'Dear Players'...putting community into theatre
The Players may be apart for now but they're sharing memories, sending each other messages of support and generally keeping doing what they do best: inspiring each other to get involved in as much creativity as possible. In the second of this series, we find out more about how the Players take theatre out to the community.
So welcome Amanda Perry to the Players' blog! A relative newbie having joined the team in 2017, she's made a huge impact in such a short time. We should have understood her potential when she showed up just before panto season and used her magic touch backstage for The Wizard of Oz! Since then, she's done everything from painting an entire city-scape for Dick Whittington, writing and directing her own murder mystery AND taking the lead in The Deep Blue Sea. She also masterminded the application for our very first community grant from Croydon Council which helped take our panto out to the community. Here, she shares her insight in to what community means to her.
"'How can we make Downsview Players a genuine community theatre?' That was the subject of discussion at our 2018 AGM. Typically, there followed a torrent of creative ideas from the Players.
"The result? We applied for a Croydon Council Community Grant – with success! And so, at the end of 2019, the cast of Dick Whittington found themselves in the hair salon of a local care home for the elderly, preparing make-up while the audience were wheeled in from their rooms. Some slept through the show. Tough crowd. But most loved it, and staff asked us back. That evening, we went to a nursing home, where a lively audience clapped and sang along. By the end we were on first-name terms.
"With the same grant, we put on an in-house ‘relaxed’ panto performance, too. This was for adults and children with learning disabilities and/or autism, and something close to my own heart. I have two children with Down’s Syndrome, and we tend to skip the Christmas Panto season. I saw five minutes of the last professional panto we went to - my daughter couldn’t take the noise.
"No surprises, then, that a ‘relaxed’ performance of Dick Whittington, with toned down noise, no flashing lights, and the chance for people like my kids to dance away in the aisles, resulted in our quickest ticket sales for the whole production!"
"Of course, the Downsview Players are a community theatre group already in so many other ways. Our members are intimately tied to the local community: whether it is helping to run the Boys' and Girls' Brigades, the luncheon club or the food bank. We do the occasional pop-up performance for church services; the Brigades take part in our pantomimes; and we invade their summer camp. Most importantly, I love how we have looked out for each other through the lockdown period, and continue to do so.
"Sadly, the most enthusiastic audience member at our nursing home debut will not be there next panto season. Sylvia passed away due to Covid-19 in March. I hope that our panto helped to make her last Christmas a good one: she certainly made ours that bit more memorable.
"For now, we're just waiting for the time when we can get back out there and share our love of theatre and we've already got our thinking hats on to consider new opportunities, We have some grant money left over, and hope to repeat these special community performances for our 2021 panto season - so watch this space. Until we're together again."
Do you have memories from our pantomimes or performances? Share them on Facebook and tell us what community means to you.
Pictured top to bottom, left to right: At each Downsview Players' production we have a charity cake sale. Here we were raising money for Mencap at Dick Whittington in 2019; next, we put on a show at the Girls' and Boys' Brigade summer camp creating a mystery for them to solve; raising money for Alzheimer's Society during The Memory of Water; a scene from Murder at the Music Hall - a murder mystery dinner written and directed by Amanda Perry; the cast of The Deep Blue Sea during rehearsals, Amanda Perry front left.
See more images in our gallery.