The Newsletter of the Leicester Drama Society
In a major article for Scene, Trustee for Facilities, Jeremy Thompson introduces us all to the "new normal" and identifies the challenges for LDS in the years ahead. The news in October that the Theatre has been successful in a grant application from the Government’s Culture Recovery Fund to the tune of £154,865 came as welcome relief. With the Theatre having been closed since mid-March, and the only income being membership fees, the Theatre’s finances were anything but healthy. While the grant from HM Government will ensure the survival of the LDS, it is unfortunately far from ‘business as usual’. The Theatre faces enormous challenges.
It is far harder to re-open the Theatre than it was to close it in March (although Company Secretary Rob Thirlby may disagree, as he has spent many months trying to sort out everything from cancelling waste contracts to returning bar stock, from enabling remote access to computer systems to ensuring alarm systems were checked, and much more, all without being able to get into the building). The new situation faced by the Theatre’s management is one of having no full time staff, a requirement that the building is COVID-secure for volunteers and patrons, and all at a time when a socially-distanced audience can, at most, be a third of the size as previously. And it’s not just the audience that has to be socially-distanced; those on stage need to be as well and rehearsals also have to follow these rules. Technical and backstage crew also have to be socially distanced, from one another and from the cast and audience. All of this limits the Theatre to staging shows that have smaller casts, so that the distancing rules can be followed. With the government grant, the Theatre will now survive financially, but its ability to generate income from shows is limited by the requirement for socially-distanced audiences. Even with brilliantly organised social distancing in the auditorium, the maximum number that can be seated is around 130, limiting the Box Office income per performance. Without increasing ticket prices threefold, which would deter most audience members, the Theatre’s income from shows will be slashed by two-thirds, likely even more. The result is that shows are likely to either break even or to generate only a small amount of surplus. One of the downsides to LDS owning its own Theatre is the base cost of running the facility. Even while closed, the cost of simply maintaining the Theatre was around £3000 a month; to open, we have to re-start contracts for waste disposal, cleaning, insurance to include audience, heating coming into the winter months, bar supply contracts, PPE… and all has to be covered by the much reduced income from shows. Continued on Page 3
Inside Editorial 2 The New Normal contd. 3 Quiz Questions - the Answers 4 The Little Theatre Where It Began 5-6 Notes from the Office 7 A 'Little' Christmas 8
Editorial The Little Theatre Dover Street. Leicester. LE1 6PW.
As a young man, the work of an Archivist wouldn’t have interested me; “That’s just boring, keeping stuff” I would have thought, if indeed I had bothered to think about it at all. But as George W. Bush memorably said, “When I was young and foolish, I was young and foolish”. Now, somewhat older, I realise that those charged with preserving stuff do important work.
e: email@example.com Theatre Manager Vacant Leicester Drama Society Limited Board of Trustees (elected unless otherwise stated) Chairman & Technical Trustee Andy Crooks Treasurer Charles Moss Company Secretary (Appointed) & Co-opted Trustee Rob Thirlby Honorary Secretary Mary Jones Trustee for Productions John Ghent Trustee for Facilities Jeremy Thompson Trustee for Front of House Frances Harris Trustee for the Studio Russell Hughes Marketing Trustee Vacant
Their work allowed my Co-editor, Emma, to discover the work of "BOB" who worked for the Leicester Evening Mail in the 1930's. He (or she?) drew caricatures of those who attended the opening of the Theatre and the cast of the plays that were performed in the weeks before and after the official opening of the Theatre in 1930. They have such movement and are so evocative that you can easily imagine being there. See them all on Pages 5&6. I’m going to find out more about “BOB”. He?/She? worked for the Leicester Evening Mail in the 1930s, but I'm sure there is a back story there. In this edition, Jeremy Thompson writes about the challenges for the Society in the months and years ahead. I have no doubt that we will meet these challenges. Firstly, because there is such goodwill from our audience for us to succeed. Taking calls from people wishing to book tickets for our re-opening shows has been quite emotional. Folk are desperate to come back to the Theatre and are so glad that we are re-opening. There’s a lot of love for us out there in the community. And secondly, because of the talents and abilities of our members and Trustees. Pretty much all of us are happy to roll up our sleeves and put in a shift. Sure, we have a lovely grant to help us with the finances, but, as it ever was, hard work, sweat and toil will see us through.
Colin & Emma
Enjoy the issue.
Contributions to Scene are invited. Articles, images & ideas for stories are most welcome and if you are a nervous writer Editors Emma (EB) & Colin (CH) can write for you. Our deadline is a week before the end of each month - but if you have a story let us know before then to guarantee that we reserve space for you!
Trustee for Outreach Colin Hide
Contact us via email at firstname.lastname@example.org
Trustee without specific responsibility Simon Dickens
All photos in each edition of Scene are by the fabulous Sally Evans, unless otherwise stated.
Other Board Attendees
If members use any images of Little Theatre productions in any social media post please give a photo credit to the person who took the photo. In most cases, for production photos, this will be Sally Evans.
Development Programme Director Jenny Harding (Co-opted)
Continued from Front Cover
Inevitably, the Theatre experience will be different for both members working in all departments and for patrons visiting. The buildings need to be made COVID-secure, which in practice means introducing a one-way system of ‘traffic’, handsanitising regularly, wearing masks in all areas and a much increased cleaning regime between shows in all public areas. It’s easy to see that all of this costs, a cost that now thankfully is being covered by the Culture Recovery Fund. Yet it’s also an ongoing cost, at least until social distancing can stop. For patrons attending a show, there will be some other changes as well. We’ll be having a longer 30 minute interval to alleviate the rush on toilets; the bar will be table service, which means it may take a bit longer to get served and patrons won’t be able to mix with others outside their own ‘bubble’; the use of cash is being discouraged, with contactless payments being introduced in the bar, Box Office and Front of House; there’ll be an at-seat ice cream service during the interval; and at the end of a show, there will necessarily be a more regimented system for leaving the building. We’re very conscious that going to the Theatre is a social occasion as well, so it’s a fine balance that has to be struck between keeping everyone safe while ensuring that the joy isn’t sucked out of it all. One of the greatest challenges the Theatre now faces is that of having no full time staff, a terrible consequence of closure and loss of income. It’s hard to see a position where staff can be employed again until the Theatre is in a position to generate income that allows this and that looks likely to be when social distancing ceases. While closed, the lack of staff has meant a greatly increased workload for the Theatre’s trustees, to date purely on the administrative side. One of the trustees, Colin Hide, has fortunately been able to devote considerable time to the administrative side of things, and has taken on the role of Temporary Premises Supervisor, based in the office. Now that we are in a position to re-open, there will be an urgent need for volunteers in all areas moving forward… set construction, bar staff, Front of House, Box Office personnel, all on top of everyone who gets involved in staging a show, whether backstage or on stage. Please look out for announcements for when help is needed in these areas! The challenges extend beyond our own Society; several musical societies regularly stage their shows at The Little, but in a world where large casts need to be rehearsed in a socially-distanced way, coupled with a much-reduced audience capacity, their options for shows will be more limited. It remains to be seen how they will move forward, but the Theatre intends to offer as much support to each of them as possible. It’s also the case that things can change quickly… at just a few hours’ notice, there could be further government restrictions, a change from one Tier to another, all of which could impact upon the Theatre’s ability to carry out work and even open. So ’business as usual’ is very much on hold for now. Those Theatre members who return to take an active role, whether onor backstage, Front of House or helping with administration, will find many changes, as will audience members who return in December. It will take a considerable effort on the part of many people to get the Society running again, but we know that it can be done and we know that members will come forward when needed. Although there are a lot of challenges to be faced in the months ahead, there is a determination from those actively involved that we shall open, in a COVID-secure way and that we shall gradually get the Theatre up and running to as full a capacity as possible, given the restrictions. The last six months of closure has been the only time in the Theatre’s history when it has been forced to close – even during the Second World War. We are in uncharted territory in having to gear up to a safe opening, and one that is financially sustainable, but we are determined to do so and to get The Little Theatre on its feet again. • JT
The Answers from our First Little Theatre Quiz So how did you do? Well I hope. And just incase you were short of an answer from last month's quiz and Google let you down, we reproduce the answers to Pip Nixon's First Little Theatre Quiz. Films
Opening Lines from books
1. The Man With the Golden Gun
1 Pride and Prejudice
Plays - all of which have been performed at The Little Theatre 1. Look Back in Anger
2. The Jungle Book 1967
2 Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone 2. Hamlet. Or Old Hamlet
3. Marilyn Monroe
3 A Christmas Carol 3. Gaslight
4. Peter O’Toole
4 50 Shades of Grey 4. Daisy Pulls it Off
5. 2001: A Space Odyssey
5 Peter Pan 5. Noises Off by Michael Frayn
6. Bradley Cooper
6 A Tale of Two Cities 6. The History Boys
7. Philadelphia / Forrest Gump
7 The Curious Incident of the Dog In the Night-time
7. A Taste of Honey
8 The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe
9 Wolf Hall
9. 1001 Nights or The Arabian Nights
8. Parasite 9. Once Upon a Time in Hollywood 10. 23 10 Rebecca 10. Jerusalem
General Knowledge with a vaguely Leicester theme
Name the Musical from the Lyrics 1. Chicago
1. Henry 7th / Henry Tudor / Richmond
2. The Producers
2. Bob Dylan
4. Little Shop of Horrors
6. Guys and Dolls
7. Singin’ in the Rain
7. Lady Jane Grey
8. Alice Hawkins
9. The Phantom of the Opera
9. The Manhattan project
10. Mamma Mia
10. Simon De Montfort
The Little Theatre - Where It Began With our theatre dark and live theatre thin on the ground Emma Bamford has been rummaging around our fabulous digital archives and writes about the first 10 years of the "Little" - the Society's own theatre. What do Richard Attenborough and Judy Dench all have in common? If you answered “they’re all amazing actors”, you’d be right. But seeing as this is an article in Scene magazine … Y’know, the magazine of The Little Theatre … then maybe you could hazard a guess in that direction instead? *There* we go. You’re right. All three have performed on the Little’s stage at one time or another.
Photographs appearing in newspapers were still relatively rare in the 1930s. Photography was difficult, laborious and very expensive. To
The Leicester Drama Society, as it continues to be known, first moved to the Little – formerly a Baptist chapel – in 1929, opening the Theatre in 1930. Since then, the Theatre has been bombed and been gutted by fire. Thanks to said fire, the Theatre got a major rebuild, resulting in many of the same facilities that it has today.
provide a pictorial image of events, newspapers, such as the Leicester Evening Mail, would often employ a caricaturist to capture a visual image of the event. Here "BOB" of the Mail captures the cast of "A
But what exactly was it like to be at The Little in the 1930s, and what happened?
Florentine Tragedy" in these fabulous images! •
Let’s take a look … • Friday 24th January 1930 – The first production of the decade was ‘A Florentine Tragedy’ by Oscar Wilde, directed by Geoffrey Mead. This production was especially for the opening of The Little Theatre. • Flown-in scenery was a new thing. In a magazine article from December 1929, Eric Pochin wrote, “In the new theatre it will also be possible to ‘fly’ scenery, which has never been done in the past. This makes scene changing quicker and easier for those on the stage, but also makes a greater range of scenic effects possible for the audience.”
"BOB" also captured the VIP's at the opening of the Theatre (Captions l to r)
• Who attended the opening? Why, only the Theatre President, the Lord Mayor, the Chairman of the County Council, and Mr. Geoffrey Whitworth, the Secretary of the British Drama League. One local paper reporting the occasion describes the Theatre as ‘a beautiful building with walls and carpet of grey stone, seats of dull orange, gracefully proportioned proscenium arch of an iridescent blue material’. Sounds nice!
THE CHAIRMAN Lieut. Col. R.E Martin MC, DL who lauded the venture THE PRESIDENT Mr V Bastard formally opened the Theatre My Lord Mayor was present So was Mr Geoffrey Whitworth, Secretary of the British Drama League
• Monday 27th January 1930 saw the opening of James Elroy Flecker’s ‘Hassan’, described as a “beautiful, exotic but rambling poetical drama of the East”. Two or three days before the first night A. H. Davy, who was to play Hassan, was laid low by a sudden and serious illness, and Charles Kinton, instead of playing the Vizier, had to go on in his place carrying a script – at least for the first night. The production was directed by Harry Letts, a brilliant, but tyrannical producer who was not afraid to hurt actors’ feelings, or send the leading lady home in tears …
• … And that was after the dress rehearsal ended at 2am! Another actor, Leslie Gillot wrote that during the dress rehearsal we “worked hard, particularly the back stage staff, as no-one has previous experience on this stage and all is going well until the ‘Beggars’ i.e. The West End Adult School Gym Class, attempt to exit backwards through a 6ft opening carrying 7ft spears and then CALAMITY. Down comes the huge flat, the auditorium fills with dust, there is a silence and then ‘Jafar’ speaks his next line, “This is a disastrous situation”. However, we struggle on but at 2 a.m. Monday, although the last scene has not been reached, it is felt that we should stop and we go home.” • The 1930s saw the organisation of the Society become much what it is today. An Executive Committee was elected each year at the A.G.M., with each member to serve for three years. This then divided itself up into three groups: one sub-committee for Productions, one for Theatre Management and one for Membership Activities. But in 1932, as a result of the Society’s economic plight, the legal governing body of the Theatre became the Council. • In 1934, the reputation of the Society started to spread beyond Leicester. Cecil Chisholm, in a book on Repertory, wrote, “Naturally the amateur repertory director can select much more interesting plays than his professional colleague … Incidentally this must be the only amateur repertory which writes, produces and stages an original pantomime at Christmas.” And it’s stayed that way ever since, what with John Bale taking on the reigns as Panto Master! The Theatre carried on in a very similar and successful vein for the next few decades, despite a huge fire breaking out in 1955. And it doesn’t stop now! Despite the latest tribulations being thrown at us (don’t say it out loud, but the C-word), the Little continues to cement its place in the hearts of Leicester residents. A grant from the Arts Council in October – part of their Culture Relief Fund – will help the Theatre to remain present, even while closed to audiences. Make no mistake – The Little won’t be going anywhere! • EB
• "BOB" also attended the production of "Hassan". A 'beautiful, exotic but rambling poetical drama of the East'
• Frank Clewlow, founder and first Honorary Secretary of LDS.
Notes from the office The office has been busy throughout October. I use the term "office" loosely as for many, the office is their home or on their mobile in the car. Only Rob Mullins, our Maintenace Manager, is a Mon - Fri theatre regular. It's been great firing up Box Office software - Spektrix - and registering the Christmas show on it; it's a little bit of normal in uncertain times. Now that we have firm dates for our re-opening shows we have been working flat out to prepare for them. Specifically trying, as far as possible, to create a COVID secure environment within the Theatre. First up, was some training. The Trustee for Outreach completed the SOLT (Society of London Theatres) & UK Theatres "Managing Covid-19 Safely" course via Zoom in early October and shared notes & slides with fellow Trustees. All the Trustees have been reading widely and contributing to the discussion as to what we need to do. We now have a large body of knowledge of COVID best practice for theatres. A Risk Assessment is, of course, your first and most important document. In this document you consider the hazards that you face in doing what you do, the risk attached to them and then the control measures that you have in place to reduce both to an acceptable level. All section heads within the Theatre have contributed to the first draft of ours. It will then be shared widely with other volunteers for comment, correction and improvement. It is also submitted to the local authority – in our case Leicester City Council – for inspection. Social distancing is the first most obvious control measure. Within the auditorium, the audience will be seated in their social bubbles. Three seats will be left empty between social groups and only alternate rows will be occupied. Masks must be worn at all times unless you are eating or drinking. Other measures are best explained via our infographic reproduced here.
We have purchased a “fogger”! These are more usually found in polytunnels spraying a fine mist of water or any necessary pesticide over all the plants. Now they have been repurposed to spray a vaporous mist (aka a fog) over all surfaces within a building. Immediately after a show, we will lock the auditorium, then we will return the next day and “fog it” with a disinfectant and sanitiser. Our fogger has a 10m reach and will fog our auditorium in 5-6 minutes. You then leave the fog to settle and do its work. About an hour later the liquid has evaporated from the surface. All corridors, toilets, bar area and the studio will be similarly treated. Foggers are used widely within the healthcare and hospitality sectors. The Theatre will then be cleaned as it usually is after each performance. The Theatre Box Office has reopened Mon-Fri from 10am to 1pm. Volunteers Richard Awdry, Mary Jones and Rob Thirlby are covering the opening hours between them throughout the week. Currently we only have our own Christmas Show to sell, but more are on the way! We are going cashless. No one wants to handle cash anymore for obvious reasons, so we are taking this opportunity to go cashless. Smart new terminals will appear on the bar and we have two handheld devices to take payment anywhere in the Theatre. Payment for ice creams in the auditorium will also be cashless. This has many benefits for the Theatre; payment is quick, modern, costeffective, doesn’t involve cash handling with the money going straight into the bank – no more hours spent counting cash and trudging to the bank to watch them count it all over again. Our new waste contract includes full recycling of plastic, glass, paper, cardboard and metal. Great news.
Kathy Anderton and Mary Jones have been working in the bar area. Unfortunately, some of our stock has passed its use-by date and hence has had to be discarded. Our ice machine has broken so a new one is being sourced. We are moving to bottled beer so the gas cylinders have been returned. Ditto the large Coke Cola premix unit we had as we are moving to a “packaged product”, ie soft drinks in bottles. The Trustees have accepted a quotation from Automated Access Limited to replace the main wooden doors to the Theatre. Two pairs of aluminium doors will be installed, one set fitted with an automatic opening capability. This will smarten up the entry to the Theatre and provide a more modern, accessible entry to the building. The first three dates of our December Show "We all need a 'Little' Christmas" sold out within two days and so we have added more dates due to customer demand. They are Thursday 10th & Saturday 12th December • CH
1st prize - £250 Share Number 2nd prize - £100 Share Number - 134 3rd prize - £50 Share Number - 029
We Need A "Little" Christmas Our re-opening show Director of the show, John Ghent, has been playing his cards close to his chest about what’s in the show. Ever wishing to bring you the latest news, Scene doorstepped him for a comment. He says, “There's going to be so much musical talent taking to our stage for this first show after our theatre's enforced closure. Every one of the artists jumped at the opportunity to take part in a show where we can join together at long last to celebrate our return. Some of the songs will be familiar, some may be new to you, but I can assure you that the performance of all of them will either touch your heart or lift your spirits. The world outside will not seem half as gloomy. • JG
To book tickets for the show please contact the Box Office on Leicester (0116) 255 1302 The Box Office is open Monday- Friday between 10am - 1pm.
LDS Noticeboard - October We have had to make many adjustments as to how we operate the Theatre due to the pandemic. Your experience as an audience member will be slightly different from normal, but we hope still very enjoyable. The changes have been necessary to keep you, as far as practically possible, safe within a COVID secure environment. This is what you can expect if you come to the Theatre anytime soon.
Welcome back! For the first time in our near 100 year history, The Little Theatre was forced to close in mid-March and the Theatre fell dark. Leicester Drama Society members - a hugely active bunch - ceased activities too. It was hard for us and we know that it was especially hard for you, our audience, who we know love to come to our theatre. But we’re back! We have re-opening shows in early December, and if they go well, many more are planned thereafter. To keep us all safe we have had to make some changes to how we operate. Here’s what you can expect when you come to the Theatre. Keeping us all safe The Government, through the Department of Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS), has published guidelines as to how theatres must operate to, as far as practically possible, provide a COVID-19 secure environment for their audience & staff. The theatre industry, too, has published “best practice” guidance for theatres. In response to this, and to keep you safe, here’s what you can expect when you visit the “Little”.
Socially distanced seating You will be seated in your social bubbles with 3 seats left between you and any other group. The row in front of you and behind will also be unoccupied. You must wear a mask You are asked to wear a mask when you are inside the Theatre at all times( It’s the Law). The only time to remove it is when you are seated for eating and drinking. If you have an exemption for wearing a mask please expect to be asked courteously about it. Social distancing when moving around We have floor markings every 2m throughout the Theatre to enable you to keep 2m away from any other social groups as you move around or queue to use the facilities.
“Just in Time” arrival Unless you are joining us for a drink before the show please arrive just before curtain up and go straight to your seat. There will not be the opportunity to linger in the foyer. Register with the NHS COVID-19 App Throughout the building, we will display the QR code so you may register your presence with the COVID-19 app. If you do not wish to use the app then please leave your details on the NHS Track & Trace paper system available in the foyer.
Temperature check on arrival You will have your temperature checked on arrival. If any member of your social group has a raised temperature the whole group will be refused admission. You will be offered a credit note to the full value of your tickets.
Restrooms Our restrooms will feature social distancing where necessary and will have extra cleaning during the show. Detailed information about the best way to wash hands is displayed within. Soap is provided and hands are dried with single use disposable paper towels. We will operate a one in, one out policy during busy times.
A one-way system We have a simple one-way system to, as far as practically possible, limit people crossing each other.
Enhanced cleaning Our FoH volunteers will complete additional cleaning in all areas whilst the show is in progress.
Sanitiser Stations throughout the Theatre There are sanitiser stations throughout the Theatre. Please take every opportunity to use them.
Seated table service in the bar You’ll be most welcome to join us for a pre-show drink, We’ll seat you in your social bubbles and will offer table service for drinks.
Cashless payment Payment for all items in the Theatre will be cashless, so please bring your bank card or phone! Ice Creams There will be an “At seat” service for your interval ice cream. Once again, cashless payment only, please. “Print at Home” ticketing Where ever possible we ask you to request “Print at home” tickets. That way a smart pdf drops in your inbox that contains your tickets. You can then print that within your social bubble or simply pull them up on your ‘phone when asked for them at the Theatre.
best practice for a COVID secure Theatre environment. This gives you peace of mind that we are, as far as practically possible, keeping you safe during your visit. Changing advice The guidance from DCMS about safe practice may change at any time, recommended best practice within the industry may change at short notice too. We have a watching brief over all these information chanels to update and adjust our procedures as necessary. And finally We have recorded most of the above in a helpful infographic that is widely displayed around the Theatre. It’s great to be back!
Staff Our volunteer staff have been briefed on best practice in keeping us all safe during our time in the Theatre, and the additional cleaning needed during the show with the necessary materials provided. Pre-arrival email briefing We will send an email one day before the event to the lead booker. It will contain the very latest arrangement for your visit – this email may be circulated to all those attending. Please read it as arrangements may have changed. Refund of tickets If one of your social bubble develops a fever and you wish to cancel your tickets we will offer a full refund up to 24 hours before curtain up. Thereafter it will be a credit note for tickets for a future show. See it Safely The Theatre is registered to the SOLT & UK Theatres “See it Safely” scheme. This means we have agreed to meet and surpass industry
Please help us to keep everyone safe by following the guidelines detailed above.
The Little Theatre Trustees