Theatre In The Community
As Chair of Bromley Theatre Guild over the past 8 years or so, my involvement in our local amateur drama scene has enabled me to get to know, amongst others, the communitiesof the outlying villages of Farnborough, Pratts Bottom and Chelsfield.
While my interest was more focussed on the theatrical activities of Farnborough Dramatic Society, Pratts Bottom Dramatic Society and Chelsfield Players, each one of which produces 3 – 4 plays over the year, I also began to realise that that there was a lot more going on offstage as well as on.
Evenings typically start with an excellent meal complemented with the odd glass or two of wine at each of the village pubs - The Woodman at Farnborough, immediately opposite the village hall and geared up to serve interval drinks which you exchange for plastic glasses in the hall if you’ve not quite finished; The Bull at Pratts Bottom, just a step across the green to the hall; and the Five Bells at Chelsfield, again just a stone’s throw from the village hall.
Each hostelry has its own distinctive character as is the case with England’s greatest institution – the village pub. Mine host or hostess is always welcoming, even though you may not be a local face; the pub décor and most of all, the chatter of the local clientele, always a delight and giving you the feeling that you’re not the outsider you might feel in the impersonal bars of a more urban and faceless environment.
Next, step into the village hall with its animated buzz of the audience as they exchange greetings and share anticipation of the performance to come. And then the hush as the house lights fade, the curtains open to reveal a cleverly devised set, and local well known faces appear on stage in less familiar guises. More buzz over coffee or drinks at interval as the audience engage in the progress of the performance.Finally, the rousing ovation as the players take their curtain call and emerge once more into the real world, feeling, together with their audience,uplifted by the whole experience.
Long live community theatre!