I had the delight of not only seeing one of my plays (Dirty Washing) performed last Friday night, I also performed in a play (Janet and John) – alongside my lovely husband – myself.
Burnham Library became a theatre for one night only last Friday (24 April) when The Friends of Burnham Library (FoBL) pushed the bookshelves to one side and made way for a stage which was the setting for the performance of five one-act plays. The evening was entitled Plays In Practice.
Chair of The Friends of Burnham Library (FoBL) Andrew Strathdee said: “This was a first night not only for the plays but also for real live theatre in Burnham for many, many years. We have certainly never attempted anything like this before. Over eighty local people turned out to enjoy the experience and support our library.
The evening was a collaboration between FoBL, Slough Writers and Total Theatre Workshop. A team of eight actors and five writers put on the five plays with two of the writers doubling as actors. After each play there was a brief Q&A with the author and the audience.
About the show, Andrew Strathdee said: “I have had so many comments over the weekend following the show from people by email and being stopped in Burnham High Street by people all raving about what a great cultural evening it had been.
“And we were taken through a remarkable range of emotions watching these plays – from laugh a minute jaw aching comedy on a park bench, through poignant family relationships to corruption in high places. We laughed at the comic antics of Russian spies in the Cold War in SLOG and laughed again at ourselves in a comedy about a reading group based in a library. Brilliant.”
The plays were written by members of Slough Writers, and member Wally Smith, who is also a volunteer helper at Burnham Library, acted as co-producer with Paul Stimpson another member of the writers group.
Wally Smith said: “The comments from the audience during the evening and subsequently have endorsed my view that the production was a resounding success. They usually say ‘leave ’em wanting more’ and this was the case on Friday night. I understand we will be invited back by popular demand for the October Arts Festival. So we will have to get to work on a set of new plays for the occasion.”
Andrew Strathdee spoke about the importance of the campaign to keep Burnham library open: “Events like this help raise funds for the library. We have whetted appetites for live new drama in Burnham and we would be very happy to work with the writers and actors again and develop opportunities to entertain the people of Burnham. We want to keep the Library as the focus of the community – if we don’t want to lose it, we must use it!”
THE FIVE PLAYS
The evening began with The Book Club by Wally Smith from Burnham. This is a comedy about a book club which meets in a library and it was the first outing for Wally’s play. Wally is a volunteer at Burnham Library but he claims nobody will be able to recognise themselves in his play – hopefully.
The second play was Janet and John by Michael Pearcy also from Burnham. This play has been performed in the All England Drama Festival, at The Union Theatre in Southwark and was chosen for performance at the inaugural event of the Windsor Fringe Drama Festival. The play uses two emotional, tense and funny monologues cleverly interwoven to explore the rocky road that is a marriage. It all begins when John invites his wife out to a surprise dinner.
Dirty Washing by Lorraine Forrest-Turner has been performed in the ADC theatre in Cambridge (home of the famous Fringe). The play is a drama exploring the impact of corruption in the NHS. Very topical with an election looming.
Lunch on a park bench is the jumping off point for Lunch Break by Terry Adlam who lives in Cippenham. This brand new play is a two-handed comedy drama having its first performance at Burnham. In the Q&A Terry said he write it in just four days. After lunch on a park bench someone is in for an unpleasant surprise. Cheese and pickle and revenge.
SLOG by Lee Taylor was second in a short play competition sponsored by BBC Radio Berkshire and since it was written for radio it will be performed at a microphone as it was intended to be complete with sound effect produced by the cast. Lee’s comedy asks why Slough did not show up on Russian maps of the UK during the cold war. Russian generals are preparing for a possible invasion of the UK. But there is a glaring error in their maps – Slough is missing. The reason is surprising and would confound John Betjeman. (Based on fact).