Founded in 1922, The Sevenoaks Players gave its first performance of H.M.S. Pinafore in February 1923. With the exception of the World War ll years, we have performed light opera, musicals and drama for over almiost ninety years in the town.
Until the early eighties we were the only operatic society performing in Sevenoaks. We have always been self-financing, although the rising costs of mounting a production make this increasingly a challenge.
Our venue from the 1950s until 1980 was the Drill Hall in Argyle Road. I fondly remember changing across the road in Miss Sutton’s Dance Studio, then dashing through the snow to perform. A stalwart backstage crew, including our local councillor Dot Parrott, worked hard to erect a stage, proscenium arch and curtains to create a theatre. Dot, in her dungarees, wielded a hammer and screw-driver, swept the floor, and made endless cups of tea and handed out large chunks of cake for the set-builders.
Sadly, the Drill Hall became unavailable and in 1981 the Sevenoaks Players, under its chairman Jim Cheeseman, pioneered the use of the Focus Cinema, building yet another stage with scaffolding, known as the ‘ boxing-ring’ in front of the main screen and using the two smaller auditoriums as dressing rooms. Eventually through the commitment of Maggie Durdant-Hollamby and the Sevenoaks Theatre Action Group ( STAG ), the Focus Cinema building became the Stag Theatre, much to the delight of the Players.
Great fun is to be had when researching a production. One year twenty of us went to Sark prior to our production of ‘The Dame of Sark’, a good excuse for a long week-end away to that delightful Channel Island!
Panic stations set in when the set is not quite finished; for example the paint on the cow-shed was still wet as the chorus entered in White Horse Inn, and we all have many lovely memories, one of the funniest being a publicity photo-shoot at Knole House for Katherine Howard,with Henry Vlll, Anne of Cleves, Katherine Howard and the rest of the cast in full costume, and a group of Japanese tourists looking on in utter bewilderment !
We also perform musicals from Gilbert and Sullivan through to classics such as South Pacific and Oliver! through to Me and My Girl and Anything Goes! Performing as we do at the Stag Theatre twice a year we also appreciate the hard work done by our backstage teams in this challenging environment. Each year a one act play is performed both locally in the non-competitive Sevenoaks District Drama Festival and also in the Southern Counties Festival held in Oxted at the Barn Theatre and most recently (2009) at the Leatherhead Drama Festival, where with fourteen other groups in our category we won first prize in the senior section presented by Sir Michael Caine!
Education in the theatrical arts is a wonderful experience for the younger generation, with many new members joining the Players. We therefore look to the future with much enthusiasm and move forward towards our next productions with eager anticipation.