The Play Produced
By John van Druten, based on the novels of E F Benson
INTRODUCTION In 1947 a handful of enthusiastic and talented people got together to raise money for the local church; they decided to stage a play (Rattigan's Flare Path) in the Parish Hall and so the Fellowship Players was born. Several plays were produced annually and eventually a small plot of land , and an ex-Army hut to be used for rehearsals
and meetings, were purchased. The group was non denominational and the name was changed to Formby Theatre ClUb. Over the years a bigger and better rehearsal room was built and in the 1980's it was converted into a tiny theatre seating 64, with retractable seating, bar, kitchen , dressing rooms and workshop. In 1984 we became members of the Little Theatre Guild and our name was
changed to Formby Little Theatre. Fundraising has always played a major role and when our Lottery Application was refused , money set aside for matching funding , together with donations from a Friends scheme, is now being used to refurbish the theatre. Membership stands at 130 but less than half are actively involved . At least four plays are staged annually, each running for ten nights. This is
the only way we can e _ meet the demand for· _ and there is always a list . Regular social e theatre visits, play ~ etc, are held and all costumes are made members. Formby s : the smallest Little TI--=z" proscenium opening with a similar depth 3-4ft of wing space side.
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e joy of directing is __""..-.n the period and !"'Ie six Lucia novels c E F Benson in the s on which the play is ;ave me an insight into of the people and e importance of ,rv-,.m:'/"'\1 in the small mg where curtains gossip abounds. , doyenne of Tilling, her house for the '0 Lucia, a supreme ho peppers her th Italian phrases she erstand. Lucia's her confidant takes gossip to new Out Mapp has met her • despite her best . cannot prevent the hearts ..._rJrli¥> from the Major to be smitten with • the local vicar and his
especially encourage new and un-tried actors and invite them to a reading audition. The response for this play was overwhelming. There are four demanding roles for experienced actors: Lucia, Georgie, Mapp and Major Benjy, and the remaining three males and four females are smaller parts which offer newer members with limited experience the opportunity to learn and develop. All the characters are well drawn and worthwhile, they are eccentric, flamboyant and stylish but they are real people and must never go over the top into farce. They require very delicate, subtle handling and timing. Lucia has an aura of glamour, with telling facial expressions and elegant hand gestures, her 'put down' lines to Mapp are delivered with great charm and an ingenuous but knowing smile.
REHEARSALS We rehearsed for eight weeks; we had a full cast at the first read through and then, due to business commitments and holidays, not again until the final rehearsal! We have no
separate rehearsal room so we rehearse on stage. We have three nights a week and the construction team have the other two nights. This is an advantage for the cast as they have the benefit of rehearsing with the set as it develops around them. The play is written in three acts but we changed it to two so that the one interval would be before the Garden Party scene, which requires time to set up and has some complicated costumes changes. The principals were required at all rehearsals but the supporting roles were initially only called one night a week. This avoided a lot of sitting about and the possibility of them becoming bored. Halfway through rehearsals we ran the whole play on one night so that the Props and Wardrobe teams could assess any problems, and the cast got some sense of continuity. Later in the schedule we went to an act a night, and then the whole play in the week before the run.
SETTING We agreed the basic design of the set with the Stage Director at the first get-together
and then the stage was taped out for the first rehearsal. The play takes place in the drawing room of Mapp's house and I set it in the early 1930's. The stage plan in the script had to be considerably reduced for our tiny stage Ibut we did have the archway and raised dais denoting the hall area USL and giving us another acting level. We had a recess USR to accommodate the baby grand piano, French windows SR to the garden, and a bow window SL ovenlooking the street. (The plan actually shows two fireplaces - ours had to be on the fourth wall!) The script calls for the front door to be just out of sight beyond the arch so that the numerous entrances can be heard before they are seen. A mock-Up front door was build just off stage and this was fitted with a bell and a security chain.
PROPS The dressing must create the ambiance of the period and contain elements of Mapp's character and her awful lack of taste, without offending the eyes of the audience, together
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