Amongst many things, three special entities celebrate their 50th anniversary this year. A famous fast food chain’s signature product: the Big Mac is fifty years old and Bad Boys and Men in Black actor Will Smith celebrates his half century in September this year.
There is no longer a McDonalds in Beeston (cheer or boo depending on your opinion) and the Fresh Prince has never visited our fair town (that I know of) but one very Beeston thing celebrates its 50 years of existence – The Beeston Players.
Formed in 1968 as Beeston & Stapleford Dramatic Society with support and a little funding from the Council (years before austerity, when they had money [Am I allowed to say that <wink>?]. The very first production was Cat on the Fiddle written by John Dole hosted at Beeston College of Further Education in February of the following year.
The acting bug was well and truly biting away and after a few years the connection with Beeston & Stapleford Urban District Council was severed and the group became financially independent and started performing at Round Hill school.
In 1970 they teamed up with Beeston Operatic Society, each company putting on an act either side of an interval. The Drama side performed Red Pepper by Noel Coward.
In 1973 the decision was made to change the name to BEESTON PLAYERS as we know it today. Lured away from Beeston by a ‘state of the art’ purpose built theatre at the new Chilwell Comprehensive School (not quite in Beeston, but just down the road), Beeston Players stayed there for 18 years until the cost of hire of the theatre doubled overnight and became out of reach for a small drama group.
Thankfully Round Hill School was able to extend a welcome back and the Players came home to Beeston in 1993, where we have put on 2 shows a year (May & November) ever since.
There is nothing like experiencing live theatre either being in the crowd or participating in it. The adrenaline, the hard work all culminating in a performance with a crowd applauding (hopefully).
It certainly keeps you on your toes especially when things don’t go quite to script. Most of the times the audience never notice (unless they had a copy of the script in their hands) but in the past we’ve had the male lead actor taken ill and replaced with the female prompt (with a copy of the script in their hands), doors sticking shut, and a character dropping dead 3 pages too early. In any situation an unexpected dead body in the middle of the floor is hard to deal with.
We’ve done comedy, drama, murder mysteries and thrillers and no two performances are ever the same. The actors you see on stage are only the tip of the iceberg and there is a team of hard working crew backstage and at front of house doing duties such as props, lights, sounds, costumes, set building or serving the interval drinks – we work together as a team.
We are always looking out for new members to join and you don’t need to have the desire to be the next Vicky McClure (though that would be nice), because, as just mentioned, there are plenty of other jobs help out with.
As well as working as a team, above all we are an amateur group and only get together two hours twice a week to rehearse. This ramps up in the week leading to the performance. Everyone gives up their spare time to pitch in.
After paying out for things such as room hire, the royalties for the play and materials, any surplus moneys get ploughed into the next production. The royalty costs in 1975 were around £10 per performance, today they are more like £85-£100. We all pull together and do it for the love of it all.
For our next production we are putting on our very first show – “Cat on the Fiddle” a comedy/farce at Round Hill School on Wednesday 9th May through to Friday 11th May at 7:30pm and a matinee on the Saturday 12th at 2:30pm. Come and see it, I don’t want to give away the whole plot but I can promise: Italians, smuggling and water cress sandwiches, and as is tradition in all farce comedies: someone will be losing their trousers.
Let’s hope everything will be alright on the night. See beestonplayers.org for reserved ticket or come and pay on the door.
We will be have a party to celebrate our 50th Anniversary in the summer, so Will Smith (if you are reading) if you do want to celebrate your birthday with some fellow actors, feel free to pop in.
Barbara Barton and Gary Frost