|Putney Theatre Company Looks Back on a Strange Year|
Lots of creativity despite the huge challenges of 2020
Putney Theatre Company (PTC) is the resident adult theatre company at Putney Arts Theatre. We share the building with Group 64 Theatre for Young People. The building is also hired by other companies and groups for a range of activities. Information about us, our history and the shows we put on can be found on our website.
We started 2020 with a full season planned and managed to put on three shows before the first lockdown. In January we saw ‘Tribes’ by Nina Raine, directed by Grace Johnston in the studio and in February ‘The Duchess of Malfi’ by John Webster, directed by Jaz Manville on the main stage. ‘Wolves by Sarah deLappe, directed by Ben Clare was our early March main stage show and ‘Killology’ by Gary Owen, directed by Ian Higham was scheduled to be our March studio show but this had to be pulled at the last minute due to the lockdown.
The pandemic has led to an almost complete curtailment of our live and face-to-face activities over the last ten months. However our Artistic Directors and members of the PTC committee have provided a wide range of online activities to keep our members engaged. These have included our online monologue series and play readings, social events including very popular quizzes, organised by Ally Staddon, and workshops, organised by Susanna Statton and led by different presenters including Geoff Saunders.
Another venture has been our ‘Recalls: PTC’s past uncovered’ series edited and produced by Craig Bates with Jeff Graves and Ally Staddon which is available to watch on Facebook and YouTube. In this series directors provide interesting insights into some of our past productions.
Our annual New Writing showcase is a highlight of our year. This year’s showcase ‘Truth or Dare’ directed by Rebecca Marangos (originally planned as a studio production for May) was shown as an online ticketed event in July. A staged reading of ‘The Magistrate’ by Arthur W. Pinero directed by Zoë Thomas-Webb was shown on YouTube in September. Another live ticketed online performance, this time of ‘The God of Carnage’ by Yasmina Reza directed by Ben Clare took place in November. A couple of comments from audience members below:
‘Congratulations to everyone involved in God of Carnage, brilliantly conceived and carried out. A professional company could not have done better.’
‘Massive congrats to Team God of Carnage. Slick, professional, uncomfortable, tense, silly and extremely enjoyable. I know how hard it can be to pull off a live stream and quite frankly that was as good as/better than many professional companies.’
We were delighted to have had the opportunity to put on ‘Twelfth Night’, directed by Tom Sainsbury and Stuart Watson in the Old Burial Ground over a weekend in mid-September. We welcomed a sold-out audience of 50 each afternoon and have received many comments congratulating us on the production and how well organised the event was, taking into account the COVID safety guidelines everyone was working to.
Congratulations to everyone concerned. Definitely worth coming down to Putney from Blackpool to see.
Really enjoyed Sunday afternoon - the cast and music and dance and costumes and direction and everything were ace and I can’t believe you all put it together in the short time you did.
We managed to hold one performance of a Rehearsed Reading of ‘GUT’ in the theatre on Sunday 11 October but then we had to shut down again.
However, against all the odds we managed to put on another live show in December.
Jeff Graves and Emma Miles (Our artistic director and assistant artistic director) and a group of talented directors and actors created a live festive performance ‘Stories from the Attic’ for members, friends and families on the 12 and 13 December just before Tier 3 and 4 restrictions began. Martin Jessop and Ben Clare helped create the perfect atmosphere with lights and sounds. It was very well received by audience members and people really appreciated the chance to be back in the theatre again and see a show. And a couple of comments from audience members:
‘I was lucky enough to see it last night. Absolutely enthralled by all the performances, the lighting and puppeteers. Honestly would have thought it was a professional performance.’
‘Tales from the attic was absolutely brilliant.... I loved the puppet, the set, the lighting and last but not least.... the acting.’
We are planning further online ticketed events including The Weir by Conor McPherson on 25 February and our second online live New Writing showcase on 25 March. We also have our first audio drama Little Women which should be available in March.
Like everyone else we have been learning how to produce and present our shows and activities on line. Our thanks go to Tom Sainsbury who has provided the technical support for many of our online shows. We are proud of what we have achieved over the last ten months and have had many messages of support and appreciation. Feedback suggests we have provided more online activities than many other amateur theatre companies have been able to. Supporting our members and providing opportunities for them to engage is an important element of our function as a community theatre. Putney Arts Theatre got a mention in the Guardian article about amateur theatre.
Carrie Cable – Chair PTC Committee
Jeff Graves – PTC Artistic Director
February 12, 2021