Beeston Players amateur dramatic group are celebrating 50 years this year and to mark this special celebration they are re-enacting their very first production.
That performance was Cat on the Fiddle, by John Dole, and it will be staged again this year from 9th to 12th May.
The group were founded in 1968. With a little help of starting funds from the council, Beeston & Stapleford Dramatic Society was established in September of that year. With the help of director Tim Carley from the Co-op Arts Centre, rehearsals were soon under way.
Beeston College of Further Education hosted the production of Cat on the Fiddle in February of 1969 and the group has prospered ever since.
The first production was not without problems as described in the local paper at the time: “Their actions on stage were restricted somewhat by a set which was not ambitious enough and by props which needed greater attention to detail. Technical faults, such as a door which would not stay closed and a faulty electric light, will no doubt be corrected for later productions.”
After a couple of years, the connection with Beeston and Stapleford Urban District Council was severed and the drama group became financially independent, meeting and performing at Round Hill School.
In 1970, they teamed up with Beeston Operatic Society who also met at Round Hill. They performed Red Peppers, a short play by Noel Coward, and the operatic society staged Trial by Jury. These short productions created a full evening of entertainment.
In 1973, the decision was made to change the name to Beeston Players to simplify publicity.
By July 1975 and after the 18th production – Something to Hide by Leslie Sands – the balance in the bank was £104 and the royalty costs in those days were around £10 per performance. Today, they pay around £100 per performance.
By this time, the new Chilwell Comprehensive School was seeking theatre groups to use the state-of-the-arts theatre and the council were keen for Beeston Players to stage productions there.
The Chilwell Comprehensive School Theatre was a much improved venue for Beeston Players.
It had excellent facilities and lighting which was controlled behind the audience in a special lighting booth.
It was possible to move lights automatically and the audience seats were raked, so that all had a wonderful view of the stage which was at floor level.
Having an audience looking down on the performers was a new experience and required a whole new way of thinking.
Performers had to raise their heads at all times and look up at the audience, and props and set were more visible, including tops of flats and the stage “wings”.
Beeston Players were happy with this new facility and stayed there for 18 years until 1993. The school increased the price charged for hire of the theatre.
This was not within the scope of a small drama group and fortunately Round Hill School was able to extend a welcome back.
The audience were happy they were back in Beeston as it was easier to access and actually audience numbers improved.
Pictured are press cuttings from the first performance in 1969.