Chair’s report 2016/17

This is my report to our 2017 annual general meeting. In it I’ll draw on some of my reflections about the last year and look ahead to next.

As we gather and welcome members old and new, we once again celebrate a fantastic year of achievement for our well-loved community theatre group. We’ve diversified our offer, staged one of our most successful productions, reached out further into the local community, and encouraged even more new members to join the group.

The headlines

  • Play readings and playwriting – doing more than ever in our local community
  • Stunning success of our main 2017 production: Jekyll and Hyde
  • Celebrating 50 years of Ian Cooper
  • A growing membership and a stable financial base

Play readings, play writing and more

Over the last few years we’ve been doing more to encourage members to be involved in events and activities outside the main shows.

Three years ago we began what we saw as a bit of an experiment, hosting play reading nights at local venues (largely pubs, I might add). The idea was to test out, in an informal way, some plays we might want to stage.

We soon realised it was also a great way of introducing new members to the group and keeping Players involved between shows. Since starting we’ve read countless pieces, ranging from the festive (Seasons Greetings) to the hilarious (The Play That Goes Wrong) and the dramatic (Under Milk Wood).

We’re always looking for new plays to read so do contact us via Facebook, Twitter, the website or even face-to-face (how traditional!) if you have something you’d like to read. Usually, if you have the idea then you’re responsible for organising date and venue, but the committee and other members will be around to help out.

Last year we also dipped our toe into playwriting, an idea suggested by one of our committee members, Dan Sumners. The group members meet regularly, offering each other constructive feedback and reflection on the pieces they’ve written.

While it began as a bit of fun and a chance to display our creativity, in October 2017 we took the output of the playwriting group to a new level and staged one of the pieces as a prelude to the main show. The Divided Self, penned by Teresa Espejo, was a brilliant introduction to the main play, Jekyll and Hyde (more on that in a moment). It added something new and different to our repertoire of entertainment, and the feedback from our audience was positive. So well done Teresa and cast!

Jekyll and Hyde – our big autumn show

This year our big autumn show was Jekyll and Hyde, which I had the privilege of directing. It brought our audience back in their hundreds to sell out performances and a really positive vibe from those who came along.

I planted the concept through our play reading group in January. The reading – probably the most popular we’ve had to date – went brilliantly. I took Leonard H Caddy’s version, set in Victorian times, and attempted to add a modern twist to the classic setting. Emphasising the tragic human side of the story, our version explored each character and how they face their own demons as Dr Jekyll slips further and further into his ‘real’ self, the manic monster Edward Hyde.

Thank you to the cast for their enthusiasm, hard work and creativity, making the performance among the best I’ve seen at St George’s. The crew were also again their amazing selves, ensuring everything came together smoothly. And finally a big personal thank you to Felicity Nelson and Uli Wilfer for their sense of humour, challenge and support.

Our own ’50 years man’

In October we celebrated a very special birthday. Ian Cooper, our current vice chair and all round set design and builder, reached his 50th year with the Players. We presented Ian with a very special gift that in his own words would ‘come in very handy’…a golden podger (look it up).

A huge thank you to Ian for the devotion and kindness he has shown to all Players over the years – he is a group institution and long may that be so!

A fabulous year, a bright future

So it’s been a fabulous year. We continue to attract brilliant, creative and talented players. Our website and newsletter are getting wide reach. We have well established partnerships with local businesses. Our relationship with the church is as strong as ever and we were made very welcome by Father Richard Lane, the new parish priest.

Our financial base is firm, with Jekyll and Hyde generating a profit of around £1000. Following agreement at the last annual general meeting, we increased our ticket price to £10, which was necessary to meet rising costs and demands. The £10 figure still keeps us below average for ticket prices when compared to groups of our size, quality and offer. And, most importantly, audience numbers and feedback confirm it’s still value for money.

Although in the wider world 2018 might look uncertain, in ours we can be proud and excited to look forward. The playwriting is going from strength to strength, we have quite a bit of interest from potential directors for our main 2018 shows, and we’re overloaded with talented actors.

There will be challenges – keeping costs down, retaining talent and so on – but overall, I think you’ll agree, our community remains incredibly fortunate to have such a fabulous group and terrific people involved in it. Here’s to another year of success and fun!

Stephen Gaskell, Chair