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December 2020
All of us at the Little Theatre Company send very best festive wishes to our members and supporters. What a year it's been. We have been devastated to have had to postpone all the wonderful shows we had lined up for 2020 and have desperately missed meeting up with all our LTC friends.

However, with encouraging news on the vaccine front, we are hopeful that we'll be back in action early in 2021. We can't wait to start rehearsing and staging our shows. Thank you all so much for your ongoing support and very best wishes for a happy, healthy, prosperous and theatrical 2021!

OUR PLANNED 2021 PROGRAMME
 
We're sure that you will understand that we cannot be sure what we will be able to produce in 2021, but these are our current plans:

o  April 6th to 10th 2021 – RENT
o  June 22nd to 26th 2021 – The 39 Steps
o  November 23rd to 27th 2021 – The Wind in the Willows

We hope to perform Private Peaceful, originally planned for June 2021, in June 2022.
 
Our subject this time is the one-and-only Mike Mear, pictured above in 'Children of a Lesser God' (with Tana McMeechan) and in 'Adrian Mole'. Here he is reminiscing:

"It is 50 years since I got involved with theatre. In 1970, through a work colleague, I joined Tutbury Players. My first role was the Rev. Peck in 'The Happiest days of Your Life'. In 1974 I was asked by Peter Clemson if I would like to be involved in The Little Players' production of ‘Christ’s Comet’ a Centenary Celebration of 100 years of St.Paul’s Church.  Along with many ‘leading lights’ of the Drama School taking part,  I played the role of ‘A Young Man’. This led to me being a member of the Little Theatre Players on a regular basis. 

Over the years there have been many Special Moments with LTP/LTC.  Following on from 'Christ’s Comet' I was asked to play the boyfriend, Tony, in the July 1975 musical production 'The Boyfriend'. It was here I made lasting friendships. This production and many anecdotes have stayed with me until this day.

A memorable and perhaps shocking moment came when, in 1983, I played the role of Ken in 'Whose Life Is it Anyway' and was called upon to use the scripted “F” word. This was the first time the word had been used in an LTP production on the Little Theatre stage.

Another memorable moment was when Peter and I were lucky enough to be invited to our then Patron, Beryl Reid’s home, Honeypot Cottage,  to record her reciting a poem to be used at the end of the LTP production of 'Blue Remembered Hills'Beryl had recently had a fall so she spent the whole time we were with her in bed.  Many anecdotes from this visit would need another page.
 
My long list of Favourite Productions is too long to write but many of the School of Speech and Drama productions had a lasting impression and I learnt so much about theatre.

I have seen many productions in what is called “professional theatre”.  Some of my Favourites  are 'The Boyfriend' (which was in the old Derby Theatre and which I went to see with Peter Clemson), 'Follies',  'A Chorus Line' (my favourite musical) 'Phantom', 'Les Mis',  'Gypsy' -  as you can see all musicals.  One play which remains with me is 'Children of a Lesser God' which I saw in London and years later, in 1991, Tana McMeechan and I spent 6 months learning Sign Language for our roles in the LTP Production.

Away from theatre my Favourite Films:  ‘Now Voyager’, Usual Suspects', 'Blazing Saddles', 'Pillow talk', 'Hello Dolly'.

Favourite Shows on TV:  'Taskmaster',  'Only Connect';  'Would I Lie To You', '8 Out of 10 Cats Does Countdown':  Series: 'Chernobyl' and at the moment 'The Undoing' on Sky Atlantic.

6 Dinner Guests:  Doris Day, Bette Davis, Judi Dench, Maggie Smith, Ian McKellen, Alfred Hitchcock.

Those who know me really well will realise I am not much of a name dropper!!!! BUT, I have been very fortunate to have met several ‘stars’ both from the world of film and theatre. I am also a registered Film  and TV Extra/Background Artist.

I miss the ‘theatre world’ at present and so am looking forward to normal life resuming. Thankfully, for now, social media is a positive way to stay in contact with friends.
The lovely Katie Ireland who you'll remember for many LTC Youth shows, especially her wonderful portrayal of Evita, has graduated with first class honours in Biomedical Science from the University of Sheffield.

She's now working as a radiographic assistant at the Royal Derby Hospital across the imaging department in x-ray and ultrasound. She says that working in A&E is by far the most interesting, and that "working in Covid conditions has certainly been a challenge; hopefully the prospect of a vaccine offers a glimmer of hope for the future".

While still at Uni, Katie took part in the IVDC (Inter-Varsity Dance Championships) in Latin and ballroom at Blackpool Winter Gardens and got into the semi-finals. Not too shabby Katie - and a wonderful photo!
 
CHRISTMAS LTC QUIZ - GONE BUT NOT FORGOTTEN

Christmas is a great time for a quiz so we're testing your memories with photos of LTC members who haven't performed with us for a while, and who are much missed. 

Many have moved away - to uni and new jobs elsewhere -  or retired, or found new hobbies, or started a family. Or all of the above! There are 18 names in total (don't forget the dog!) and 15 different shows. Good luck!

You need to identify the people pictured AND the production. Answers to bkeirl@aol.com by 31st December please and NO CHEATING. The winner will win a great prize: they'll get a star mention in the March LTC Newsletter!!!!

 

WIL'S CHRISTMAS ALBUM - COMING SOON!

Wil writes: "Just like most of you, I’ve been playing the same Michael Bublé album every Christmas for the past 10 years. This year I thought it was time to get my own festive content on streaming platforms. In 2017, I recorded some Christmas songs with the Screaming Kicks Big Band. They were all big band swing arrangements which were recorded by the amazingly talented Alex Archer (he works with the likes of Lewis Capaldi and the Kaiser Chiefs!!) Then, in 2018, I recorded some small group jazz arrangements of Christmas songs, a more stripped back vibe.

So far, these songs have only been available on CD format but this December, everyone will be able to listen to them on Spotify, Apple Music, Amazon Music, Deezer and YouTube Music.

Some of the songs include, ‘Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas’, ‘The Christmas Song’, ‘Driving Home For Christmas’ and ‘Santa Claus Is Coming To Town.’ The album will be released very soon!! Search ‘Wil Pearson’ on your streaming platform to listen to the Xmas tunes. Thanks all!!"
A LOCKDOWN PUZZLE, ANYONE?
 
Have you used the 2020 lockdowns to do something constructive? Like learn a new language, write that novel/play script, get extra fit? 

Or have you stayed at home and done something really enjoyable but completely pointless?

Mike Mear, having recently completed his 41st jigsaw puzzle since the March lockdown, reports:
 
"I have always had a penchant for jigsaw puzzles although never to the level I have experienced over the past nine months.  The coronavirus has sent jigsaw businesses racing as demand surges past levels only ever seen in the run up to Christmas.

Missing going to rehearsals and visiting the cinema and theatre, I returned to my jigsaws which are a great way to fill time. 
Solving jigsaw puzzles is good, old-fashioned fun; they tend to be inexpensive, are (usually) easy to find, and are perfect to do alone or with others.  I understand solving jigsaw puzzles is a cognitively challenging activity, which is important for people of all ages.

The subject choice isn’t a problem.  I have completed nostalgic ones: 
Challenging ones:

Theatrical ones:

 One of the most difficult ones was this one with really tiny pieces:

and this one with no picture at all:

 

Opening a new jigsaw can be both fun and very frustrating as you sort for the edge pieces, then assemble the outer limits of the picture only to find you have missed finding one or two edge pieces. No matter how many times you look at the remaining 900 or so pieces you cannot spot the missing edge ones until, sometimes, well into the assembly. When sorting the outside pieces and turning over the others I usually sort into colours or large definite objects easy to spot. Then the process of assembly begins. 

So now it is time for number 42,  whatever that may be. A quick knock on  the neighbour's door and I'll soon find out."

THE SHOW MUST GO ON! PLEASE CAN YOU HELP?

StageScreen Principal Heather Gallagher invested in the licence to perform this smash-hit musical some time ago and had high hopes that her talented cast of young people would be performing it to enthusiastic audiences at the Brewhouse Arts Centre in March 2021.

As restrictions have eased, and then tightened, and lockdowns and tiers have come and gone, she KNEW she had to provide her hard-working students with some certainty. They have been so looking forward to performing this show and deserve the opportunity do do so after their dedication and resilience throughout 2020.

So Heather has now decided to film the show at the Brewhouse and then put it out online as a scheduled, streamed performance. It will be different from the production originally planned, but there are a lot of positives. It gives students the opportunity to experience filming a musical with the Brewhouse as their set. It also removes the uncertainty around what restrictions may (or may not) be in place for theatre audiences during March 2021. StageScreen are confident they can safely follow social distancing for both cast and crew in the Covid-secure surroundings of the Brewhouse.

However, to film the show they need to meet not only all the usual show costs but a few extras on top connected with the streaming and the filming. So they've launched their first-ever Crowdfunding campaign in a bid to raise £500 towards the show costs and ensure that they break-even. You can find the crowdfunder, and read more about their plans, at www.crowdfunder.co.uk/sister-act-online.

THEATRE REVIEWS - A VIEW FROM THE STALLS CINEMA

Our roving theatre critic Dan Tunks managed to catch a couple of NT Live productions over the summer, one in the cinema and one on YouTube.

Frankenstein
Olivier Theatre, London, 2011. Dir: Danny Boyle
Written by Mary Shelley in 1818, the novel Frankenstein or The Modern Prometheus is regarded as one of the defining works in literary history; a novel that still has a huge relevance in the 21st Century, mainly due to its controversial depiction of mankind’s fascination with ‘playing God’.

Fast forward 200 years and Nick Dear’s brutal and uncompromising script makes history as one of The National Theatre’s most in demand performances of the last 20 years.

Brought to life (no pun intended) by British director Danny Boyle, the Olivier Theatre was treated to a visceral and visually immersive experience that would leave its audiences captivated by its stellar performances.

Just before Danny Boyle directed the 2012 Olympic Games’ opening ceremony, work began on this project that would see him collaborate once again with Trainspotting actor Jonny Lee Miller and with Benedict Cumberbatch in a stage production that combines all the hallmarks of a Shakespearean tragedy with echoes of a gothic romance. A great deal of credit must go to set designer Mark Tildesley, who worked closely with Boyle to create a steampunk theme that really highlights the beauty of nature and the cold, sterile veneer of mankind’s 19th Century industrialisation.

Both Miller and Cumberbatch spent large amounts of time in preparation for their respective roles by studying various medical patients in the process of rehabilitation and physiotherapy. Watching these patients learning to walk and develop speech again plays an important part in the way in which we see Dr Frankenstein’s creation progress throughout the play.

As the character encounters other human beings, his ability to learn at an accelerated rate demonstrates his determination to find his creator and discover what his purpose is. Learning to walk, talk and even recite verses of John Milton’s ‘Paradise Lost’ at one point demonstrate the beauty of progress within human beings, but ultimately his understanding of love and morality is what sets him apart from his creator. On a collision course, they eventually meet which leads to the stark revelation that ‘The Creature’ has more capacity to understand human elements like emotion, than perhaps Frankenstein has given him credit for. It is only a matter of time before there is the realisation that Frankenstein himself may be the least human of us all in his quest for science, and that this ultimately comes at a great cost.

The real attraction of this production back in 2011, of course, was the unique idea of having the two lead actors switch roles every night, thereby offering an opportunity for audiences to witness different perspectives on the way in which each actor approaches the role of ‘creator’ and ‘creation’.

I was immensely pleased to be able to see this production back in 2014 and having the opportunity to revisit it again this year was certainly worthwhile. The design concept, the score composed by ‘Underworld’ and the idea of a revolving stage all contribute to what a great and memorable theatre experience is all about. This is a show that leaves you with 1001 questions on your mind afterwards. The biggest question that this show does provoke however, is the importance of understanding the fine line between morality and immorality. Who is the real monster in this story? The one in search of a purpose in life or the one who creates life in the pursuit of progress, regardless of the cost?

The Deep Blue Sea
Lyttelton, London 2016. Dir: Carrie Cracknell

2016’s National Theatre revival of Terrence Rattigan’s most recognised play, went somewhat under the radar for me, so having the chance to catch this claustrophobic, kitchen sink style drama towards the end of the summer was a real joy.

Set in 1950’s post-war London, the sound of ‘The Flamingos’ doo-wop classic ‘I only have eyes for you’ starts the tone of this piece the minute the opening bars hit the needle on the dansette record player.

If you’re looking for ‘The Sound of Music’, you’re in the wrong place! This is a superb psychological drama that deals with the emotions and fragile mental state of a woman who has reached a crossroads in her life and faces the unbearable decision of being either in a loveless marriage, that offers protection and security, or an unpredictable romance that offers uncertainty but a second taste of an unrequited passionate youth.

There’s no mistaking that Helen McCrory (better known for her role as ‘Polly’ in the BBC drama ‘Peaky Blinders’) most certainly steals the show as Hester Collyer, a judge’s wife who has sacrificed the comforts of middle class England for Freddie Page (Tom Burke), a young, handsome but boyish war hero, who is not capable of understanding her emotional needs and has no real place in the modern world.

Tom Scutt’s set design was truly impressive, as the concept of living in an apartment block surrounded by transparent walls instils a sense of its tenants existing in a microscopic environment. Every move and sound are scrutinised in this dingy one-bed apartment.

There are strong supporting performances from Peter Sullivan as the concerned and well to do husband, while Nick Fletcher, as the ex-doctor in the apartment above, proves to be a marvellous casting choice, as he offers more insight into the fragility of Hester’s erratic and chaotic behaviour.

If you enjoy a play that offers realistic dialogue and subtle moments of Pinter-esque silences combined with masterful performances, this is certainly one to watch. This play has so much to offer stage actors who want to get their teeth into gritty, relentless characters with a female lead that requires an A to Z of emotions from start to finish.


The National Theatre has recently announced a streaming service of its NT Live productions to which you can subscribe by the year or month. A perfect Christmas present for a thespian! Click HERE for more information.
 

Our last newsletter featured the Burton Swans Project, masterminded by Tilley Bancroft. 

Colourful, super-sized swan sculptures, all painted by local artists and sponsored by local businesses, brightened Burton’s town centre this summer. In October they raised more than £11,000 to help local people in crisis this winter. They were auctioned by Richard Winterton of Richard Winterton Auctioneers, who waived fees and commission so that all the money from winning bids went to YMCA Burton.


JANE GERMAN'S DAMSON BRANDY

I thought I would do something productive and fruitful during the second lockdown (although now in Tier 3, nothing much has changed!) So when a friend dropped off a bag full of 285 damsons I got to thinking what I could do with them. My list looked like this:
  • Jam?.. no jam kettle.
  • Tart?..not very exciting.
  • Stewed?..even worse!
  • Brandy..that's the one!!!

With Christmas coming up I thought a bottle of damson brandy would make a nice present. And why not? There's a plum brandy out there called slivovitz, isn't there?

Dead simple to make too. I like 'simple'.
  • Buy a bottle of brandy. (Make sure you try a drop to make sure it's not gone off.)
  • Pour over washed fruit in kilner bottles.
  • Add a little cinnamon for extra flavour.
  • Leave to mature for 3ish months or however long you can bear to leave it.
  • Sterilise some smaller clip top bottles.
  • Use a muslin bag (a Sainsburys reusable veg bag is good...other supermarket bags are available) to strain your damsons through over a jug.
  • Transfer into bottles.
  • Make labels and stick on bottles.
  • Sit back and admire and sample your work.

So "something productive and very  FRUITful"...in fact you have a ready made boozy pudding if you make a tart now with the damsons.

Merry Christmas everyone and stay well!
Those of you with young children or grandchildren might like to know that, being unable to invite audiences to the centre, the Brewhouse this year is streaming some very special festive events for you to enjoy at home with your family. They include 'Kipper's Snowy Day', a Festive Family Funday and 'Santa's Christmas Countdown'.
 
You can find more information and purchase tickets at: http://www.brewhouse.co.uk/events
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