Tag Archives: theatre

Known Unknowns

A status update on our future planning.

At last! Today is another milestone step on the nation’s roadmap to recovery as we open up a little more. But if anything confirms The Petuaria Players rational approach to not making premature decisions then the appearance and potential threat of the new variant that is now showing its ugly face is it.

Already there is talk within government that the total lifting of restrictions planned for June may be in jeopardy. That is one of the reasons that we have not scheduled a meeting of our planning committee until that time.

Like ourselves our followers and audience regulars are keen to see us back on the stage and are asking when that will be. The short answer is, we don’t know yet.

It is always a challenge at the best of times to find three plays that fit our cast and their availability and our stage. At the moment we are faced with too many unknowns. We are eager to get there but we need to be in a position – months ahead of a performance – where we know actors and backstage people can commit their free time to a play, are in a safe position to be rehearsing and performing in sometimes very close or intimate proximity and that they will not have to halt a production because a cast member has to self isolate. We have no stand ins. And then we have to know how we can safely bring an audience into our venue and pay our costs.

Many assume we are ready to return to rehearsals but both the rules and the above constraints mean that day is, sadly, still a little way off. Professionals are in a different position and new ways of performing to limited audiences are now in progress and that is to be welcomed.

Hopefully, next month we will have more clarity and be better informed to make decisions. And as soon as we have more news we will be posting it on here and on Facebook. Make sure you are following us to stay informed.

To sum up, our thoughts over these unknowns are about as clear as that infamous statement from Donald Rumsfeld.

….as we know, there are known knowns; there are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns — the ones we don’t know we don’t know….

Donald Rumsfeld, US Secretary for Defence 2002
Stepping Out. We can all step out now, just not like this.

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.