Scholes comedy gives actors chance to shine

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Scholes Players are rightly proud of their remarkable achievement, staging two productions almost every year since the group was formed 86 years ago.

Their objective has remained not only to entertain but also to encourage people of all ages to get involved, either as actors or working backstage.

Many local people have made their nerve racking stage debut with the Players, often revealing talents they probably didn’t know they had.

Chris Meadley and Dave Wilson, who began ‘treading the boards’ in the Scholes panto just a few months ago, emerged as confident comedy actors in the Players’ latest production, ‘Don’t Get Your Vicars in a Twist.’

Barwick resident Chris cleverly captured the ‘theatre lovey’ yet manipulative character of a murder mystery director, while Dave convincingly played an easily persuaded churchwarden.

This award winning farce was written by journalists Ann Gawthorpe and Lesley Bown after reporting the highly contested decision by the Church of England, in 1992, to ordain women as priests.

They created an amusing farce which gave full house audiences at Scholes a welcome escape from Brexit, a topical issue probably inspiring farces of the future.

However, comic situations on the lines of the Vicar of Dibley, starring the irrepressible Dawn French, would have been relevant, as well as hilarious.

In contrast, the premise of this piece was somewhat difficult to believe. Any churchwarden – there were two in the cast - who covertly rents a vicarage to a theatre company to pay for his daughter’s wedding while the newly ordained female vicar is away, then tells one lie after another to cover his tracks, should seek a new vocation.

Under the skilled direction of Anne Kay, a Scholes Players’ stalwart for an impressive 40 years, the cast drew every laugh from each fast moving, if at times confusing scene.

Paul Brownridge had audiences in stitches as the visiting murder mystery group’s loud, drunken bishop, to whom Margaret Davey was a convincing, gin-loving foil who had seen better plays.

Alison Randall, who joined the Players less than three years ago, was delightfully naughty as the saucy seductress while Richard Moule boldly played the real bishop, despite being knocked to the ground several times. He must still have the bruises.

Ash Land, as the conniving churchwarden, delivered a confident, strong performance, as did Sarah Davy, Adam Halls, Cath Land and Grace Parker.

Stage manager Peter Nelson and his voluntary construction team deserve high praise for turning the village hall stage into a well furnished and fully decorated vicarage living room, only to have to take it all down again after the final curtain.

That’s the harsh reality of the amateur theatre - but long may Scholes Players continue to provide, in their own words, ‘Theatre on your Doorstep.’