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Barford Drama Group – Annual Report 2014/15

At the start of the new Drama Group year in February we had just finished the pantomime “Goldilocks 2” so the first production of the year was not until June.

The June play was “Entertaining Angels”, a comedy by Richard Everett, which Jan produced. There were lots of laughs, often at the expense of the Anglican Church, but also some serious moments, and it gave both the cast and the audiences plenty to think about. There was a small cast so necessarily they were large parts, and the main character, which was performed by Barbara, was enormous. However, she proved herself to be well up to the task and did a superb job. The play also gave Sue the chance to take on a proper acting role – I’m told my pantomimes don’t count as proper acting – and she is a great addition to our membership.

The set was something of a challenge too, but, even with our small stage, Garth and David managed to create a rambling vicarage garden complete with greenhouse and even a stream!

Also in June the ACT festival reared its ugly head. We had no one-act play in the pipeline, but as “Entertaining Angels” had a small cast, there were quite a number of members available to do something. 2014 was the centenary of the birth of Dylan Thomas and Wendy was keen to do something to celebrate this, so she arranged a rehearsed reading of “Return Journey” and “A Child’s Christmas in Wales” which was performed at the festival at Shipston. Unfortunately few members of the audience there, and certainly none of so-called adjudicators, were at all familiar with Dylan Thomas’s work and didn’t know what to make of it. However those taking part read well and enjoyed doing it, and it was a good forerunner for the September production.

This was “An Evening of Dylan Thomas”, a Wendy production, consisting of a shortened version of “Under Milk Wood”, some of his better–known poems and “A Child’s Christmas in Wales”. Performing in our own hall allowed more scope for lighting and sound effects, and also the use of the big screen showing a series of excellent photographs as a backdrop to the readings. The evening also included a “Welsh Supper” and the whole thing was much enjoyed by the audiences.

Back in July it was becoming clear that a full-scale Music Hall was not going to be possible. There were too few members willing to the make the commitment – we were particularly short of men and younger members – and no producer was forthcoming. Rather than put on a lesser show, it was decided we should do something quite different in the pre-Christmas slot, and just for one weekend. But there was another problem. For some time David had been saying that we needed to bolster our funds. The lighting equipment is very old and could need replacing at any time at a cost of perhaps £3000 – £4000. We had agreed earlier that we should keep some of the money from the Music Hall for our own funds rather than give it all away to charity. So the search was on to find something that would keep our loyal Music Hall fans happy while making a reasonable amount of money for the group. Then Wendy found “A Fairy Tale Christmas Carol”, a light-hearted version of the Dickens story with all the people as fairy tale characters. We held a reading and everyone was very enthusiastic. There were lots of parts, many of which could be doubled up, and members were happier to commit to just three performances rather than six, so it looked as though we could cast it. There was scope for Christmas songs to be included and incidental music to set the various moods, so we hoped William would still be willing to be involved. Also it wasn’t a very long play so there would be time to include a supper so the ticket price could be higher and we could potentially make more money. It was just what we needed.

This was obviously going to be a challenging play to put on so Wendy and Jane agreed to co-produce it.

The setting was a mammoth task. There were ten different sets and about seventeen scene changes. Originally Wendy wanted a turntable to be built to allow for very quick scene changes. Garth did some plans and costed it out, but it would have been far too expensive. A compromise was struck and Garth built a two dimensional screen on wheels with a shelf on each side to accommodate smaller items of furniture. This worked very well. The scene changes went like clockwork, in fact they were applauded by the audiences, especially the one when Barbara’s magnificent painting of a London skyline appeared. The use of semi-transparent gauze-like curtains was very effective in the ghost scenes, denoting the passage backwards and forwards in time, and Allan’s lighting effects added tremendously. So with Carole’s and Barbara’s wonderful costumes and Will’s marvellous accompaniment the play was greatly enjoyed by all. The evening was rounded off with a Christmas party supper and everyone went home happy.

There was an added bonus that the production made a good profit to boost the funds and we were still able to give a fairly generous donation to the Salvation Army from the raffles and donation buckets. A great success all round!

On the social front, sadly our Annual Dinner in March did not happen. It had been planned to take place in the hall with Bev doing the catering, since this was what members said they wanted. However when the date was getting close and only nineteen members had booked, the decision had to be taken to cancel it. As we had been keeping the date free, a group of us went to the Joseph Arch for a meal instead and had a very good evening. So this year we are holding the dinner there, and twenty-five of us, the maximum they can accommodate, will be going next Friday for what will, I’m sure, be a most enjoyable occasion.

The Skittles Evening in September was held at a different venue this year. We had been slightly disappointed at Snitterfield last year so decided to try the Wild Boar in Warwick instead. The food was good and it was a very enjoyable evening.

In October we held an Open Evening to try to recruit some new members. The average age of our membership is rising, not just because we are all getting older, but because we are losing younger members as they go off to college or move away. However the lure of free wine and nibbles and a possible part in “A Fairy Tale Christmas Carol” was not enough and nobody but members came, which was rather disappointing.

So now we must look forward.

The April production is in rehearsal, a thriller by Norman Robbins called “At The Sign of the Crippled Harlequin” which Jan is directing, and we are currently trying to sort out a suitable play or plays for June.

And don’t forget, if you meet anybody you think may be interested in joining us, especially if they are young and/or male, please bring them along.

Jane Scott

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