Leamington actor celebrates ten year anniversary as artistic director at Warwickshire hotel
James Webster swapped the professional touring theatre circuit for staging Coombe Abbey Hotel’s medieval banquets, murder mysteries and 1920s-themed Speakeasy Blinders events
James Webster swapped the professional touring theatre circuit for staging Coombe Abbey Hotel’s hugely popular immersive medieval banquets, murder mysteries and 1920s ‘Speakeasy Blinders’.
He started off as an actor working in the troupe in September 2009 and two years later ended up as director of production running the show.
James said: “We have a team of around 20 professional performers and a pianist, with five or six in each show. It’s lots of fun and my incredible team do wonders to help make it all happen.
“Medieval banquets have been running at the hotel for 51 years and are constantly evolving.
"They now include a mead-based cocktail to begin followed by authentic fare, a feast fit for royalty and entertainment.
“Our banquets always feel immersive.
"Two that stand out are the story of the Gunpowder Plot, which mimics the hotel’s true history and Halloween banquets are really good fun.
“Coombe Abbey works with a costume hire company and many of the guests get into the spirit of the era and dress up.
“There’s a lot of singing and funny songs – the audiences love it and we have an absolute ball.”
James writes, directs and performs in a variety of seasonal themed shows throughout the year.
He said: “Personally, I’ve given around 1,300 performances at Coombe in that time, if you include all of the different things we do – and it would have been even more if not for the pandemic.
“I've gone from playing the medieval monk to the Tudor gentleman, and in our Speakeasy Blinders events I'm an East End gangster who runs an underground club.
“A few years ago, I wore lederhosen for Bavarian Nights - our take on a German Bierkeller - and at Christmas you can find me playing Jay Gatsby in our Gatsby Glamour Ball.
“In the Murder Mysteries I've been a knight, a doctor, a butler, a member of the landed gentry, a janitor and a highwayman to name but a few.
“But one of my favourite jobs is our Afternoon tea with Carols in the Marquee at Christmas where there are 10 of us singing our favourite Christmas songs, accompanied by a pianist.”
A medieval enthusiast, the father of three boys aged seven, 10 and 12 has even more strings to his bow – he runs his own medieval archery school.
James is also the historic hotel’s head toastmaster and hosted more than 900 weddings at Coombe Abbey.
Ron Terry, Operations Director of No Ordinary Hospitality Management, the company which operates Coombe Abbey Hotel, said: “James does an extraordinary job a host of brilliantly entertaining and highly elaborate immersive banqueting shows, which cleverly tie-in with the hotel’s own history, and sell out very quickly.
“We would like to say a huge thank you for his amazing hard work and dedication over the last 10 years not only as Director of Production, but as our charismatic head toastmaster.”