The Newsletter of the Leicester Drama Society
What's on in March?
The Annual General Meeting of the Leicester Drama Society is to be held on Sunday 15 March at 7pm in the Haywood Theatre.
By now members should have received their papers for the meeting that includes Notes from last year's meeting, the Agenda for this years’ meeting and the Trustees Report and Financial Statements. Our Chairman, writes in his report of another successful year for the Society, both artistically and financially, with a surplus of income over expenditure. Our average attendance for shows has been broadly stable throughout the last three years with the good news that it increased last year to 77.4% from 75% the previous year. The Trustees, with others, have worked throughout the year to reduce risk to the Society, by moving to a new, cloud based, finance system which meets HMRC “making tax digital” requirements and moving the box office network to a completely separate internet connection. The theatre infrastructure, too, has been improved with a new lift that can be used during an emergency evacuation, further work on the theatre roof and the complete replacement of the lighting dimmer equipment. Compliance with relevant legislation gets ever more complex and challenging and Trustees and others discharge this responsibility throughout the year, upholding the high standards the Society sets itself. Challenges for the Society remain; funding the proposed new extension being perhaps the major one, although attracting new members to spread the workload and deliver the existing programme would be another. Tim Hogarth-Jones leaves the Board of Trustees at the AGM having served for 6 years as a Trustee. Huge thanks to Tim for his work for the Theatre during those, and many other, years. To better respond to the challenges ahead the Trustees are proposing three new Trustee posts with specific responsibility for Front of House, Outreach & Studio Trustee. The details of each role are to be found within the papers.
Book your tickets for these shows either online, at the Box Office in person or by calling the Box Office on 0116 255 1302
The AGM will conclude after refreshments with a members Q&A to Trustees. Please make every effort to attend as your views, voice and votes make for a more vibrant Society!
Inside Editorial 2 Bracken Moor 3 Props - the forgotten heroes of a production 4-5 The Marketing Committee 6 The Green Bicyle Case 200 Club Winners 7 Precious Bane 2020 Play List 8
Editorial The Little Theatre Dover Street. Leicester. LE1 6PW. Theatre Manager Phillip Royley t: 0116 254 2266 e: firstname.lastname@example.org Box Office t: 0116 255 1302 w: www.thelittletheatre.net Leicester Drama Society Limited Board of Trustees (elected unless otherwise stated) Chairman & Trustee for Productions John Ghent Technical Trustee Andy Crooks Treasurer elect & Trustee without specific responsibility Charles Moss Trustee for Membership Tim Hogarth Jones Trustee for Facilities James Simpson Marketing Trustee David Kimmins Honorary Secretary Mary Jones Trustees without specific responsibility Dennis Cooper • Simon Dickens Phil Wintle (Co-opted) Russell Hughes (Co-opted) Other Board Attendees Company Secretary Rob Thirlby (Appointed) Development Programme Director Jenny Harding (Co-opted)
One eagle eyed reader spotted that the January winners of our 200 Club did not appear in the February edition of Scene. There was a good reason Holibobs. One of us was going on holiday and so the edition was completed before departure in mid-January and before the draw was made. Fast forward to Buenos Aires on a Saturday evening at the end of January. What's to do? If we were at home we'd be all cosy toes watching Bracken Moor. But wait. They have theatre in BA don't they? "Una Semana nada Mas" (One week no more) - a comedy - sounded good. "We only speak pigeon Spanish" said my wife. "And a small pigeon at that". "It's a comedy - it'll be fine" I said. Two hours later I realised I'd done the pigeon population a disservice. No pigeon is that small. First shock was the ticket price, £9 for the dress circle, £15 for the stalls. In central BA. On a Saturday night. Two for the dress please. Second shock. Doorstaff. No friendly Fred or Ken on the door. A burley gent blocking access via a single door. Tickets provoked movement. But once inside! It was fabulous; ornate lights, gold leaf, sweeping staircases and plush carpet. Still only one toilet for the ladies though. And the Argentinians don't do snacks; no sweets, no ice cream, no bar, nothing. I guess that's why people book late and come late. Young crowd though. The show was hilarious. "Who are they?" I asked. "Three actors famous in Argentina for TV sit coms, oh and they are instagram stars too." I guess that would explain the 10 minute monologue at the end of the show by the lead and the young audience on the stage for selfies and pics for the 'gram long after the show finished. Enjoy this edition & see you at the AGM!
Colin & Emma
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 it 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! Contact us via email at email@example.com All photos in each edition of Scene are by the fabulous Sally Evans, unless otherwise stated. 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.
Bracken Moor An LDS Production â€˘ 20 - 25 January 2020 Anna Field & Lynsey Brecknell, the staff members of our Scenic Workshop, assisted by their talented bunch of volunteers, built the set for Bracken Moor. We caught them before their power tools had cooled. An interesting set design for you to work on, given that the play is set in the 1930s? The design is a huge Victorian house, with a few 1930s touches. Luckily, we have done lots of plays set like this so we have plenty of stock to choose from. Kev (Kevin Jenkins - the set designer) made the design a little more abstract too, so the set felt both claustrophobic and isolated at the same time. Were there any challenges in the build? Yes, there have been a couple of challenges on this one, mainly the walls for the moor. Many set designs generally have the wing flats facing the auditorium, making entrances for the actors. For this production, they are running perpendicular to the front of the stage and we have made each wall into a single unit. This adds to the scope and isolation of the moor surrounding the house. Each wall is covered in specially made pieces of sheeting. The model of the set indicates that stairs are to feature. Do stairs present any particular problems for you? The stairs in this set have to be fairly robust as they are used a lot in the play. The stairs themselves aren't the issue, the walls wobbling around them are! One of the hardest things to make is huge, slim structures to be solid. Our show budgets dictate that we work mainly in wood and so this has a natural flex which can be difficult to make as rigid as we would like. We often see volunteers working in the workshop. How much help do they contribute to your work during a week? We would be completely lost without our volunteers. When Lynsey and I joined the Little in 2015, there were only two volunteers who did five hours each. It was stressful not being able to share the load like we can now. We have a team of eight regular volunteers who have a set day they join us so we are able to schedule different tasks according to ability. It is now a totally different department! We still have slots available for anyone who would like to come along! The fit-up team seem to be organised by Stage Management - how does their work dovetail with yours? We have a good working relationship with the stage managers and we communicate over timings, dates and numbers to get crews in when we need them. Saturday night strikes are the worst for numbers, it's hard to get people to come out to take a set down - especially if the weather is bad. There is a huge spreadsheet called the Grid, which has all the available positions for performance, so if anyone would like to get involved, please have a look at the gaps and see what you can do. Doug Simpson is your man to contact. What next for the Scenic Workshop team now? We have got the designs for the next three shows and so the conveyor belt of scenery moves on. We get the designs a couple of months in advance so that we can plan what to buy and build. We have a courtroom, a university and a large house and garden to name a few, but of course, to really see what we do, you'll need a ticket for a production! â€˘ AF & LB
Props - the forgotten heroes of a production Panto props, historical props, edible props, drinkable props - virtually every production uses props to better tell the story of the play. They are vital to our work. Good, then, that we have a huge props store and a small team of "props pixies" that attach themselves to each production and produce the necessary items as required. Lisa Thirlby seems to be in charge. Lisa Thirlby is a person for whom the term “National Treasure” was invented. Simply because she “leads” the LDS props department. It’s not a title that she is comfortable with or accepts, but rather takes on some of the work because at present no one else does. Of course, there are many involved in props for plays within the Society who do fabulous work too, but Lisa has organised & catalogued the props store - she leads the auditing and tidying of the various stores each year and has done for many years. Lisa worked “props” on her first show back in 1965 and since then has completed 65+ shows as the props person, either alone or as part of a small team. For many years the Society’s props store was below the stage. Access to the store was by means of a vertical ladder and “props people” became expert at climbing the ladder, whilst clutching a box of crockery! In the early 2000’s the 1950’s coke fired boiler that was located in the cellar was replaced with a modern gas boiler and the cellar became the props store. The space was racked out and now houses many of the thousand or so props that the Society owns. The racking is numbered and lettered, with each individual prop stored in a named location that is recorded on a spreadsheet with its location, a brief description of the item and if possible, a photo of the item. The store is a fabulous first resource for those seeking props for a play. “But how you do know which props are needed for a play?” I ask Lisa. “You make a list” she explained, “The props list for any play is drawn up from a variety of sources. The play script itself might include a list which is a good start. The Director might contribute to the list prior to rehearsals, whilst the need for props will reveal itself during the rehearsal period. Hence the need for props people to attend rehearsals regularly. Once you have a complete list of what’s required you can you begin to source your props.” I asked Lisa what are the most difficult props to source? “Newspapers are becoming difficult" she said, “particularly if the play is set before the late 1970s and the newspaper must be broadsheet and free of colour. Unless we have something suitable in stock you have to source one, usually as a download from the internet, print it and then paste it together. Facsimiles can be bought, of course, but are expensive”. Anything impossible to source? “Old soda siphons are pretty impossible now. You can get empty ones but not full ones and it’s impossible to get them filled, so a script demanding a “Scotch and soda” has now become a “Scotch and water”” Like most areas of life, if you are an expert then sloppiness irritates. Lisa bemoans watching plays where actors carry luggage that is clearly empty so that when it is put down it wobbles. “All that you provide should be as authentic as possible; luggage must have weight for example so that it is carried correctly by the actor and is stable when put down.” I asked Lisa if there are any plays that are particularly challenging for props “Plays with many props and lots of quick scene
This article was published in the programme for LDS's production of This Happy Breed, in November 2012. In it Lisa talks about the challenges for "props" within the play. We re-print it here as it is an illuminating account of the work of the props team and the lengths they go to to provide authenticity and realism to all that they do.
changes are the most challenging. The Diary of Anne Frank is one such” she said, “but the hardest show I’ve ever done was This Happy Breed. It’s a lovely play that has multiple scenes that are played out over a period of years between 1919 and 1939, so some props must change to reflect the passage of time. Not easy for a period of time 70 years ago”. I asked Lisa what the strangest item was that she has had to source as a prop. “Having to cover the stage floor in the interval with banana skins and peanut shells in Moonlight and Magnolias. The banana skins were cut out of vinyl which had been painted; the peanut shells were well, peanut shells.” Food and drink often feature as a prop in a play with actors required to eat and imbibe whilst delivering their lines. I asked Lisa to reveal the tricks of the trade. “If it’s food then it all needs to be easy to swallow stuff really. Mashed potato, for instance, can be shaped into almost anything and with food colouring it can be dyed to give the appearance of most food stuffs. For drinks I generally make up a burnt sugar caramel and then add it to water as necessary to give the appearance of sherry, scotch, brandy and indeed beer.” • CH
This Happy Breed is different from Coward's better known plays in that it portrays a very ordinary lower-middle-class family and their life over the twenty years between the two World Wars. When it was first presented in 1939 conventions of the time would no doubt have meant that the curtain fell at the end of each of the nine scenes and an interval was taken at the end of Act 1 and after Act 2. Nowadays, the convention is to dim the lights and carry out a quick scene change in front of the audiences and in our production there will be just one interval ironically at the one point in the play where time does not move on several years! The challenge of denoting the passage of time and achieving this as quickly as possible was, at first reading, compounded by the fact that at the start of almost every scene the table is laid for a meal of some description. Added to this the property team must research the period and to some extent each of the items needed. For me this is the fascinating part of the job. These days the internet is a valuable tool, although I did read two books about houses of the inter-war period which gave lots of information about ordinary homes. I was born just after WW2 and reading about the inter-war period one realises how very little the ordinary home changed until the late 1950s. The theatre's stock of props is good and all of the table ware, books, ornaments, cushions and antimacassars come from this stock. However, we also needed to provide a bottle of Wincarnis (1919), Christmas decorations including a box of crackers (1925), a calendar for each of the years depicted, a dress shop box (probably circa 1900), The Daily Mail for a date in October 1931 and another in May 1932, a jar of fishpaste and bottle of OK sauce (1931), a 'few magazines (early 1930s). Images or ideas for all of these were sourced from the intemet. As rehearsals have progressed the meals (Christmas lunch, supper, breakfast, afternoon tea and two more suppers) became less of a difficulty. You may guess why when you watch the play. So now it is time to begin to plan how we carry out the scene changes with minimum fuss and in as little time as possible. The stage will be split into areas - one centred on the dining table, another centred around the shelf unit, the armchair and the sideboard, another around the kitchen door, the sofa and the French windows, Then, depending how much there is to do in each change the props team will be allocated specific jobs within these areas. We will be working with the stage manager's crew in some scene changes. I'm writing this one week before This Happy Breed goes on stage to put up its set and hold final rehearsals. We have arranged to borrow an aspidistra, the Christmas decorations have arrived and crackers and hats have been made, the calendars need printing, to my surprise petit beurre biscuits are difficult to buy, and quite unexpectedly, our biggest problem turns out to be tablecloths — maybe ebay will save usl We will keep making adjustments to the props until the final dress rehearsal, by when if nothing else, compromise must be reached. This show has been hard work but also great fun. My particular thanks to Alex and Jenny for all their help. Now all we have to do is get it right! • Lisa Thirlby, Property Mistress for This Happy Breed
All About - The Marketing Committee David Kimmins is the Trustee lead for Marketing and he, and his team, lead the marketing effort at the theatre. Here he talks about their work and asks two favours of you. Last year, in a moment of madness, I foolishly agreed to become Trustee for Marketing, which means that I not only attend Trustees' meetings, but also meetings of the Marketing Committee. I really didn’t know what the role involved in detail, but pretty soon I realised that most Society Members haven’t got the faintest idea of what an enormous amount of work gets quietly done by this group of committed team members. The Committee meets every two weeks, but the real work happens between meetings when various individual Committee members take the lead on a whole number of things - the designing of the two brochures a year; arranging poster design and printing; finding poster sites around town; changing the posters in and around the Theatre every two weeks; getting ads in for programmes; creating and changing the ‘This Week’s Play’ cast photos foyer displays; designing and arranging the printing of the programmes; designing and getting fliers printed and liaising with the Front of House team on their distribution; designing and getting adverts in local press for every play; getting editorial references on local radio; setting up specialist help-teams for videos, broadcasts etc ; getting material onto the internet and sending a great many emails to members advertising the upcoming shows. I don’t think any of these wonderful people expect constant appreciation and thanks, any more than other volunteers who do crewing, Front of House, office work, sound, lighting, fitups and strikes, etc. However, it can be a bit frustrating that the Marketing Team seem to be the whipping boy whenever a play doesn’t sell very well! The simple fact is that there is no magic wand and we don’t really know what Marketing techniques do or don’t work most effectively in terms of ticket sales. The Spectrix booking system allows us to ask patrons how they learnt about the play when they book (e.g. poster / newspaper advert / brochure / word of mouth etc.), but the answers are inconclusive. We can also correlate a rise of sales in the last week or two before a play with the marketing e-mails we send out, but correlation isn’t causation and the rise could equally well be due to the increasing trend towards booking at the last minute! However, there is one area of marketing which does appear to be particularly important. The data we have on early booking suggests that over 60% of sales are made eight weeks ahead when the only information about any individual play is from the brochure. This highlights the importance of the blurb in the brochures. Directors provide a description of the play, and not all have the knack of writing concise motivating text to suit our patrons’ short attention span. We, therefore, go through a rigorous process of tightening-up those that are too long or un-motivational.
marketing noun noun: marketing the action or business of promoting and selling products or services, including market research and advertising.
Even so, the only real consensus is that it’s mainly the play that sells (or doesn’t!). In the light of all this we simply use all of the techniques that we can for every play within reasonable resource constraints.
1. If you’re involved in a play which isn’t selling well, please don’t automatically blame the Marketing Team. We may have got something wrong or forgotten something, but the chances are it’s the play that’s the problem!
So, as I approach the anniversary of my elevation to the dizzy heights of the Board of Trustees may I ask you two favours:
2. If you’ve got any bright ideas on how you think we could do better please come and tell us! • DK
200 Club January's winning share numbers in the LDS 200 Club did not appear in the January edition of Scene. Apologies to all - we reproduce them here, along with the winning numbers from February's draw.
Audition Notice • The Green Bicycle Case
This June the Little Theatre will be doing an extra show in the Studio based on the famous Green Bicycle Case - a rather mysterious murder trial that took place in Leicester 100 years age that hinged on the discovery of a very particular bicycle. To recreate this true story, Charles Moss and I have produced a script that incorporates original scenes and genuine lines from the trial’s transcript. Tickets have already sold well! Now it’s time to look for an amazing cast.
Rehearsals start Rehearsals will start in April and will be twice a week, moving to three times a week as the show nears
Cast We are looking for an ensemble, all actors will play one or two roles minimum (with the exception of the actor playing the accused Ronald Light). The show can be done with 4M 2F but can expand up to 7M 3F. Scripts will be provided on the day.
LDS member Charles Moss won the top prize in January's draw. "I am overjoyed to win £250", says Charles "It will pay the annual tax on my van. I encourage more people to join the 200 Club to help the Society achieve its vision".
Audition dates Mon 16th March from 7-9pm & Wed 18th March 6-9pm, both in the Haywood Studio.
If you can’t do the audition days, if you want to find out more, or you want to read the script in advance, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Shares in the 200 Club are still available. Please contact the theatre office for full details and an application form. And do it now!
Performance dates Tues 23 June - Sat 27 June 2020
1st prize - £250 Share Number - 067 2nd prize - £100 Share Number - 063 3rd prize - £50 Share Number - 030
February Winners The Green Bicycle Case On 5th July 1919 Bella Wright was killed by a bullet through the head near the village of Little Stretton on the outskirts of Leicester. A search began for the last person to see her alive – a man cycling with her on a distinctive green bicycle. The search went cold until seven months later a green bicycle was dragged from Leicester canal. The ownership of the bicycle was traced to Ronald Light. The play commemorates the centenary of Light’s trial for murder which took place in Leicester Castle on 9th June 1920.
1st prize - £250 Share Number 2nd prize - £100 Share Number 3rd prize - £50 Share Number - 092
Precious Bane Cast
A cast of twelve performed the radio play “Precious Bane” in the Little Theatre bar on Friday 17 February. The idea for the play was developed by Katy Weaver from a 1920s novel of the same name by Mary Webb.
Mrs Sarn Prue Sarn Gideon Sarn Beguildy/ Kester Woodseaves Mrs Beguildy/Mrs Grimble Jancis Beguildy Tivvy Sexton/Sukey Miller/ Sarn/Grimble Grandfather Callard Sexton/Young Squire/ Mrs Callard/Mrs Sexton Felina Sheperd Callard/Doctor/ Man at Mallards Keep Narrator/Older Prue
Published in 1924, "Precious Bane" by Mary Webb is her reflection on the love of money and the evil that it brings to everyday life. It is also a reference to the fact that her heroine, Prue Sarn, afflicted with a harelip, finds through her "curse" an almost holy strength that she would not otherwise have experienced. Her love interest, the weaver Kester Woodseaves, is unique among strangers in seeing through all the suspicious nonsense surrounding Prue's appearance to the worthy soul beneath. Rural Shropshire in the early nineteenth century is the setting for this story; a time when belief in witchcraft was rife and the custom of "sin eating" (absorbing through bread the sins
• • •
Fran Harris Lucia Guzy Kirkden Rob Leeson
• • • •
Ken Ogborn Faith Quilliam Mira Hemsley Paige Kimberly
Robin Turner Luke Evered
David Stevens Katy Wever
The action of the play takes place in rural Shropshire in the years 1815-1818 "Let none admire that riches grow in hell; that soil may best Deserve the precious bane." John Milton, "Paradise Lost"
of the departed so that they could enter heaven) was still observed. Every type of character is depicted, from goodly housewives and spiteful busybodies to lovestruck maidens and pious churchmen. All that is needed is the inclusion of a vengeful witch-doctor and, above all, an ambition-driven brother who will not be warned of the poison lying in the soil of his fertile land - the poison of avarice. • THJ & FH
LDS Noticeboard - March Pru & Mike Pole - "Christmas Greetings & an update from Oz" Many members will remember Pru & Mike from their time at the theatre. Margaret Damant provides an update on their life in Oz. Many of you will remember Pru and Mike Pole and the contribution they made before they emigrated to South Australia about 7 years ago. It is always good to receive their update and greetings every Christmas and 2019 was no different. This year Pru commiserated on Brexit, shared their concerns about the fires raging in Oz, and the scorching heat wave in progress. And then come the “shock news” announced Pru ….., “we are moving to Yogyakarta, Indonesia in June for one year!”
Pru as Mauxalinda •
Pru and Mike have two school-aged children, Genevieve and Jonathan with interests in sport, music and dance. Ptu teaches English, Humanities and Social Sciences at Salisbury East High School: Mike works for a driving school as part of the admin team which involves “sorting out parents complaining that their child failed their test, or elderly people trying to keep their driving license; Insurance, roadside assistance and the likes.” Their love of the theatre continues with Pru “ushering” at the Adelaide Festival Theatre - “Its great to be paid to see some amazing shows …. Billy Elliot has just opened,” she writes. They both performed in a pantomime this year, ‘The Dragon of Wantley’ – Pru played Mauxalinda, the evil fairy. Mike also played Abanazer in Aladdin with another theatre group. Pru, as usual, concluded by sending her “love to Fred and everyone else,” commenting on past-times Pru fondly reflects …. “the theatre is a very special place and group of people there.” If you would like to read the full version of Pru’s letter please contact Margaret Damant, Friday night FOH Team. • MD
Changes to the provision of Prompters' for productions A list of prompters' names and contact numbers will be provided for Directors. Directors could choose from this list or may know someone else willing to prompt for them. • Judith Andrew
Mike as Abanazer