Playhouse toasts birthday

By Andrea Ives

LAST weekend Pateley Bridge Dramatic Society celebrated the ruby anniversary of The Playhouse in considerable style.

The Playhouse, seating merely 73, in Church Street was alive with warm hospitality, memories and the meeting of old friends.

On Friday evening the beautifully decorated foyer buzzed with conversation as members and former members came together to celebrate forty years of the Pateley Playhouse. In fact, the whole theatre was filled with visitors and members coming together to celebrate this important milestone.

A team of five had prepared a wonderful evening for their visitors; Ruth Dodsworth, Joyce Liggins (herself a veteran of over 50 shows) Sandy Meese, Sue Hickson and Linda Harvey assisted by Geoff Liggins and Marguerite McLellan who were in charge of the delicious food.

A special anniversary cake had been made by decorated by Sandra Walker.

Up in the auditorium Sue Hickson’s superb rolling slide show kept us mesmerised as we saw photographs from the past, meanwhile the rest of the theatre was open for viewing of the dressing rooms, scrapbooks lovingly accumulated by Eileen Burgess, and strategically placed set-piece costume displays which gave the impression of the presence of former productions.

Jack and Eileen Burgess, founder members of The Playhouse, in a ten-minute DVD presentation, gave a potted history of the acquisition of the Salvation Army Hall (formerly the Primitive Methodist Chapel) in the early 1960s.

We heard that the Pateley Bridge Dramatic Society had been producing plays since 1937, but had no home of its own, performances taking place in the Oddfellows hall or the Drill Hall in Bridgehousegate. Later the Cinema, situated at the corner of King Street and Greenwood Road was used.

Of course the Cinema could not be used for rehearsals, and performances were only on Mondays and Tuesdays, these being the two least popular evenings for filmgoers!

The difficulties of setting the stage on Sunday, followed immediately by the dress rehearsal, can only be imagined.

After the Tuesday performance everyone (including the audience) was expected to help dismantle and return the equipment to the Crown storage yard, and replace the cinema screen ready for the Wednesday film.

It is not surprising that the society looked for their own premises and their ‘new beginning’ came in January 1964, when the Salvation Army Hall was bought for the princely sum of 125 (sic). Over the next years 2000 was raised to convert the building into a theatre.

The society is justifiably proud of the fact that it has never been in debt.

On Saturday June 8, 1968 the new Playhouse opened with a production of ‘When We Are Married’ by J.B.Priestley, and on Friday June 11, 2008 four members of the original cast were present – Eileen Burgess, Neil Fergusson and John Hopton and Marguerite McLellan a fifth member,Margaret Hanley was unfortunately unable to attend.

Linda Harvey President of The Society, rounded off the evening with a short address and we all toasted the future of the Pateley Bridge Dramatic Society, many appearing reluctant to leave at the end of such an enjoyable evening.

But the celebrations did not end there; the Playhouse was open to the public on Saturday and Sunday. Anyone who went in was given free access to the whole theatre and a programme of presentations was given on the hour, from 11am until 4pm, each day.

The history DVD by Jack and Eileen Burgess started things off, then Linda Harvey entertained the audience by talking about the joys and problems of directing and preparing a play.

Christine Ward’s subject was ‘Dressing for the Part’ (did you know that the costumes can be hired?), while Stan Appleton spoke about what goes on backstage, and Sue Hickson explained about sound effects.

Congratulations and thanks to all concerned for a wonderful weekend.

May the Pateley Bridge Dramatic Society continue to flourish.

Photographs and details of past and future productions can be seen on the Society’s excellent website www.pateleyplayhouse.co.uk.