There is no definitive date when, various aspiring Plaxtol Thespians, decided to call themselves the Plaxtol Players. However, an eclectic array of performances, dating back to 1954, can be considered the formative years of our history.
The first show attributed to the Plaxtol Players, was in 1974 when ‘The Roof Raisers’ was staged to raise funds to repair the Memorial Hall roof. Continuing that tradition, all profits from Plaxtol Players productions are used to raise funds either to provide additional production equipment, for improvements to the Memorial Hall and its stage or for local charities.
The first ‘supper show’ to be staged in Plaxtol was Ian Dussek’s ‘PEPYSHOW’, in 1979 – ‘a restoration cabaret in the presence of King Charles II and his Merrie Courtiers’, the first performance of which took place on Friday 4th May, the day that Margaret Thatcher was announced as Prime Minister. Ian Dussek memorably added an extra line that evening: ‘So, twil not be a hung Parliament!’ The evening was advertised: ‘Tickets £2.20 to include a hearty supper, fine liquors and ales with entertainment aplenty’. The show involved children, audience participation, singing and dancing – a popular format that has been repeated, in various genres, over the years.
Many of our shows have been written by Plaxtol residents. Ian Dussek, Joan Harrison, Richard Thomlinson and Jim Riches have been highly acclaimed for their scripts. More recently, however, we have staged plays by renowned playwrights such as Alan Ayckbourn, Terry Pratchett and Norman Robins.
In our 1986 version of Robinson Crusoe, the cast were joined by esteemed resident, Sir William Staveley, First Sea Lord and Chief of Naval Staff. Sir William notably sang ‘I am the ruler of the Queen’s Navy’ with particular gusto and adorned in a spectacular costume borrowed from the Admiralty. His appearance had not been advertised due to the security risk!
Although Plaxtol Memorial Hall is the main venue for our productions and rehearsals, several al fresco productions have taken place in beautiful Plaxtol gardens, even amid downpours in typically inclement, mid-summer English weather! In 2014, to coincide with the WWI centenary, the barn at The Retreat was transformed for Sentimental Journey, a tribute to our WWI and WWII heroes, written by Jim Riches and incorporating some original songs and speeches.
The Players have often found budding talent where least expected, coaxing many locals onto the boards for the first time in their lives. With the ceaseless commitment and enthusiasm from cast and audiences alike, we look forward to the Plaxtol Players’ continued success for many years to come.