Our annual programme of activities includes one-act plays, three-act plays, revues and pantomimes.
Robin Hood & the Babes in the Wood
All the familiar characters were present – Robin Hood and his band of outlaws, along with Maid Marion and the wicked Sheriff of Nottingham. However, the Sheriff is guardian to his niece and nephew, who have inherited a fortune which he wants, so they must be got rid of. It is up to the men in green to thwart his evil plan.
There is an unusual twist – the younger AP members played all the principal roles while the supporting characters were drawn from our adult section.
'Youngsters prove they are not babes!" – so wrote our reviewer, going on to make the point that nine of the fifeteen actors who took to the stage were aged between just ten and thirteen. He noted that the young people,"…dominated the stage from start to finish".
There was much thigh slapping and a remarkable fight, during which the quaterstaves got progressively smaller. It would be wrong to say that Amanda Duffin added a new dimension to the role of dame, just suffice it to say that, after each performance, there was a gentleman in the audience for whom the words "audience participation" had a new and rather personal meaning.
Director Vicky White, aided by Musical Director Debbie Cambray-Smith, took on the chaIlenge. and succeeded. It was something a little different but it really worked and worked well.
The God of Carnage
A comedy of manners - without the manners! Director Linda Porter, “I like the way the play reveals the characters and eventually exposes their fragilities which are revealed in a variety of ways in what is a multi-layered production.”
It I Were Not Upon The Stage…
Directed by Debbie Cambray-Smith this was a fun, fast paced production. Songs, sketches, dances and monologues all blended well together to the obvious approval of the audiences.
A reviwer wrote:
"When presented by an ensemble production such as this, it is perhaps invidious to single out individual performances but, having said that, I’m going to break my rule. The young members of the group are always involved and this time, ably marshalled by Margaret Williams and Amy Cambray, they were really able to show off their talent. It was good to see them have the opportunity to demonstrate their acting skills, along with the dances choreographed by Amy, but more of that later. As for the adults, the Dead Parrot sketch performed by Amanda Duffin and Bob Charman, was worthy of the original Monty Python performance. Hay Blake, as Eliza, was the perfect foil for Robert Naylor-Stubbs enthusiastic Higgins, in the snippet from “My Fair Lady”. Simon Blake clearly enjoyed himself performing “In the Navy” – or was it the opportunity to wear a Tom Cruise style white uniform!
For me, there were two stand out moments. The concept, interpretation and performance of “The Anvil Chorus”, under UV lighting, was outstanding. Individual cogs and pieces of machinery came together to form a ’working’ clock. The director, Amy, Ewan (lighting) and the young people should all feel justifiably proud.
The other special moment occurred right at the beginning. Over the years David Shelley has become well known for the quality of his backdrops, particularly for pantomimes, but his interpretation of LS Lowry’s ‘Going to Work’ was nothing short of magnificent.
At a time when there are those who seek to demean and belittle, it is good to see the Athelstan Players putting a smile on the face of Malmesbury."
There were certainly smiles on the faces of the cast, who had great fun taking part. We even had a mini-orchestra! Thank you Michelle and Sophie.
Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves
Our reviwer wrote:
"Good Old Fashioned Panto Fun!
I sometimes wonder how panto could have been created in these days of political correctness it just couldn’t happen now, a product of a bygone age, but praise be that it has survived and continues to thrive!
The Athelstan Players annual seasonal treat usually sees it taking place as a curtain raiser to the festive period, but this winter it lit up January’s winter blues…"
Christine Mace was determined to give our audiences performances that encouraged full participation and boy, did they oblige! Never have the boos and shouts of "Look behind you" sounded louder. A good time was had by all – including the cast.
Peace & Love – Carnival Revue
It was two years in the making! Well, perhaps not quite. It was originally due to be performed in 2020 but Covid restrictions meant we held it back until normal service could be resumed. Kate Almond put together a packed programme of songs and sketches which gave the cast little time to change between acts but smooth segues made this easier, with the audience scarcely noticing the changes.
Music from the 60s all the way through to today encouraged audience participation, especially for the Beatles medley that closed the show. The young Athelstan Players played a full part in the production through song, dance and acting
Two One Act plays
Athelstan Players are regular participants in One Act Play Festivals and our 2022 entry (Avon Short Play Festival – February 2022) was “The Proposal” by Anton Chekhov, directed by Linda Porter. We didn’t win but received nominations for best actress (Amanda Duffin) and actor (Bob Charman) and the prize for best costume. In order for a wider audience to enjoy the production, Christine Mace directed “Playgoers”, another one act and the two plays together formed a fascinating evening’s entertainment.
Prodigious facial hair was much in evidence in the “The Proposal”, as two families attempted to unite their estates by marriage, but it all fell apart with an acrimonious disagreement over who had the best hunting dog!
“Playgoers” also ended with a major falling out, as the lady of the house’s attempt to introduce her staff to ‘proper’ theatre was foiled by the redoubtable cook.
The Owl and the Pussycat Went to See…
Directed by Amanda Duffin, this was perhaps not a traditional pantomime in the accepted sense, but ‘The Owl and the Pussycat Went to See…’ had all the traditional elements … a hero (albeit a little nervous at times), a heroine (offering comforting support when needed), a disparate group of characters providing comedic relief and a villain. A happy ending ensued and the villain got his comeuppance.
Curses, Foiled Again
Malmesbury Carnival was anxious to get back to as ‘normal’ as possible as Covid restrictions were being lifted and so were Athelstan Players. Traditionally, our carnival revue was one of the first things on the Carnival programme and we were determined to be able to take part.
Christine Mace came up with a one act play which had a small cast, thereby getting around restrictions on the number of people in one place and so making rehearsals possible. Occasionally, rehearsals took place outside. It was also important that our audience felt ‘safe’, so we decided on al fresco performances – outdoors in the Cloister Garden.
“Curses…” is a play within a play as an amateur drama group attempt to rehearse despite the underlying tensions between the leading lady (who cannot learn her lines), the director (a failed roué) and his long-suffering wife. All ends well – at least while they are all ‘on stage’.
The audience came and the rain did not – just!
Captain Hook’s Revenge
Directed by Debbie Charman and Jackie Peel, this was a light-hearted take on JM Barrie’s Peter Pan. Two of the leading characters took to their roles as Wendy and Peter Pan to the manor born, aided no doubt by the fact that they are both primary school teachers. Captain Hook’s evil plan to poison all the good guys was thwarted by the rats, who overheard him briefing his crew and alerted Peter Pan and the native north Americans. The crocodile got fed and everyone else lived happily ever after.
As there were no parts for juniors in The Flint Street Nativity, it was decided they should have their own panto. Christine Mace directed it and the young people performed like seasoned actors. There were a great many proud mums and dads in the audience.