Players still going after 80 years

It cost one shilling and threepence to see Scholes Village Players’ first production, Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest, in 1932.

That would have been around seven pence in decimal currency but, adjusted for inflation over the past 80 years, each ticket would now have cost about £9.

So the £6 audience members paid to see the Players’ 80th anniversary production, Michael Cooney’s farce Cash on Delivery, was a ‘33 per cent off’ bargain in today’s time of austerity.

Only during the war years did the Players, certainly one of the Leeds district’s longest running amateur theatre groups, suspend live theatre in their rural East Leeds village.

Scholes resident Doris Ivatts has been a member for more than 70 years and is the group’s President.

“We used to store our sets and props in outhouses at Morwick Hall, on York Road, and bring them down to the Village Hall on a horse drawn cart,” she recalled in the anniversary programme, adding: “In the 1960s we built a Nissen hut just behind the Village Hall, which made things much easier.”

Judging from the response of their first night audience, which included both Doris and the Lord Mayor Leeds, Coun Ann Castle, the Players delivered one of their best productions to celebrate a remarkable achievement.

“It was brilliant,” said one, a lady not given to unwarranted superlatives.

Farce is an unforgiving comedy genre, one which demands complex, often confusing dialogue being performed with pace, good timing, inflection and mischievous innuendo.

Bringing these dynamic forces together requires a very good director, skilled stage management, great special effects and a robust set with doors which repeatedly open and close without shaking the walls.

Step forward talented Scholes director Joan Fox, who needed all her years of experience, much of it gained in pantomime, to stage this clever production.

Sharing the acclaim is set designer and builder Peter Nelson and his ‘can we do it, yes we can’ construction team. Also lighting and sound operator Jim Clements, who was bang, crash, wallop on cue with all the effects.

Together they created a platform on which a hard working cast of ten delivered what Twitter users would call an LOL (Laugh Out Loud) performance. It was, by definition, an absolute farce from beginning to end.

Nick Moule handled with great confidence the demanding role of the middle class husband who, afraid to tell his wife he had lost his job two years earlier, has since been pocketing a small fortune by making fraudulent social security claims.

When Nick’s brother Richard turns up in the role of a probing benefits investigator he craftily weaves a bewildering web of deceit involving his lodger, an uncle and, much to her chagrin, his furious wife, assertively played by Cath Land.

Sucked into the whirlpool of taxpayer deception, Alan Moule – a cousin this time – strongly portrayed the long suffering lodger, while Paul Brownridge had everyone in stitches with his raucous portrayal of Uncle George.

Kath Clements was so convincing as the undertaker that she may have missed her calling, while Jackie Leonard, Lea MacLellan, Pam Taylor and Stephen Rostron all added highly capable contributions to the cocktail of chaos and confusion.

Only one niggle with the script: instead of the cheating husband being offered a job as a benefits inspector he should have been arrested, charged and detained at Her Majesty’s pleasure!

Ron Miller