, and now their children or grandchildren do. Everyone has memories of coming here."

Barry says he thinks getting a digital projector five years ago helped keep the theatre going.

"Without that the theatre couldn't have continued as a movie theatre. We did a lot of fundraising, the bookshop started up at that point to raise money for it for example, and getting that projector has meant we can continue to get in the latest movie releases."

Having an active and involved committee has also been vital to the theatre's continued success he says.

"I remember many years ago we had Dame Malvina Major coming to perform and the committee at the time worked so hard to get the theatre ready for her. Everyone got involved and did the hard work to make the concert a success."

While the theatre itself has gone digital, it still has the old-school projectors, with some playing in the bookshop at times, projecting old cartoons, newsreels onto the walls.
"People love it. When Dave Dobbyn was here, he came in to see the books, but stayed because he was watching the old reels play."

Stuart Robertson, chairperson of the Stratford District Theatre Trust says the committee is grateful for all Barry has contributed to Kings Theatre over the years. The new theatre manager, Helen Lindley, has already started in her new role.