Tag Archives: Yorkshire

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!


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.

All over

On Friday I found myself in the unusual position of being a paying member of the audience for ‘Say It With Flowers’ – probably for the first time since joining the Petuaria Players 13 years and 40 productions ago.

For me it was a play off ‘resting’ with minimal involvement other than on the graphics and publicity design so it was an opportunity to book a seat and watch a performance properly. Usually, for members who are not cast in a play, we would find ourselves carrying out tasks backstage, blind but listening to the actors and reactions from the audience.

So to sit down in the auditorium and experience the full production in all its glory, feel the reactions and ripples of laughter close up, to hear the whispered comments from nearby seats was amazing.

More rewarding was to watch my friends bring weeks of hard, stretching rehearsals to fruition. And what a performance. As usual, the coldness and dryness of rehearsals turned into warmth and laughter on stage, the ultimate reward of all that hard work, hearing the audience laugh and react, often in places or to lines that we hadn’t realised were that funny. Even though I had seen everything multiple times by now, to watch and appreciate it in the audience I was surprised how fresh it felt, despite knowing what was coming up next on every scene.

It was a superb night, a great performance by the actors, and not forgetting the unsung heroes working backstage with the numerous props and the fitting music that accompanied the play.

The last night of the run was on Saturday and had the added excitement of having Jane Thornton in the audience. Jane, of course, wrote Say it With Flowers so it was an honour to have her watch our interpretation of her play and to feedback to us at the end when she came backstage to meet the cast.

It was certainly interesting for her to be watching us because we have often watched her perform on stage, often with husband John Godber.

Jane Thornton joins the cast on the set of Say it With Flowers

Afterwards it was time for our traditional after-play drinks (and pizzas) on stage and the setting of ‘Stan and Mavis’s’ patio created a great backdrop for our late night January summer garden party.

After-play drinks looks more like a garden party

Somehow, despite the late night festivities, we were back there at 9.30 on Sunday morning to dismantle the set and the auditorium. Now we can relax – for a week – before rehearsals start again for the next one…..


Watch out for our upcoming posts with news about the next play and the photo gallery of this production. Why not subscribe and never miss a post? Simply add your email on the front page where you see this widget –

Passing Strangers

As we announced recently, Passing Strangers will be our first production of the season, running on October 24th to 26th. This is another play from the pen of Eric Chappell and we are excited to be bringing this to you in just a couple of months.

It first came to our attention in 2015 when we saw it performed by Planet Rabbit productions in Brough, we loved it and it is a play we have had on our possible productions list since then. This year, for all sorts of reasons, it seemed to be just the right choice for play one of the season.

Passing Strangers is a clever comedy with just four characters and the play centres around their attempt at (or avoidance of ) relationships. Produced by Jayne Hewson and with Gary Vann, Nic Johnson, Gill Collins and Steve Howland as the characters on a Singles Dance Night at a hotel.

Gill, Gary, Nic and Steve at an early play reading and script recording
Passing Strangers
“Fickle thing, memory.”  Malcolm discovers how true his words are when he takes his friend Clive to a singles’ evening.  Clive, a hospital porter masquerading as a doctor, has just been left by his wife, while Malcolm is a confirmed bachelor and “big in imports” – really a market stall trader.  In the deserted hotel bar, to the depressing soundtrack of the next-door ballroom, they meet two recent divorcees; upwardly mobile Julie and cynical, defiant Liz. Malcolm is determined to break down Liz’s defences while trying to pair off Clive with Julie.  But the women have a few tricks of their own, and Malcolm soon finds that life, like the evening, is full of surprises.

Tickets are on sale now and information on booking can be found here.

Please note that due to rising costs we have been forced to change the ticket price to £8 this year – but that still includes a programme and interval refreshments….

Details of the other plays in our season can be found on our What’s On page.