“What a difference a year makes!” said Bob Almquist, Chairman of Davenham and Sandiway Players in his Chairman’s report at last Thursday’s Annual General Meeting. “Just twelve months ago, almost to the day, Paulette Anderson (Hon Sec) and he returned from the 2011 Cheshire Theatre Guild awards night with not even a nomination for any of the drama festival categories and had to admit, were a little downhearted.” However, at last week’s 2012 AGM, Bob was able to report that the pace of performing arts at the Players Theatre had accelerated and that the 2012 season was one of the most successful ever. Over the season, visiting companies had staged eight productions at Davenham theatre – almost one a month. Only a few years ago, there would have been barely one or two.

Then there was the immensely successful series of professional Jazz concerts organised and financed by a small group of local enthusiasts who took over responsibility from the DAN (Development of Arts in Northwich) after withdrawal of a grant from a regional arts funder. The entrepreneurs put their own money at risk to fund the first three concerts, starting at the end of 2011, with no certainty of success. However, after the first couple of evenings, it was clear that effective marketing had worked and that the concerts would pay for themselves hopefully long into the future. Indeed, most of the evenings are sell-outs with waiting list for ticket returns. The jazz bands say that Davenham is an ideal venue for their type of music and audiences love the atmosphere and the real ale supplied by sponsors Tatton Brewery of Knutsford. Jazz returns in September – email jazz@davenham.co.uk for details.

Bob then asked the question “With all this going on at Davenham, was there any time for Davenham’s own drama productions?” Yes, there was. In November, Barbara Crellin directed Martin McDonagh’s dark comedy ‘Cripple of Inishmaan’ which attracted sell-out audiences following a successful preview night with an invited audience of local business people, councillors and the Northwich Mayor. In January, Paulette Anderson directed ‘Laugh Out Loud - Again’ – a miscellany of comedy readings and sketches involving a wide range of our membership. The most recent production was ‘The Farndale Macbeth’ (abbreviated title) directed by Graham Hough. This play is one of a series by David McGillivray and Walter Zerlin Jnr that dramatize attempts by the (imaginary) Farndale Avenue Housing Estate Townswomen’s Guild Dramatic Society’s to stage serious plays. In this script, the ladies try their hand at ‘The Scottish Play’ at a drama festival competition. Macbeth is played by a lady, Lady Macbeth by a man and one of the three witches is unlucky enough to have to have to complete the play in a wheelchair! Everything that can go wrong does go wrong, but the drama adjudicator makes the best of it at the end and the Farndale ladies go away with their heads held high. Congratulations to Graham Hough on a production enjoyed by all the cast and by the sell-out audiences!

The chairman handed over to Barbara Crellin, director of the November production, to describe what happened at the 2012 Cheshire Theatre Guild annual Drama Festival awards evening, held the day previous to the Davenham AGM. Hopes of awards were not high following the 2011 experience. But things were to change very soon. After seeing three excerpts of recent productions staged by Cheshire amateurs, the audience eagerly awaited the drama adjudicator Colin Snell, who had judged almost thirty plays by amateur groups all over Cheshire during the season. You have to compare this evening with the Olivier or Academy awards night – there is the same level of excitement, but with considerably less glitz and champagne !

The adjudicator announced the nominations for Best Supporting Actor and one of our members was in the list. Next thing we knew Jamie Morris had won the Geoffrey Croxford Cup for his portrayal of Bartley in ‘The Cripple of Inishmaan’ and went proudly onto the stage to collect his award – well done Jamie ! A little later, the nominations for Best Presentation came up and Davenham were nominated for the set built for ‘The Cripple of Inishmaan’. Davenham won again and Barbara collected the Bramhall Cup on behalf of set designer Sheila Hetherington and Set Builder Arthur Jones.

Was there more to come? – indeed there was! Colin Snell announced the award for Best Actor. Ed Green had been nominated for the part of JohnnyPateenMike  in his Davenham Players debut, ‘The Cripple of Inishmaan’ – and Ed won the trophy! Unfortunately Ed could not be there because he was appearing on stage that night in Hertfordshire, so Barbara collected the David Lane cup on Ed’s behalf. The excitement was now building for the final few awards, including Best Director, for which Barbara had been nominated and Best Production for which ‘The Cripple of Inishmaan’ had been nominated. Barbara did not win Best Director award, but a nomination still recognizes success and she was pleased to have been in ‘Best of Class’. Any disappointment was short-lived because the penultimate award of the evening went to ‘The Cripple of Inishmaan’ for runner-up in Best Overall Production and Barbara was overjoyed to collect the John F Blackburn award.

So, the Davenham committee could report on a year of hard work and recognition of a successful season’s activities. If you are interested in finding out more about what’s happening at Davenham and maybe becoming involved with our next season, you can phone our Hon Sec Paulette on 01606 79779, our Chairman Bob on 01606 45186 or visit our website http://www.davenhamplayers.co.uk/ which has a Contact Us form or Blog http://dsp-davenham.blogspot.co.uk/ which has news of coming activities for your diary. We also have a Facebook group page Davenham and Sandiway Players. In conclusion Bob said a warm “Thank You” for all who had helped in last season’s productions and asked for more help with next season, which looks like being even busier than last.

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