Girton village website

Focus on Girton Players

There are not many communities of some 5000 souls which can boast of both a flourishing dramatic society and a dynamic operatic society - but Girton can! The two societies cooperate in numerous ways without competing, and have several key members in common. The operatic aspect will the subject of a future article in this series in Girton Parish News, but we now concentrate on that self-consciously and modestly-named society -- the Girton Players.

The Girton Players can trace their origin back to the period between 1993 and 1995 when a mystery play cycle (initiated and directed by Peter Nancarrow) was performed by a group of local people in St Andrew's Church to much acclaim. This success led to the suggestion that a permanent dramatic group should be formed. A lead was taken by Maxine Fay and Michele Le Bailly, and the Girton Parish News of August 1995 carried their "message to all budding thespians" to join in, whether actors, backstage crew or front-of-house . A first meeting of the group took place in October of that year. Its first production was in June of the following year, when J.B. Priestley's ever-green "When We Are Married" (something of a war-horse for amateur groups) was performed in the Glebe School. Since then, the Players' record has been far more adventurous, with an admirable emphasis on interesting scripts, new authors and challenging productions.

Some early productions took place at Impington Village College and the Women's Institute Hall, but in recent years the venue has been the Girton Glebe School. Stage facilities have been enhanced there over the years, in conjunction with Girton Operatic for lighting, staging and other technical aspects, much aided by a large grant from the Girton Town Charity, as well as help from the School itself and the PTA. The Players' 1997 Annual General Meeting adopted a formal constitution, but particular care was taken at the time and since to retain what the then Chairman Clive Lane called the "friendly informality which has been so much a feature of the group since its creation." The present Chairman, Dave Peat, stresses that this has continued to the present, and the high standards produced from the approach certainly vindicate this ethos.

The 27 productions of the Girton Players since 1996 have included popular works from leading modern playwrights, including Alan Ayckbourn (twice), Tom Stoppard, Sue Townsend, Richard Harris, Peter Shaffer, Alan Bennett, Michael Frayn, and Terry Pratchett - as well as "entertainments" devised by the members of the Players themselves. Since November 2006, the Players have premiered with singular success eight plays written and often directed by Gytha Lodge. She is a young local playwright, a former pupil of Girton Glebe School as well as a graduate of Cambridge University. While some of her plays follow a conventional dramatic format, she adopts an original approach for others. Instead of requiring the director to mould the actors to a pre-determined script, she chooses the actors, and then writes and evolves the script to fit the actors, their natures and characteristics. Gytha Lodge shows a variety of tastes and themes in her plays, including costume drama, comedy, murder mysteries and adaptations of period and modern pieces as different as Wilkie Collins' "Moonstone" and Tom Stoppard's "Arcadia".



The Girton Players' production of "Flash Gordon" in November 2009, left to right, Kate Hurst, Sarah Durant, Helen Wilson, Susan Atkinson: photo Paul Malpas

Although villagers can enjoy productions at the Girton Glebe School, the Players' stages are far from being so constrained. Across the years they have won several awards regionally and nationally. The Players participate regularly in the Cambridge Drama Festival, and in 2001 won the Festival outright with "Heart's Desire" by Caryl Churchill, gaining the prizes for the best actor, actress and play. In 2008 Gytha Lodge won the UK Drama Association's prize (the Geoffrey Whitworth Trophy) for the best script with "The Funeral of Macie Loverett". The same author's "Otherwise", first performed in Girton in October 2009, was judged in 2010 the top play out of 40 at the Brighton Festival Fringe, and went on to that most distinguished of all the fringes at Edinburgh in August 2010.

The Girton Players now have an enviable reputation, built solidly on the aims of the prime movers back in 1995, to create a foundation of theatrical skills. The membership has changed considerably over time, and there are now about 40 active members, including some dating from the start, notably Claire Dewing, Helen Wilson, Letty Burrell and Roger Few.

The Players always welcome new members, whether in acting or supporting roles, experienced or not. The membership fee is modest but the range of members is wide, from young persons to the veteran actress Mavis Perkins, celebrating her 85th birthday this month. So, if you are a "budding thespian" of whatever age or background, why not give it a try?

Dave Peat (Chairman), "Tansen", Redgate Road, Girton CB3 0PP, Telephone 277619
Helen Wilson (Treasurer), 2 Bandon Road, Girton CB3 0LU, Telephone 276940
Website: www.girtonplayers.org, email: girtonplayers@yahoo.co.uk

"Focus on Girton" is a series of occasional articles on the organisations of Girton. The first series ran from September 2005 to April 2007 and concentrated on public service and commercial organisations. This present series covers the community and voluntary organisations of the village.

Articles are written independently by members of the editorial team of the Girton Parish News, with the consent and cooperation of the organisation concerned. The selection of organisations featured is entirely at the discretion of the editorial team. The articles do not in themselves represent an endorsement of the aims or activities of organisations. No link exists between the publication of an article and any advertising in the Girton Parish News, whether in the same issue or more generally.