There is good news from Walsall’s Philip Holyman, the Fellowship Players member who created a delightful comedy called Oysters and Snails for the Players to premiere a couple of years ago and which deserves a few airings elsewhere.
He is developing an idea for a new play, called The Violet Chamber – and an idea about how to present it. He tells me that it’s about as far removed from Oysters and Snails as you could get, because: it’s a ghost story that draws upon classics like The Turn of the Screw, The Haunting of Hill House, and similar novels and stories.
The plot centres on a rundown provincial museum, which is taken over by a new curator, a woman whose predecessor died in mysterious circumstances. She insists upon reopening the Violet Chamber, a room that has been off-limits to the public because of persistent inexplicable goings-on. Very soon, things start to happen, and the sinister secret history of the building’s past begins to unravel, with horrifying consequences.
That’s the play; now the presentation.
Its creator says: “I would like to find a group of about ten amateur companies from across the country, who would all stage their own productions within a short space of time. I would spend a long time developing the script and keeping in contact with the companies throughout the pre-production and production process, and then, finally – I’m thinking autumn 2011 – there would be ten completely different productions of the play all making their debuts across the space of a season.
“It’s an exciting idea in theory but I don’t know how easy it would be to co-ordinate.”
I am sure it will not be easy at all – but this is the sort of radical thinking that could be a shot in the arm for the talented people who battle endlessly to keep the amateur stage alive, alert and appetising.
I am sorry to hear of the death of June Lawrence, four days short of her 79th birthday. She was a stalwart of the amateur stage, both on the boards and as a director, for half a century. She spent her time in Birmingham with three of the invaluable smaller groups who contribute greatly to the scene without necessarily attracting the attention accorded to bigger ones.
She started with the original Billesley Players, which was to close some years later, but in 1972 she and her late husband Geoff were two of the five founder members of the current Billesley Players. She subsequently joined the Stanley Theatre Group and later Drama 13, and after ill-health intervened she continued to attend productions of all three groups.