The Council of the National Operatic & Dramatic Association (NODA) stirred up a hornets’ nest at its conference in Peebles in its efforts to reduce the costs of its annual gathering.
The National Weekend traditionally takes place in the region represented by NODA’s incoming president, which means that each region hosts the event roughly every ten years. But the costs of the exercise, which involves bringing members together from such widely-separated areas as Cornwall, Norfolk and Scotland, have galvanised NODA’s council into a desperate effort at rationalisation.
Delegates in Peebles were shocked to learn that the association had signed a contract with Marriott Hotels that will take next year’s National Weekend to Leicester – although the incoming president will be from the South East region – and could possibly return there in 2010.
Chief executive Tony Gibbs warned: “We have signed a one-year contract but we don’t think we shall be able to demonstrate the full cost savings in one year, so it might be two years before we can say what the full cost benefits are.
But we’re not talking about a permanent move to Leicester.”
NODA chairman Eric Smart stressed that there was no actual commitment for two years, but criticisms included a protest that some people would only have a chance of attending the weekend if it kept on the move, and that the support given to an incoming president by the attendance of members of his or her own region would be greatly diminished.
Applause greeted a member who sought an assurance that there would be consultation with regions, societies and individual members to ensure that what council required was what the membership required.
These are stirring times for amateur theatre’s umbrella organisation.
* No fan of the Van
A battered Ford Transit van is the centrepiece of Highbury Little Theatre’s current production of The Lady in the Van, Alan Bennett’s story of how his garden played host to the van and its strident and smelly woman occupant for 15 years.
Alison Daly, with a shrill performance as Miss Shepherd, is the centrepiece of Rob Phillips’s production, which continues until Saturday at the Sutton Coldfield venue – and she gave herself a spot of unwonted panic during one of the dress rehearsals by closing the back door behind her as she climbed in, forgetting that it could not be opened from inside.
She pressed a face full of consternation against the window and she was quickly released. And next time she climbed in, she did it again.
You can’t trust these thespians.
* Morons on mobiles
All & Sundry is a comparatively new theatre group based in Bromsgrove – and last week it took its courage in both hands to take its production of An Inspector Calls to the wide open spaces of the stage at Birmingham’s Crescent Theatre.
Happily, its bravery was fully justified from the artistic viewpoint, but the comparatively small wedge of patrons in the centre of an otherwise virtually empty auditorium was the cruel response it received on its first night.
Moreover, two morons appeared to be totally absorbed with their mobile telephones after the production had got under way for some reason without the now-habitual request that they should be turned off.
Is there a university student somewhere who could produce a thesis on why such idiots actually go to a theatre?
* Sam gets her man
I hear that Samantha (“Sam”) Hinchcliffe is apt to be addressed as Mrs Chairman, now that her husband Phil has become chairman of BMOS Musical Productions.
They met during the group’s production of 42nd Street in 2005, played boyfriend and girlfriend in Me and My Girl the following year, and last year were stepmother and son in Thoroughly Modern Millie.
They were married last July, so they are not involved on stage for this year’s show, FAME, due at the Old Rep from October 21-25. But both of them are busy behind the scenes, with Phil working with the new production team and Sam helping as social secretary. And Sam’s mother, Glenis Merritt, has assumed responsibility for bookings from veteran stalwart Russell Taylor, who is seriously ill.
* Spare your blushes
Highbury Little Theatre member Sandy Haynes has issued a disclaimer in advance of the forthcoming visit of her stand-up comedian daughter Natalie Haynes, who will be presenting her touring show at Highbury on Sunday, November 30.
All the proceeds will go to the theatre’s development fund and Sandy has invoked its online newsletter to say that Natalie is never boring but to warn that the show is only suitable for those over 16 years of age and is not for the faint-hearted.
And she adds a postscript: “PS. I’m not responsible for anything she says.”
* What's On
Boogie Nights : West Bromwich Operatic Society, Mill Theatre, Sedgley (to Saturday).
The Lady in the Van: Highbury Little Theatre (to Saturday).
Anything Goes: From the Top Theatre Company, Crescent Theatre, Birmingham (to Saturday).
Tons of Money: Lichfield Players, Lichfield Garrick (to Saturday).
Fly Me to the Moon: Fellowship Players, Grange Playhouse, Walsall (Oct 2-11).
The Pow er of Ten: Crescent Theatre, Birmingham (Oct 4).
The Arsonists : Crescent Theatre, Birmingham (Oct 6-11).
Oklahoma!: South Staffs Musical Theatre Company, Grand Theatre, Wolverhampton (Oct 7-11).
The Great Songwriters: Argosy Musical Theatre Company, Crescent Theatre, Birmingham (Oct 9-11).
Sylvia: Hall Green Little Theatre (Oct 10-18).
Valentino: Talisman Theatre, Kenilworth (Oct 11-18).