A Bunch of Amateurs - Chris Harding


                                               For three nights in March 2019 the Village Hall in Humshaugh became

“…a portal, a door to the world of imagination that can transport us from our humdrum existence…”

             as the Crown Players performed ‘ A Bunch of Amateurs’


"I might have saved her: now she's gone for ever! ...Cordelia...Cordelia"

"I might have saved her: now she's gone for ever! ...Cordelia...Cordelia"

The Crown Players - named for the Crown Inn in Humshaugh, to which the Company would repair after their exertions - were magnificent. Nine actors carried the whole play, under a Director with the ability and vision to make it all come alive in a village hall environment.


A Bunch of Amateurs is a play by Ian Hislop and Nick Newman (variously of Have I Got News for You, Private Eye and Spitting Image fame.) It interweaves the story of fading Hollywood legend Jefferson Steel’s involvement with the Stratford Players - the bunch of amateurs - in their production of King Lear, and the Lear story itself


"If there's only one person out there then I'll play to them"

"If there's only one person out there then I'll play to them"

"I know Executives need homes, but they also need dreams"

"I know Executives need homes, but they also need dreams"





Initially it was a film (in 2008) but for me the stage version is tighter. Performed by the local amateur group brings at once a poignancy and relevance. Our village is indeed currently under pressure for 20 more ‘executive homes’. You’re never quite sure if this is a play that has been opportunely found or written especially for the group.





As part of the crew - safely behind the lighting desk - I was lucky enough to watch the performance evolve from read through to final production. Characters took on life, learning the lines became all important and no conversation afterwards was complete without a quotation.


"What bit of 'learn the lines' can't you remember?"

"What bit of 'learn the lines' can't you remember?"

"She's also playing the Fool, she's very good, she used to be in the business"

"She's also playing the Fool, she's very good, she used to be in the business"




Nick Newman describes the play as a love-letter to amateur dramatics. AmDram is the stuff from which his writing partnership with Ian Hislop grew.


"Then I shall have no option but to ..... cry"

"Then I shall have no option but to ..... cry"




The plots of play and players link subtly. Melodrama in the world of the Stratford Players mixes next moment into the moving drama of the fiction


"What shall Cordelia do? Love and be silent"

"What shall Cordelia do? Love and be silent"

"Um....that's not in the script"

"Um....that's not in the script"



           There are twists in the tale.


Farce is never that far away as a misunderstood massage sends mixed messages.


"I'm not that old. Aaargh!"

"I'm not that old. Aaargh!"

"It is a very difficult part Nigel, and you're the only one who can do it"

"It is a very difficult part Nigel, and you're the only one who can do it"



The play flows. Fragile feelings fascinate, relationships resound and rebound. The people become players, the cast become characters, the fiction becomes fact. Some innocence is lost, and some regained.


"I have to say Mary that you look absolutely terrific...And I have to say Mr Steel that your opinion is no longer of interest to me"

"I have to say Mary that you look absolutely terrific...And I have to say Mr Steel that your opinion is no longer of interest to me"


Ultimately, again in the words of Nick Newman, it is a “piece about the redemptive power of theatre”. In the end - spoiler alert! - ’the play’s the thing’ and on and off stage Jefferson Steel emerges from his movie star carapace to be seen as caring father, actor….


...and as Lear!


"I'm Lear"


To find such talent in a tiny village is one of those minor miracles that I am sure happen more often than we think

-  it is amazing what a bunch of amateurs can do!



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