East Lane Theatre, Vale Farm, Watford Road, Sudbury, Middlesex, HA0 3HG Registered Charity Number 1183134
THE PLAY’S THE THING
Part One 1990 to 1996
Click on any of the show titles to go to the galleries.
THE FIRST production in our very own theatre was Alan Ayckbourn’s play ABSENT FRIENDS, directed by Rosemary Hourihane. It was to have been WHO’S AFRAID OF VIRGINIA WOOLF, but the amateur rights to perform the play were withdrawn due to a proposed professional production!
Perhaps we should explain; plays are in copyright while the author is alive and for seventy five years after their death. The rights are controlled by the authors agents via a publisher, and, as we found out only a couple of years ago, can be withdrawn at very short notice.
But back to ABSENT FRIENDS, which opened on 19th October 1990, with a special Gala performance, and was followed by five other performances, including for the first time, one on a Sunday. And the royalties payable for each performance? £35. It’s now over the £70!
Before the first production had finished we had cast our second play, Mary O’Malleys’ ONCE A CATHOLIC, directed by Bryan
Hourihane, and based on the author’s experiences at a convent school only a few miles away from East Lane.
The last production of our first season was Bob Larbeys’ portrait of life in a retirement home, A MONTH OF SUNDAYS directed by Simon Winkler. By this time we had increased the number of performances to seven, and were the proud possessors of a set of “House” curtains for the stage sponsored by Wembley Stadium.
The second season opened with a Parliamentary comedy PARDON ME, PRIME MINISTER by Edward Taylor and John Graham, directed by John Young, followed in January 1992 by THOSE WERE THE DAYS, an evening of music hall and melodrama directed by Rosemary. By way of complete contrast the next production, PRIN by Andrew Davies, dealt with the personal and professional problems of the principal of a teachers training college. It was directed by Sigmar Berensweig.
The season ended with Joe Orton’s farce WHAT THE BUTLER SAW, directed by Bryan.
Work behind the scenes never stopped (it still doesn’t!), and by the end of 1992 the cast actually had comfortable dressing rooms rather than huddling round a fan heater in a curtained-off area of the annexe.
Rosemary took over the director’s job again for Ronald Harwood’s backstage play THE DRESSER, recently seen on television.
Our next production was a scenic challenge to our “techies”, a triple bill of one-act plays by Noël Coward under the title of TONIGHT AT 8.30, all directed by John Young, and the season ended with Agatha Christies court room drama WITNESS FOR THE PROSECUTION, directed by Bryan.
October saw a return to the lighter side with SEE HOW THEY RUN, Philip King’s wartime comedy,
involving numerous vicars and an escaped German prisoner. It was directed by Simon. Emlyn Williams’ murder mystery NIGHT MUST FALL, was directed by John, then came the female version of Neil Simon’s comedy THE ODD COUPLE.
Director Jack Gould had to get permission from the author’s agent in New York to perform it, as licences were not issued for amateurs within 100 miles of London.
Our next season opened with Alan Ayckbourn’s MAN OF THE MOMENT, a black comedy about an unpleasant TV personality, living in an elegant Mediterranean villa. Danny Popkin, as so often, provided the set and Rosemary directed.
It was during this time that we had the good news that our application for a grant from the Foundation for Sport and the Arts had been successful, which enabled us to start work on rebuilding the foyer and café/bar area.
Jack directed the first production of the 1994/1995 season, OTHER PEOPLE’S MONEY, a new American drama about the take–over of a family owned business. This was followed by MURDERED TO DEATH, by Peter Gordon an outrageous spoof of Agatha Christie’s mysteries. Rosemary directed, and Bryan had a lot of fun playing the totally incompetent Inspector Pratt.
Another complete contrast and another American play, Arthur Millers classic drama ALL MY SONS directed by Simon, this ended the season in April, rather earlier than usual to allow for more building work to be done.
SEPARATE TABLES by Terence Rattigan, first performed by the Club at their previous home, the Elms Hall in Sudbury in 1972, was once again directed by John Young. TEN TIMES TABLE, yet another Alan Ayckbourn comedy directed by Rosemary. Our Sixtieth Anniversary season ended with a new revue SIXTY GLORIOUS YEARS, written and directed by Barry Serjent.
The next season opened in October 1996 with a mystery play DEAD RINGER by Charles Ross about a plot to substitute an actor for the recently deceased Prime Minister, directed by Rosemary. This was followed by John’s production of LORD ARTHUR SAVILLE’S CRIME, adapted from Oscar Wilde’s story about a less than successful aristocratic murderer.
YOU SAY TOMATOES by Bernard Slade came next, a tale of two divorcees directed by Rosemary. This was certainly an amateur premiere for this charming American comedy, and this marked the first appearance of rain on the East Lane stage, apart from an unsolicited leaky roof. The season ended with J.B.Priestley’s “time” play, DANGEROUS CORNER, directed by John McGee. It was in the middle of the seven night run that our eighteen extra seats arrived, work on the seating extension had started in late April. Our little theatre now boasted a total of 75 seats, and we even managed to sell some of the newly installed ones for the remaining performances.