Chris Luck, who is also the Players’ archivist, is looking forward to taking on the role of Upsidaisi in the show which runs at Lavant Memorial Hall, Pook Lane, Lavant, PO18 0AH from Wednesday to Saturday, January 25-28 at 7.30pm with a Saturday matinee at 2.30pm (tickets £9 on 01243 816581).
“It’s a sort of panto,” explains Chris. “It opens in a dockside pub in England and they are trying to recruit sailors to go off to serve on board, and then they are arriving on the island, trying to find treasure. You won’t get the ‘Oh yes, it is! Oh no, it isn’t!’ stuff, but it is still a sort of panto.”
Last year, Chris marked 40 years with the company: “I was cutting my lawn in the front garden one day. I had recently moved in, and the lady across the road said ‘Are you interested in joining our local amdram?’ and that’s how I became involved.”
Since when he has compiled the full history.
“The first production of the Lavant Players was performed on September 5 1950 and was entitled The Great Day, based on a day in the life of the Women’s Institute during the war years. This played to an audience of 160 (today’s maximum is around 120).
“The stage in those days was approximately where the entrance swinging doors are today, and admission price was 1/-. One of the cast of that first show was Nellie Squires, mother of Ted, the much-missed and loved local plumber. Nellie went on to finally call it a day in 1979. “Even in those days, it appears that the same problems arose as they do today, in so much as they struggled to recruit men to tread the boards. In 1952 the chairman urged every woman to exercise their leap-year privilege by approaching men in the village to enrol as members, the publican of the Royal Oak, Wilf Miles being one of them.
“Records from the mid 50s until 1970 for whatever reason are hard to come by. However just recently a villager handed over programmes dating from 1951 to 1956. These are invaluable to our archives, although the first-ever programme still awaits discovery. In 1971 the idea of a music hall was inaugurated by the Lavant WI. Changing rooms took the form of a curtain screen in the corner of the hall, and in that 1971 production, there were 37 men women and children changing costumes behind curtains. Despite all these difficulties, casts battled on cheerfully and much fun was had by all.
“Renovations to the hall took place in 1972, when the stage was moved to its present position. It was then decided to rename the society Lavant Music Hall. The production of 1973 was a great success on the new stage but surprisingly there was no show the following year. The wonderful Wendy Collins joined in 1977 and the following year took over the helm from Dick Carter who produced the shows from 1974 to 1977. All those that knew and worked with Wendy will know that what we have today is all down to her vision, commitment, imagination and flair. Music was supplied by Alfreda (Alfie) who played her heart out on the piano, way into her 80s, and Cedric Fletcher who concocted an assortment of spotlights from catering baked bean tins poached from the dustbins of The Royal Oak. Yes, they were indeed memorable days.
“In the mid-80s the Lavant Drama group was formed and ran alongside the Music Hall until in 1992 when they amalgamated and reverted back to the original Lavant Players.”
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