Porthtowan Players – 40 years
From a West Briton article of Thursday February 12th 2009 by Julian Ridge. Photos by Geoff Hichens and Dika Frutschi-Barlow.
The Porthtowan Players Amateur Dramatic Society is celebrating its 40th anniversary.
The group was formed in 1968 for the benefit of the youngsters of the village and original members included Joy Adamson, Judy Woolcock, Heather Jasynewycz and Beryl Chapple.
The first production was the pantomime Babes in the Wood, presented in January 1969.
The cast consisted primarily of children, with adults providing back-up where necessary.
The group continued to thrive and for the next seven years presented an annual pantomime.
Judy and Beryl concentrated on providing costumes and often travelled many miles to buy material at knock down prices. For one show they were given a budget of £5 to dress the whole cast.
Joy concentrated on production and choreography and ‘Joy’s girls’ were well known in the area.
Julia Kent, now a member of the adult cast, began as one of Joy’s girls.
She could always be relied upon to encourage, listen and advise whenever anyone had a problem, big or small, drama-related or not.
In 1976 the society branched out and tackled its first musical The Boyfriend, which was followed the next year by Mr Cinders.
1979 saw the Players tackle their first play – Wedding of the Year.
The children continued to be heavily involved in the pantomimes each year, but the adults had now been bitten by the performing bug and added what were known as ‘pot luck’ shows to their repertoire.
These were the forerunner of the variety shows for which the Players are still known today.
The shows were performed in the village hall and further afield.
One contained a ‘Western’ section and a kind farmer lent a bale of hay as a prop. The show was presented at St Agnes on Tuesdays and Porthtowan on Thursdays as well as various other venues for about an eight-week run and by the last couple of performances the hay could be carried around in a pillowcase.
The Players’ calendar began to take shape and soon it was well known that the last weekend in January would see the pantomime, springtime meant a play or a musical, summer brought the variety show and so back to pantomime.
The Sound of Music in 1988 and Oklahoma in 1992 were two of the most ambitious and expensive shows to be suggested to the committee.
It, and others, could not believe that the Players – on their grotty little stage in a crummy village hall – could expect to present such ambitious productions.
The committee insisted that all necessary money be raised by the cast before a script could be bought. They did it and proved every doubter wrong. The shows were successful and the Players gained the respect of many.
The village hall, which began life elsewhere and was taken to pieces and moved to Porthtowan, gave the Players and the management committee constant headaches.
Almost every winter – and it seems like every dress rehearsal for the pantomime – there would be a power cut.
The hall leaked from every joint, wind whistled through the windows and doors and parts of the roof blew away on a regular basis.
Fifty pence pieces were hoarded in order to feed the gas meter. The heaters were so hot the cast felt faint when standing in front of them but two feet away little or no heat could be felt.
Several times the backstage crew had frantic phone calls saying that props had been spotted drifting around the village or bobbing in the stream, never to be seen again.
One pantomime had the last few rehearsals conducted by car headlights and torches. Sometimes they were lucky enough to be able to hire a generator which was smelly and incredibly noisy. The electricity came back during the interval of one show; the cast adjusted their make-up, gave a cheer, and continued with the performance. Members of the audience were heard to question on their way out of the hall what the excitement had been.
Fund-raising played an important part for the Players; any worthy cause found them rallying their support.
Not least was the mammoth effort when raising money for the new hall, which opened in 2000.
Since then the Players have gone from strength to strength. The budget for the shows has grown along with the support and achievements. In recent years the Players have received several nominations in the Cornwall Drama Association’s annual awards and been successful in winning some awards. One of these successes was the recent summer show produced and directed by Dick Hocking, who joined the group as a teenager.
Players’ member Karen Stone said: “The Players pride themselves on being a ‘family’; joys and sorrows are celebrated and comforted in equal measure.
“Like all families there are times of dispute and falling out, sometimes making the outlook or even the future of the group hang in the balance, but, when all is said and done the Players’ spirit wins through and 40 years on they are still doing what Players do best.”
For the last three months, the Players have been busy brushing up on their French accents and transforming the hall into the village of Petitpois – a village set deep in rural France.
This is the setting for this year’s pantomime Beauty and the Beast.
A traditional pantomime, co-produced and directed by Elaine Gummow and Linda Barker, it promises to be a terrific start to the Players’ celebrations of 40 years.
The costumes designed and the majority sewn by Linda herself, with the assistance of the sewing team, are stunning. A vast array of colour co-ordination not to be missed.
The cast is made up of members old and new – Alphonse (Will Dunn) and Tilly (Anna Clark), both youth members, keep the audience laughing, being the brunt of the dame’s jokes (John Churchill).
While the Beautiful Belle (Joanne Ellaway) who, despite being held captive, falls in love with Prince Andrée (Julian Eley).
As in every panto, there is good versus bad, and the evil Grottilda (Emma Brabyn) is eventually overpowered by the Rose Fairy (Emma Gummow) but not before she has cast a spell on members of the cast including Prince Andrée and turned him into a beast (Brian Mayer).
Audiences are guaranteed good music, fun and anguish.
Performances are from February 18 to 21 at 7.30pm with a matinee at 2.30pm on Saturday 21.
Tickets are available from 01209 211039 or on the door and cost £6 for adults and £4 for concessions and children.
Two of the Founders of the 1968 Porthtowan Players – Heather Jasynewycz and Beryl Chapple
Three generations at the Porthtowan Players – Heather Jasynewycz, Elaine Gummow and Emma Gummow
Beauty and the Beast 2009, Alphonse (Will Dunn) and Tilly (Anna Clark)
Beauty and the Beast 2009: The Beast (Brian Mayer)
Rose Fairy (Emma Gummow) and Grottilda the Witch (Emma Brabyn)
Beauty & the Beast 2009, Principal Cast