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’
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
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.
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.
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
There are twists in the tale.
Farce is never that far away as a misunderstood massage sends mixed messages.
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.
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!
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!