Monday, 20 August 2007

Amateur Theatre

I miss the fun and camaraderie of amateur dramatics.

Over the years Joe and I have enjoyed working on many shows.

‘Aladdin and the 7 Thieves’ was the show where the writer had never written before, the director had never directed, the sound and lighting crew were new and the show was five days away from opening when I was asked to help out. Now that was fun! This was a production of the British School of Brussels’ Pantaloons Group. A group of eager, if mad – the accent was firmly on the ‘loons’ in their name - enthusiasts who raised huge amounts of money with their annual, sell out Pantomimes. I took over as Stage Manager and the show went on after several very long evening rehearsals and much crash training to bring it all together.

Joe was able to perfect his famous technique for making rubber chickens fly whilst working on ‘The Princess and the Pea’.

Whilst in Brussels, apart from the pantomimes, I was asked to train a stage manager for the Brussels Shakespeare Society’s production of ‘The Merchant of Venice’. This was a lovely production in which we managed safely to bring live flame on stage without burning the auditorium down!

Whilst we lived in Dhaka, Bangladesh, we joined the only English language theatre group in the country, Dhaka Stage. This opened up many horizons for us. It was a never ending source of amazement to me that there were so many talented people in the city. We had everything from a professional Tenor to a real film actor and all came forward to work on Dhaka Stage’s charity fund raising productions.

It was in Dhaka that Joe went on the stage for the first time. He was a Roman Senator in ‘Fore Plays’ and a Victorian Policeman in ‘A Christmas Carol’ and did very well. We were very lucky in that we had a wealth of very good - and very cheap - tailors in the city, able to make excellent costumes for very moderate prices. Our shows always looked very good, both in terms of costumes and also in terms of set design, for which we were able to bring very talented people in from local schools.

Towards the end of our time in Dhaka the group was asked to put on a show for the Bangladeshi Foreign Office Wives Association at the Sonagaon Hotel in central Dhaka. This was then the only really five star hotel in the country. We put on ‘The Importance of Being Earnest’ in their dining room to an audience of over 400 guests and later took it to a less exulted public for a fund raising run. This led to the hotel management itself approaching the group for a fund raiser of its own and, just before Christmas 2004, we staged ‘A Christmas Carol’ at the same venue. We raised money towards a floating hospital which, in a country that is only 25 feet above sea level at its highest point, was a necessity to reach often remote and far-flung villages.

Now we live on the lovely island of Anguilla. There is some amateur dramatic work in the schools and a group for young people. When I made a tentative approach to one of the groups early on in our time here, I was invited to a meeting of the group but the leader would not give me his address. “Ask anyone,” he said, “and they will tell you where I live.” I asked, got puzzled frowns and that was that.

Amateur theatre is fun but very demanding. As a director it is particularly hard work but the rewards at the end, when the show goes on, are well worth it. Joe and I will return to it when we get the opportunity once again.

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