COLUMN: My first visit to the Players Theatre

The cast of Absent Friends at the Players Theatre in Thame
The cast of Absent Friends at the Players Theatre in Thame

Last night (Thursday) I made my first visit to the Players Theatre in Thame.

I went to watch Thame Players perform ‘Absent Friends’, a comedy written by Alan Ayckbourn.

The play, directed by Thame Players stalwart Brian Holt, has a cast of six, meaning that they are all on stage for the majority of the show.

This play requires great timing to get maximum effect out of the comic lines, and facial expressions and I felt all the cast executed this brilliantly.

Sitting in the stalls at the front of the theatre, you felt as though you were in the living room with the characters.

The play was very believable and had the audience captivated throughout - you could hear audible gasps when the characters made cutting remarks towards each other.

Although the character of Evelyn (Katie Ell) had the fewest lines, she had to have great concentration and the ability to keep a straight face amidst all the laughter. Katie was able to show us her lovely smile during the curtain call!

Jude Rogers, who played the role of Diana, has been with Thame Players for many years, and her pouring of cream over the head of husband Paul (Kevin Batch) and subsequent breakdown was one of my favourite moments of the whole production.

Marge (Anne Lankester) was the cool customer amidst the chaos, and I enjoyed her facial expressions and felt she had some of the best one-liners.

Josh Rush, playing the character of John, was taking his first role in a main production in the theatre, and was excellent with his character’s relaxed demeanour and constant pacing around the stage.

Kevin Batch, in the role of Paul, showcased the different sides of his character very well, and had the only costume changes of the show.

The last character to appear on stage was Colin (Adam Hurst), and the audience took an instant liking to his warm persona and efforts at always trying to do and say the right things.

The performance was almost flawless, with the exception of one prompt early on.

Afterwards, I was able to take a trip upstairs to the lighting and sound loft, where the ‘magic happens.’

The group has recently updated its lighting desk and the lighting engineer Phil Dumelow, was very enthusiastic about the endless possibilities it offers, many of which he is still finding out.

The theatre is a wonderful old building with a bar in the centre and the front of house team did an excellent jack-of-all-trades job as they were seen welcoming guests at the start and serving behind the bar during the interval.

Absent Friends is running at the theatre tonight (Friday) and Saturday but both shows are sold out, and it is very easy to see why.

You don’t have to wait long for the Thame Players’ next show as they are putting on ‘Honk’, a musical adaptation of Hans Christian Andersen’s The Ugly Duckling between Tuesday July 11 and Saturday July 15. It is well worth going if you can.

Neil Shefferd is a former reporter at the Thame Gazette newspaper and a member of amateur dramatics group Stewkley Players, based in Buckinghamshire.