Funtington Players offer first production in two years

Funtington Players return from the pandemic with their first production since autumn 2019 – A Bunch of Amateurs by Ian Hislop and Nick Newman.

Alan Copsey by Rosey Purchase
Alan Copsey by Rosey Purchase

They will be in action at West Ashling Village Hall from November 23-27, with Alan Copsey directing.

“We were in the middle of rehearsals for Our Country’s Good by Timberlake Wertenbaker when the pandemic hit,” Alan says. “I wasn’t involved in it but the company was halfway through when suddenly it all stopped.

“But while the pandemic has been on we have tried to keep in touch with each other and the Players in a lot of ways and it has been pretty good. Our chairman has been really good at trying to keep things together. We’ve done quizzes and play readings and a couple of workshops and it has all gone well. We had an AGM and suddenly we had a lot of new people arrive. I think people are looking for something to do.

“Our last production before this was Rumours by Neil Simon and that was in the autumn of 2019 so it will be two years since we last had a big production.

“It’s is a long time to keep things going, and amateur dramatic companies do tend to fall apart, but we have done well really.

“We decided in the summer that we should try, despite everything, to put on an autumn production and I came up with this particular play, I think mainly because I had seen it and I thought it would be a good one to do.

“It is very funny. It is a really good comedy. And it is very well written and also it is what people need at the moment. I think to put on something rather more serious would not have been appropriate. This is what people would want.

“The background was that Ian Hislop and Nick Newman were already scriptwriters. They did Spitting Image stuff and so on and they were asked to look at a script for A Bunch Of Amateurs in 2006 or 2007.

“They were asked to write the screenplay for what became the film, and I think they then thought it would make a really good stage play. They had some connection with the Watermill Theatre in Newbury and the Watermill commissioned them to write a play for the theatre based on A Bunch Of Amateurs. They wrote it and it was put on at the Watermill in 2014.

“Basically Nick Newman says that it is a love letter to amateur dramatics. The idea is that a fading Hollywood action star arrives in England because his agent has got him the part of King Lear to play at Stratford but it turns out it is not Stratford upon Avon and the RSC but sleepy Stratford in Suffolk where he is confronted by a bunch of amateurs that are trying to save their theatre from closure. He arrives and he has got a huge ego. And the amateurs that he is confronted with are like the stereotypes of amateur dramatics people that you would imagine – not that that is what they are really like!”

Alan has done plenty of both acting and directing with the company: “I’ve played lots of parts with Funtington and I’ve directed them six or seven times.

“With directing I don’t have to learn the words! That’s a huge consideration. But also now that I’m retired I have got the time.

“Directing a play and putting on a show is very time-consuming but I can do that and I love doing it.

“And it’s lovely to be working with such a nice bunch of people during rehearsals.”