Just a stage they're going through

Amateur dramatics - a dirty phrase for some reason, even when the bulk of the box office take traditionally goes to charity. It suggests a musical evening of tedious embarrassment which you have to sit through and applaud because you know one of the three little maids. But wait] You could be that little maid] You may have thought that amateur dramatics was strictly out-of-town stuff, but practically every borough and every major institution in the City, from London Transport to the Stock Exchange, has a show in rehearsal. The scene is busting out all over.

Some sing, the others don't. Societies that used to do both have, like the West End itself, bowed to market forces and concentrated on musical comedy. Audience appeal is a big factor in the choice of show. Joe Putnam, leading light of London Transport Players (now renamed the London Theatre Players) for over 20 years, says the biggest successes are either old favourites like Oklahoma, South Pacific or The Merry Widow ('always makes money') or West End shows newly released for amateur performance. Anything Goes became available recently and there was a rash of productions. Crazy for You has yet to be released: 'Everyone's dying to do that.' However, it isn't always the West End that points the way. Joe insists that it was London Transport's hit with the long-forgotten Me And My Girl at the Wimbledon Theatre that prompted its revival in Shaftesbury Avenue. Joe played the lead.

Lloyd's Dramatic, Operatic and Musical Society (established 1910) is currently auditioning Kiss Me Kate. Are stars in the delicate process of being born? It's hard to tell from a cold audition, but only one person was out and out flat; everyone oozed confidence. Besides, ultimately, they are all doing it to please themselves (unlike second - or third - or fourth-rate 'professional' theatre, which can end up pleasing nobody). You could almost feel envious. What fun they were all going to have. It's a hobby and how many hobbies hold any promise of applause? 'Some people would like to do it professionally, which is such a mistake' says Joe. 'This way you get the best of both worlds: you've got regular employment and you get the best parts.' Directors from the companies that only do straight plays all have sad tales to tell of gifted amateurs who got above themselves and went professional, darling. There's only one things worse than being a spear-carrier and that's being a resting spear-carrier.

Some of the Kates at the Lloyd's audition look a bit past the kissing stage. One of these goes into her number with such grisly vaudevillean vigour you can practically see the footlights playing on her chins. Another tryo gives a strong performance, but she's definitely on the soft side of ripe. Joe Putnam doesn't see a problem 'with make-up and lighting. And distance. And a wig. . .

Lloyd's performers are quite a young group: not all the talent is purely theatrical. Is the amateur stage a good place to, er, shall we say, make friends? After all, last year's Laurey from Oklahoma is sitting on the lap of this year's Second Gunman from Kiss Me Kate, so one assumes so. June King, doyenne of the Stock Exchange Dramatic and Operatic Society, remembers there was a rash of that sort of thing at the time of the Coronation (the present Queen): 'It's a fairly good matrimonial agency. We had six weddings out of one show. Decimated the chorus'. You'd have to put up quite a fight mind you. At Lloyd's, women outnumber men two to one. Some societies are 80 per cent female. Joe Burgh, of the National Operatic and Dramatic Association, admits that 'men are particularly welcome. Especially if they happen to be tenors who can dance'.

Final auditions for Kiss Me Kate are being held tonight at The Lloyd's Building, basement restaurant, Lime St EC3 from 6.30pm onwards. See below for details


Backstage Amateur Dramatic Company. Based Hendon area. Musicals only. Mostly male. Has a professional director. Last production: Little Shop of Horrors. Next production: undecided. Contact: Laurence Conway (0582-37110)

The Chelsea Players. Based World's End. Plays only. Mixed sexes. Puts on four plays a year and describes its largely media and advertising membership as 'People who have careers rather than jobs - whatever that's supposed to mean. Last production: Merchant of Venice. Next four productions undecided but auditioning 6th September. Contact Andrew Foster (081-675 0924)

Comedy Club of London. Mixed ages. Short of men. Plays only. Based Notting Hill. Beaux Stratagem runs 20-23 July. Next production undecided but will be auditioning September. Contact Mary Lewis (071-435 0600)

Ladbroke Players. Plays only. Based Notting Hill. All ages. Current production: The Cherry Orchard (performing 16-18 June). Next production: Pantomime (auditioning November). Contact: Alison Du Cane (071-727 5463)

Lloyds Dramatic, Operatic and Musical Society. Musicals only. Based City. Last production: Oklahoma. Now casting: Kiss Me Kate. Contact: Stella Sharman (081-599 3115)

Opera Integra. Mostly female group of all ages based in Hammersmith where it forms part of the Hammersmith and Fulham Community Education Programme. This fairly serious group performs occasional concerts of extracts from the operas. Emphasis on voice training as well as performance explains the annual fees of pounds 130. Contact: Brian Galloway (081-746 2380)

The Spread Eagle Players (aka Barclays Bank Dramatic Society). Plays only. Based City. Youngish, mostly male. pounds 15 a year. Latest production: Run For Your Wife (30 June, 1-2 July) Next production: Murder on the Nile. Auditioning 22 June. Contact: Julia Loosley (071-256 6111 ext. 2071)

Stock Exchange Dramatic and Operatic Society. Based City. Last production: Guys and Dolls. Next production: undecided. Contact: June King (071-628 9369)

Other London-based companies include Applause (West End); British Telecom (West End); Capital Theatre (Lambeth); Comedy Club (Notting Hill); Concorde Players (Bounds Green); Geoids (Waterloo); Grosvenor (Fleet Street); Lensbury (Shell Centre); Philbeach (Paddington); Southside (SW12).

Almost all companies welcome non-performing members to help with stage management, wardrobe, make-up etc. For more information on societies in your area, contact Mark Thorburn, General Administrator, the National Operatic and Dramatic Association (071-837 5655)

(Photograph omitted)

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebookA delicious collection of 50 meaty main courses
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.


ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Recruitment Genius: Technical Author / Multimedia Writer

    Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This recognized leader in providing software s...

    Recruitment Genius: Clinical Lead / RGN

    £40000 - £42000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

    Recruitment Genius: IT Sales Consultant

    £35000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This IT support company has a n...

    Recruitment Genius: Works Engineer

    Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A works engineer is required in a progressive ...

    Day In a Page

    Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

    How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

    Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
    Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

    'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

    In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
    Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

    The Arab Spring reversed

    Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
    King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

    Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

    Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
    Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

    Who is Oliver Bonas?

    It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
    Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

    Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

    However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
    60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

    60 years of Scalextric

    Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones
    Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

    Why are we addicted to theme parks?

    Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement
    Tourism in Iran: The country will soon be opening up again after years of isolation

    Iran is opening up again to tourists

    After years of isolation, Iran is reopening its embassies abroad. Soon, there'll be the chance for the adventurous to holiday there
    10 best PS4 games

    10 best PS4 games

    Can’t wait for the new round of blockbusters due out this autumn? We played through last year’s offering
    Transfer window: Ten things we learnt

    Ten things we learnt from the transfer window

    Record-breaking spending shows FFP restraint no longer applies
    Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

    ‘Can we really just turn away?’

    Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
    Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

    Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

    ... and not just because of Isis vandalism
    Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

    Girl on a Plane

    An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
    Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

    Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

    The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent