The amateur stage casts its net wide. It takes in major protagonists like Birmingham’s Crescent Theatre, which is apt to undertake Nicholas Nickleby in two three-hour instalments or present The Winter’s Tale and Othello in repertoire on alternate nights and never put a foot wrong.
But it also embraces groups that come together – sometimes just once a year and sometimes just for a one-off production – and briefly become the talking-point of their community for all the right reasons.
There are probably quite a lot of them up and down the land at the moment, heavily populated by schoolchildren, teachers and members of parent-teacher associations, emerging brightly for the pantomime season and contributing hugely to the bonhomie of their village, housing estate or wider area.
On Sunday afternoon, inspired by the discovery that the GP who is my next door neighbour was heavily involved, I was among the audience at one such enterprise, with the adventures of Little Red Riding Hood as its home-grown subject.
My dauntless doctor friend was in fact the dame – funny, fluttery, with frightening red fingernails, he was a spirited member of an ad hoc group with a big bad wolf who looked like Basil Brush’s older brother and three environmentally-aware little pigs named Laurence, Llewellyn and Bowen.
It was amusingly written and presented with panache to an audience packed with seasonal neighbourly goodwill. Great fun!
Moreover, it was with wide-eyed wonder that I read the programme’s accompanying blurb for the Ultimate Plum Pudding and the Ultimate Chocolate Pudding, both being offered for hard cash in aid of the local school at #5 a time – #4.50 each if you were tempted to order more than one.
Sutton Coldfield’s Trinity Players are preparing for their production of Chess under their new director, Helen Smith.
Helen, who has wide experience of the musical stage, both as a performer and musical director, also sings with the City of Birmingham Symphony Chorus and plays percussion in Birmingham Symphonic Winds.
The venue will be Sutton Coldfield Town Hall, from May 9-13.
I am sad to have to record the death in his mid-90s of Arthur Street, founder of Birmingham’s Edgbaston-based Midland Music Makers and a fount of knowledge of the world of opera.
Arthur, who lived in Solihull, combined his music with metallurgy, a field in which he was a well-known and highly respected figure, and on which he produced an authoritative book.
But he never let metallurgy get in the way of his music. When he was working in London, he thought nothing of driving to Birmingham to conduct a rehearsal and then driving back again. He formed the Music Makers in Bournville in 1939 as the Gooch Street Choir, but seven years later he decided to let members try their hands and their voices at staging an opera.
The result was Prince Igor – and the group has never looked back.
I know it’s me, and that whenever I am in an audience for one of the Farndale comedies by David McGillivray and Walter Zerlin Jnr, I seem to be the only one whose sides remain unsplit – but I can no longer get to grips with the absurdities inherent in anything that comes under the heading of a Farndale Housing Estate Townswomen’s Guild Dramatic Society Production.
All around me, strong men wipe their eyes and dab their soggy cheeks while I envy them their unconditional capitulation and remain unmoved.
I, too, was a hapless victim of the tide of idiocy when I saw my first Farndale, many years ago at Coventry’s Criterion Theatre. I would like to surrender again to that happy fate.
Unfortunately, however, these head-on swipes at amateur drama cannot offer more than one way of hanging the scenery upside-down.
A corpse seeking another way to open one eye will seek in vain, and how else can you shove a belated suitcase onto the stage, other than with – well, a shove? I wish Sutton Arts Theatre every success with its production of The Farndale. . .Christmas Carol that opens tomorrow. I know the company will do it well – but by this time I seem to have no way of knowing whether a gem from the series is being done well or not.
This is the second play in a season that is being dedicated to the memory of Hilary Dorman, a Sutton Arts stalwart for years.
Charity Showcase, Spotlight Productions, Brownhills Community School (to Saturday).
Over My Dead Body, Rugby Theatre (to Saturday).
On Course for Murder, Swan Theatre Amateur Company, Swan Theatre, Worcester (to Saturday).
Aladdin, Hall Green Little Theatre (to Dec 18).
Aladdin, Youth Onstage, Dovehouse Theatre, Solihull (to Saturday).
We’ll Meet Again, Dudley Little Theatre, Netherton Arts Centre (to Saturday).
A Celebration of Christmas, Salvation Army, Norbury Theatre, Droitwich (Saturday)
A Christmas Carol, Nonentities, Rose Theatre, Kidderminster (Dec 9-16).
A Christmas Music Hall, Rugby Theatre (Sunday).
A Murder is Announced, Crescent Theatre, Birmingham (Dec 11-16).
Students, Watch This!, mac (Dec 11 & 12).
Daughters of Albion, Stage 2, Patrick Centre, Birmingham Hippodrome (Dec 13-16).
Wassail, Crescent Players, Highbury Hall, Moseley (Dec 10 & 14).