Tag Archives: theatre

Throwback #6

IMPROBABLE FICTION (2008)

Going back to 2008 and the very mention of ‘Improbable Fiction’ brings wry smiles to the cast as they think ‘costumes’. More of that shortly.

Alan Ayckbourn’s ‘Improbable Fiction’ was the final play of the season before our summer break that year. It had read well and we all found it hilarious and zany and we looked forward to rehearsals. Janet Drewery took on the responsibility for producing and directing this ambitious production.

It is a light hearted play that centres around Arnold, who runs the Pendon Writers Circle, a group of not particularly talented, unexciting, amateur, aspirational wannabe authors. Arnold himself is a writer of instruction manuals – which gives you an idea of the level of his creative imagination. With his unseen bedridden mother upstairs they meet regularly in his front room. Act One amusingly shows one of these meetings and reveals the characters and their planned novels.

Improbable Fiction by Alan Ayckbourn, performed in 2008

Where the whole play bursts into farcical dream-like fantasy is act two where by some mysterious means the ever sensible and boring Arnold finds himself living in those novels brought vividly to life. However, all five novels and genres become entwined in a comic saga of mayhem that leaves poor Arnold in a very confused state.

Now let me say up front that this was a successful and fun play to do, a production we are proud of. I say all this because behind the scenes we also have fond and amusing memories where things didn’t always quite go to plan……..

When I said earlier ‘costumes’ comes to mind that was related to the ambitious second act. Act one was normality for us. But I doubt the audience were ready for the zany antics of act two. Neither were we really. With no scene changes, just continuous action throughout the whole play, we knew that we were coming off and on stage as different characters with different costumes as we swapped continually between the interwoven five storylines of the writers’ imagination.

Slideshow: Act One

Only when we all went to a Leeds costumiers to select what turned out to be our largest collection of costumes for a single play and possibly our largest hire bill did we begin to realise what we had in store. It was only when the hire costumes arrived – in time for the tech and dress rehearsals – that the practicalities of everyone actually getting into various costumes at speed, to go on for a few lines, and then off and into another, did we realise the challenges we had. Rehearsals had involved no costume changes other than in our imagination. Reality, we discovered, took ten times as long.

The audience was subjected to such a frenzied fast moving confusion of zany characters and plots that they could never have known the tension, stress and sweat backstage, with just seconds to change; the shouts backstage of “which ******* character am I now?” and “Which ***** outfit am I supposed to be in?” We were very afraid of turning up for a three minute scene in the wrong costume. Indeed even our lines had us confused as we announced ourselves with wrong names…. It was, however, all in keeping with the manic plot and unless your name was Alan Ayckbourn the audience could never have known.

Slideshow: Act Two

And who can forget Dianne’s stunning portrayal of a squirrel. Our fondest memory, and hers, was the night she seemed to be wandering around the stage in a drunken fashion, seemingly having lost all sense of direction and had also forgotten to put on her squirrel paws. It turned out that in her frantic rush to change into the squirrel outfit backstage and rush back on in time for her entrance, she realised, too late, that she had thrown the paws into the squirrel head at her last costume change. As she dashed onto stage ramming the head into place the paws slid forward inside and over the eye sockets leaving her stumbling around blind. More suppressed laughter on stage.

As if this mix of characters and plot genres wasn’t enough – a children’s story, a romance, science fiction, crime detection and… a musical – we had to blast our way through a song and choreographed dance routine every night. The song and dance “There’ll be light at the end of the tunnel” took on a new meaning one night when the lighting cable suddenly disconnected plunging the stage into darkness. With a frantic and stressed Richard scrabbling and cursing in the pitch black under the mixer desk amidst a spaghetti bunch of cables we valiantly carried on in true showmanship fashion, our costume glitter sparkling in the pale green hue of the emergency lights. As full light was restored moments later to the line ‘There’ll be light….” the audience was no doubt impressed with our stunning and creative lighting design.

The cast L to R; Rob Newton, Phil Johnson, Gill Collins, Tina Addington, Rachel Miller, Steve Howland and somewhere.. Dianne Turner. Probably still lost in her squirrel costume or burying nuts.

But as I said, despite these humorous memories, we put on a great production and the audience only saw performances they thoroughly enjoyed.

Plenty of backstage and front of house support – it was needed! Anneka Stephenson (standing far right) was on hand to choreograph our dance routine.

More memories soon!

Keep following us or register your email on this website to keep up to date with future posts and news, when it comes, of when we can resume our productions. Fingers crossed!


throwback #2

THE ANNIVERSARY (2007)

I’m posting this today, Thursday 30th April, because this would have been our opening night for FlatSpin. It is now many weeks since we stopped rehearsals and postponed the play to a future date. It means the only collective drama event for us this week will be our regular online Zoom -based Quiz Night.

Meanwhile, another delve into the archives from plays prior to our website presence. This week we take a look at THE ANNIVERSARY by Bill Macilwraith.

The Anniversary was produced by Richard Bateman in January 2007. It is a black comedy first performed in 1966 from which a film was made in 1968 starring Bette Davis and Sheila Hancock.

Synopsis: Mrs. Taggart is an emasculating woman whose husband, a successful building contractor, has been dead for ten years. Joining her for the traditional annual celebration of her wedding anniversary are her three sons: eldest Henry is a transvestite; middle son Terry is planning to emigrate to Canada with his shrewish wife Karen and their five children; and youngest Tom, a promiscuous philanderer whose many past relationships have ended at his mother’s insistence, arrives with his pregnant girlfriend Shirley in town. Throughout the day and evening, the domineering, evil, vindictive, manipulative matriarch does everything in her power to remind her children who controls the family finances and ultimately their futures.

Scroll through the gallery below to see a selection from the images from the production.

The cast L to R: Rachel Miller, Neil Martin, Janet Drewery, Steve Howland, Barbara Failey, Rob Newton.
The Production Team L to R: Dave Ralph, Gill Collins, Jayne Hewson, Richard Bateman (Producer), Dianne Turner.

Until the next one, stay safe folks.


throwback #1

THERE GOES THE BRIDE

In the first of an occasional series we thought we would bring you a dip into the archives. With an uncertain period ahead of us and no news to post since our current production was postponed, it seems a good time to remind everyone that the Petuaria Players has been around for fifty nine years and that this period is a temporary absence before we get into our Diamond Jubilee year.

Most of us are locked down and working (or chilling) at home so we have limited access to the archives. But there is sufficient material to take us back to this one: THERE GOES THE BRIDE by Ray Cooney and John Chapman.

There Goes The Bride was produced by Rob Newton fourteen years ago this month. Scroll through the gallery below and see what we were up to then, and if you saw the production, you may see some old faces – or rather some younger faces!

As a reminder of the plot: Timothy Westerby is overworked, underpaid, stressed-out, and his daughter is getting married in what he thinks is an overly-lavish and overly-expensive ceremony. Timothy is ripe for a nervous breakdown – and, on the morning of the wedding, he has one! It takes the form of ‘Polly’, the most gorgeous, voluptuous girl who just wants to give herself to Timothy – the pity is, she’s an apparition. The fact is, of course not apparent to Timothy who is convinced that Polly is totally real and is delighted to have this sexy guest at the wedding. Timothy’s wife, his mother-in-law, his daughter and the groom’s parents take a different view!

A few membership changes have occurred along the way. We then had Dave Ralph (sound and lights) and Tina Addington. Neil Martin was still to be a member for another year and it was my (Steve H.) first play with the PP. And Phil Johnson was still treading the boards back then too.

The cast: L to R. Jayne Hewson, Nic Johnson, Steve Howland, Wendy Elliott, Richard Bateman, Janet Drewery, Phil Johnson, Neil Martin.
The Production team L to R: Rob Newton (Producer), Dianne Turner, David Ralph, Gill Collins, Tina Addington.

Hope that raised a few smiles. Until the next one, stay safe folks.


Lockdown News

Next weekend would have been set build for our final play of the season but with the cancellation of our April production The Petuaria Players are, like everyone else, lying low.

What does it mean for the Petuaria Players?

It means that our summer period of rest has started prematurely and who knows how long it will continue. Technology and online interaction has replaced our meetings. This means that we can continue to communicate and arrange our play readings and discussions, something which will accelerate shortly. But it also means we can still do what we do best – socialise. Courtesy of Zoom and essential stocks of alcohol and nibbles we can meet more often than we did before! All without requiring a taxi home.

Boozy Quiz Night

What about next season?

Everyone knows that nobody knows. This strange world we are in will continue for some time to come and it is not hard to imagine that a degree of restrictions and behavioural recommendations will affect our drama plans to some extent. It’s too early to say.

The best we can do for the moment is hope that a degree of normality will return such that we can present a full programme for next season. To that end we have now secured an extension to our performance licence that would allow us to complete rehearsals for FlatSpin and make that the first play at the end of October if possible.

However, it is far too early to make positive plans but when we do know we will certainly announce it here.

Stay Home, Stay Safe

So in the meantime we will continue with our readings and Zoom meetings and a few posts on here. So stay home, stay safe and see you all soon.