Choosing which plays to perform can be an extraordinarily difficult task for amateur dramatic societies, whose need to fill seats can be critical to their very survival.
But the recipe for success seems to be selecting works that offer something for all tastes.
“We try to make the programme as varied as we can for both the audiences and the actors,” says Lizzie Booth, a member of the casting committee for Huddersfield Thespians, one of the town’s oldest and largest amateur companies.
“But there are always people who say to us afterwards ‘why didn’t you do this or that?’. It’s always difficult,” she added.
This year, the society’s 95th, the Thespians will be opening the Lawrence Batley Theatre’s autumn drama season with An Evening of Pinter - four one-act plays by the world famous and Nobel prizewinning British actor, playwright, director, political activist and poet, who died six years ago.
“Pinter is usually popular with audiences,” says Lizzie, “and we have done a lot of his plays, but never the ‘one-acters’.”
In December the company is staging its own version of A Christmas Carol, adapted by young Thespian Alex Watkins; and next year it will perform an Oscar Wilde classic, The Importance of Being Earnest, and the modern comedy classic Blackadder Goes Forth (selected to commemorate World War One).
So, with something old, something new, something borrowed and something quite serious, the Thespians hope to attract audiences to the Lawrence Batley Theatre.
For the first time, the society is producing just four plays at the theatre - three will be in the smaller Syngenta Cellar venue. The reason for this, says Lizzie, who has been a Thespian for more than 40 years, is simply a matter of economics. The Thespians are not alone in struggling to make ends meet when it comes to meeting the increasing costs of staging productions. “The overheads are much greater on the main stage,” she explained. “There are such a lot of hidden costs in putting on a production – things like transporting the scenery, props and costumes to the theatre. I don’t think most people realise just how expensive it is – even our own society members.”
An Evening of Pinter throws up a number of challenges for the Thespians. Each one act play – The Lover, Landscape, Family Voices and Victoria Station – has its own director and the cleverly-crafted writing, tackling the issue of communication between people in marriages, the workplace and families, requires clever acting.
But Pinter is a favourite of actors, who enjoy the drama, intrigue and dark humour of his works.
This particular four-part production will be directed by Keith Royston, Prue Griffiths and Lynne Whitaker. For long-serving Thespian Ken Greenwood, a veteran of more than 60 productions with the company and appearing in Landscape, it will be a somewhat familiar experience. He has been working in collaboration with Keith Royston since 1962. “We have,” says Ken, “done an awful lot together, either Keith directing me or me directing Keith”.
In common with many amateur companies, the Thespians are always on the lookout for new, young talent, to replace those lost to university, work or parenthood. “We would absolutely love some new, younger actors, and people who would like to be involved in other ways,” says Lizzie. “Productions require a lot of people - to do lighting, sound, stage managing, props and front of house, as well as the cast.”
The company, which rehearses at Oakes Mill West, has long been a family affair, with parents, offspring and siblings all treading the boards or working backstage. And the society hopes that it will continue long into the 21st century. What they need now is the support of audiences.
Tickets are now on sale for An Evening of Pinter (September 9 - 13) at the LBT Syngenta Cellar.
Contact the box office on 01484 430528 or www.thelbt.org