In 2022, with the threat of Covid-19 still receding, the Progressive Players took the decision to reduce that year’s productions at the Little Theatre Gateshead from the usual ten to seven. Our audiences were noticeably and understandably lower than pre-pandemic. Some of our regular patrons were simply not yet ready to attend large gatherings, something which has been felt by many amateur theatre companies besides us.
If, thanks to the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic, 2020, 2021 and 2022 were subdued years for the Progressive Players in terms of numbers of productions, 2023 saw a long-awaited return to “business as usual”. Our audiences are coming back in steadily increasing numbers (thank you!), and over the past twelve months have enjoyed a super range of comedies, dramas and thrillers.
We began the year with Jeeves & Wooster in Perfect Nonsense, adapted by The Goodale Brothers from the stories of PG Wodehouse. This delightfully bonkers comedy features a cast of three actors who take on a range of characters in an ingenious retelling of one of Bertie Wooster’s barmy escapades.
In our accompanying blog article Jeeves! The Scenery’s Moving Again! – Progressive Players, PP member Gordon Dunlop describes the challenges he faced as set designer.
Production information and more photos at Jeeves & Wooster in Perfect Nonsense – Progressive Players
Our February play was Bothered and Bewildered by Gail Young, a tender and bittersweet comedy featuring one woman’s struggle with Alzheimer’s. We held a voluntary collection in aid of Alzheimer’s Society, which raised £450.
For our blog article Flip Flops and Slingshots – Progressive Players, actor Trish Turnbull talks about how her love of dance led to her taking on the additional role of choreographer for the show.
Production information and more photos at Bothered and Bewildered – Progressive Players
The Diary of Anne Frank provided our March production. Written by Frances Goodrich and Albert Hackett, this wartime true story drama was first staged by the Progressive Players in 1959.
Our 2023 version inspired three blog pieces: in To Be Perfectly Frank… – Progressive Players actor Jane Bowron discusses her approach to playing the title role of Anne Frank. In Raising the Roof – Progressive Players, set designer Robbie Carruthers describes what went into creating the Amsterdam attic set. And in An Old Link With Holland Renewed – Progressive Players, Little Theatre Gateshead archivist Judith Carruthers reconnects with the past, courtesy of a 1963 letter to the Progressive Players from Anne Frank’s father, Otto.
Production information and more photos at The Diary of Anne Frank – Progressive Players
In April we presented Enlightenment, by one of the North East’s top playwrights, Shelagh Stephenson. A tense psychological thriller, with an element of metaphysics provided by a machine which lobs a pair of tennis balls across the stage!
In our accompanying blog article The Building of The Contraption – Progressive Players, PP member Huw Pritchard describes his creative process.
Production information and more photos at Enlightenment – Progressive Players
After our customary May break we returned in June with an old favourite; When We Are Married, by JB Priestley. Always popular with audiences, this classic Yorkshire comedy has been performed by the Progressive Players in four previous years (1945, 1964, 1983 and 2005).
In our blog Talkin’ Tyke! – Progressive Players, Vocal Coach Marian Walker explains some of the intricacies of the Yorkshire accent.
Production information and more photos at When We Are Married – Progressive Players
Plays with ‘Murder’ in the title always go down well, and so it proved with our July production of The Perfect Murder. Adapted by Shaun McKenna from the Peter James novel, this comedy thriller provides a first glimpse of a young Detective Roy Grace.
Our blog article The Perfect First Part – Progressive Players features PP member Danny Stones talking about his debut appearance for the Progressive Players.
Production information and more photos at The Perfect Murder – Progressive Players
Skipping August as usual, our September presentation was the aptly titled September in the Rain, by John Godber. With a cast of two, it’s an affectionate look at the traditional British seaside holiday, based on the author’s own parents’ annual trips to Blackpool.
For our linked blog article Making it Rain in September – Progressive Players, the play’s director Theresa Mulkerrin recounts the route from the page to the stage.
Production information and more photos at September in the Rain – Progressive Players
From a cast of two to a cast of nineteen for our October production of Macbeth, by William Shakespeare. 2023 marks the 400th anniversary of the publication of the Bard’s First Folio, and has seen many stagings of the ‘Scottish Play’. Ours took a traditional approach, with period costume in an 11th century setting. In common with most modern interpretations, our casting was gender-blind in several of the key roles.
Two blog articles accompanied this production: in Something Wicked This Way Comes – Progressive Players, Edward Martin Collins discusses his perspective on directing the play. And in Give us a light there, ho! – Progressive Players, Robbie Carruthers talks about his role as Lighting Designer.
Production information and more photos at Macbeth – Progressive Players
In November we presented Audacity by Simon Mawdsley, a super comedy crime caper with a delicious twist which kept audiences guessing right to the end. An online review by Denise Sparrowhawk (of Spike Mike is Breaking a Leg) even came to the notice of the author, who wrote to us on Facebook: “Congratulations – what a great review, Wish I could get up there to see it but am involved in a production at the moment. Good luck for the rest of the run!”
Our blog article What’s my motivation? – Progressive Players looks at how our actors prepared for their roles.
Production information and more photos at Audacity – Progressive Players
For December we staged not one but two separate productions within the space of a week! First up was Santa’s Knockout Christmas, a feelgood festive entertainment for young children specially written by current PP chairperson Marian Walker. This is our second such show, following on from 2022’s highly successful The Elf Who Saved Santa.
We were thrilled to receive A Letter from Santa Squad member Minty – Progressive Players for our linked blog article!
Production information at Santa’s Knockout Christmas – Progressive Players
Our second production for December was something a little different for the Progressive Players. It’s a Wonderful Life, by Joe Landry. An adaptation of the 1947 Christmas classic movie starring James Stewart, the play recreates the story as a radio play performed live on stage.
Our blog article for the play, A Foley Artist…. on stage? – Progressive Players, gives a brief insight on the use of sound effects for the play.
Production information and more photos at It’s a Wonderful Life – Progressive Players
All in all, 2023 has been a busy year for the Progressive Players. And we wouldn’t have it any other way.
Happy New Year!