Centre Stage

PUBLISHED: 17:01 07 April 2011 | UPDATED: 21:31 20 February 2013

Centre Stage

Centre Stage

Meet The Athelstan Players, Malmesbury's Amateur Dramatic Society, as Chairman Christine Mace talks to Dee La Vardera

When was the club set up?
It began in 1938 when Bernard Basevi, a local amateur magician, approached Kathleen Besley, who organised entertainment in the town, with the idea of setting up a dramatic society. The Athelstan Players was born, taking its name from the first King of England who is buried in Malmesbury Abbey, and also Bernards middle name. When war broke out in September 1939, many members were called to active service. Sadly, Bernard Basevi was killed in action but the society continued.

Who is it open to?
The group is open to anyone over the age of 9 years who is interested in performing whether acting, singing or dancing or anyone who wants to be involved backstage with scenery, props and lighting or front of house.

How often do you meet?
Every Tuesday and Thursday from 7.30pm-10pm, all year.

Where do you meet?
We have our own club room called The Drama Workshop, which was opened by actor James Grout in September 1990. The building is located behind the Co-op Supermarket, opposite the Football Club in Malmesbury.

How many members do you have?
We have 42 members, the youngest of whom is 9 years old and the oldest 74.

Are there any particular rules or regulations you are required to follow?
Members follow club rules which include a code of conduct.

What is the best thing about being a member of the club?
The best thing is meeting people and socialising but also the fun of working together on a variety of productions including pantomimes, revues, full-length and one-act plays. We have had a number of successes including winning the West of England, Harold Joliffe One Act Play Festival in Swindon and Clevedon in 2006. Members have also won best actor/actress, supporting roles and best director many times at Festivals in Swindon, Malmesbury and Cheltenham.
Last year we entered Channel 5 TVs Dont Stop Believing and went forward to the semi-finals in Cardiff. Its wonderful when former members, such as Katie Charman, Alison William, Toby Ritches and Nikki Mace, go on to make a career in show business. We were proud to take part in the HTV Award for Best One Act Play in the region when Megan Mills won the Best Actress Award.

Do you have links with other clubs or organisations?
We entertain many local organisations, including Parkinsons Society fundraising events, and visit local sheltered housing and care homes.

Do you enjoy being surrounded by like-minded individuals?
We all enjoy working together and its wonderful when everything comes together on stage and behind the scenes for the actual performance.
What is the most interesting story from the groups history?
Many specialist workers were evacuated during the Second World War from Southend to work for EK Cole Electronics in Malmesbury and they joined the players; it was a good way of keeping up morale during the war years. The society is proud to have continued without a break, being able to boast (unlike the famous Windmill Theatre) We never closed!

...the funniest?
During a performance, one of the actors dropped a bag of potatoes which spilled out over the stage and into the laps of members of the audience.

...the worst?
Having to fish out all our props and scenery from our flooded club room in the 2009 floods.

What is your next event/opportunity which is open to potential new members?
Our next production is Daisy Pulls it Off by Denise Deegan. Performances are 2 April at 7.30pm at Minety Village Hall and 8 & 9 April at 7.30pm at St Mary's Hall, Malmesbury (by the Triangle War Memorial). For tickets, contact the shows director, Amanda Duffin on 01666 824178. Anyone interested in joining is also welcome to coma along any rehearsal night.

Describe your club in five words.
Committed to making people happy.

For more information contact Christine on"01666 822691, athelstanplayers.org.

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