A request for stories…

Any mention of heritage in Huntingdon generally conjures up images of Oliver Cromwell and the old age debate for the legitimacy of Huntingdonshire. So it often comes as somewhat of a surprise when I mention the heritage of Huntingdon’s local drama club. They’re not exactly as ancient in history as our Lord Protector of England but seventy years does leave behind some great local stories.

The Huntingdon die-hards have been transforming the local stage for seventy years with their earliest known performance in 1944. The club continues to thrive and is enjoying yet another successful year of performances at the Commemoration Hall, Huntingdon.

Our previous productions page shows historic shots of casts past, including that of “Duet for Two Hands” (1960) the first production to take place in the newly built Commemoration Hall.  Doris Beaton is seated left & Jack Hyde can be seen standing behind veteran director Edna Peck (seated right).

The club would love to find out more about its impact on community life so please use the contact form  to submit your stories. We’ll post the best ones right here on the Blog!

Guest Blogger: Nathanael Spalding (currently starring as ‘Tom’ in Accrington Pals)

 

“California Suite” announced for our Spring Production!

I was delighted recently to learn that the Drama Club had agreed that Lindsay Kennedy and I could co-direct Neil Simon’s comedy, California Suite, for the Spring production.  Co-direct, you ask?  How has that come about?  Well some time ago I received the following email from Lindsay:

Dear Valerie,

I have just read a very amusing play by Neil Simon.  It is called California Suite.  I don’t know if you know it.  Cleverly, it follows a year in the life of a hotel suite and the different guests that occupy the room.  Each has their own problems and story. It made me laugh!  It also is full of pathos, so, a bit of everything for all tastes!

In fact, although trembling a little, I was wondering whether to put it forward to the committee as a possible Spring production for next year.

I would love to direct it but, having only directed one adult play before, plus loads of Reception class Nativities of course(!), I was wondering if you would like to join me on this one as Co-director??   I know we would all benefit from your experience and it would be fun to give it a go!!!  What do you say?? 

Looking forward to hearing from you.

In anticipation,

Lindsay

What a fine idea, I thought.  As well as being flattered that Lindsay felt she could benefit from my experience with directing (all you actually have to do is direct from time to time and get old and hey presto – a wealth of experience!)  the play is both amusing and thoughtful and sometimes pure slapstick.  It was made into a film starring Alan Alda, Jane Fonda, Walter Matthau, Maggie Smith, Michael Caine, Bill Cosby and Richard Pryor.  And Neil Simon has a wonderful way with words and with comedy.

So, we decided to go ahead.  I told Lindsay to heed the advice given in The Hitch-Hikers’ Guide to the Galaxy and stop trembling.  We recently had our first meeting and are enthusiastically planning auditions in early January.  Lindsay mentioned again that she has little experience with directing, except for countless children’s nativity plays, and was afraid she would treat the cast like the little school-kids.  I suggested that might not be a bad thing!  Jokingly, of course!

It’s a great play for the club to do, as there are juicy parts for actors of all genders and ages.  It’s going to be a lot of fun.

Lindsay and I will be meeting up again next week for more pre-planning and I’ll keep you up to date on progress.

Guest Blogger: Valerie Gerrard (Co-Director)

Rehearsals are drawing to a close..!

It’s normal at this stage of the rehearsal process, so close to opening night, to get very protective over your show. In the case of The Accrington Pals, it’s doubly so. Our team have bonded so well over the last few weeks that I almost want to wrap them in cotton wool and store them in a safe & sterile environment where they can’t be affected by anything (or anyone!) on the outside. It’d also be a good way of getting those last few blasted lines learned properly…

There is a tangible excitement amongst some of the cast, a nervousness from others. We can all feel how close the performances are & we know we have something special on our hands with this show. It’s great that opening night is just round the corner, but I’m also glad that we have another week to rehearse. Running through Act 2 last night I spotted a couple of areas that need to be re-worked – all down to poor blocking by me, nothing to do with the acting that’s going on. So that will need to be looked at next week, as will the final moment between the characters of May & Reggie. A major breakthrough last night means that a pivotal scene in Act 2 is now working well.

It feels like we’re going to peak at just the right time. Not only that, but it feels like the rehearsal process has been exactly that – a process, a journey. And the next logical step is to take that process onto the stage.

Guest Blogger: Dean Laccohee (Director) 

From an Accrington Pals first timer!

October, 2014

This has been my first experience of being involved in Huntingdon Drama club and I have been very impressed with the professionalism of cast and director. Rehearsals start with a warm up, are business like and we get a lot achieved as everybody is focussed. The cast have been learning their lines from the start so we can be word perfect to show respect to Peter Whelan’s writing, and it’s exciting to feel the play start to come together.

I have enjoyed the rehearsals the most where the evening has started and I have felt a bit stuck as to how to play the scene and the director has made suggestions for changes to movement or emphasis on dialogue bringing the scene to life. There has been a real collaborative feel to the production and it shows on stage.

I am very proud to be part of this play and I think the audience are really going to enjoy it. Don’t forget your hankies!

Guest Blogger: Josephine Hussey (Sarah)

Rehearsals get under way for Accrington Pals

September, 2014

Acting is an active activity. That’s three uses of the word ‘act’ in one sentence. Which i suppose explains what I’m trying to say. You have to ‘do it’ to make it happen. And that was the basis of my notes for tonight’s rehearsal. You have to make it happen. There is no black magic or dark art that will make your performance become more realised. If you want to appear more scared, more aggressive, happier, sadder, wherever – you have to make it happen. Acting is action. Every scene has an action, every moment. What do you, as a character, want to achieve from this or that scene? My acting teacher advised us to ask ourselves three questions before taking to the stage – who am I, where am I and what am I doing? Answer those three questions and you’ll feel better prepared to take those scary steps onto the stage. Because a character in a play is always doing something to drive the action forward – look at your script (because that’s all you have) and ask yourself “why am I in this scene?”

Guest Blogger: Dean Laccohee (Director)

Accrington Pals chosen for our Autumn Production!

July, 2014

So the Huntingdon Drama Club committee have accepted my proposal to direct The Accrington Pals for their autumn 2014 production. Suddenly I think – “now I have to really do this”. The ideas I’ve had for this production now have to become solid ideas. I start to wonder if I will be able to find the right people to fill my cast – are the actors out there to play these roles? I have two or three people in mind that I’ve seen in their recent productions that I think may be suitable, but will they be interested? Will they be available? Can they do the Lancashire accent?!

I re-read the play with the restrictions and possibilities of the venue in mind. I have strong images and visions for the play but now it becomes a case of actually realising them. The music I have in mind for the beginning of the play is on repeat on my iPod in the car. I picture the rain on the Accrington street, the market stall and the opening scene between Tom & May. Voices other than those in my own head reading those lines.

I’ve always thought of directing a play like putting together a jigsaw puzzle. Start with the corner pieces and build into the middle. Time to audition. Time to plan…

Guest Blogger: Dean Laccohee (Director)