As a group we are closely approaching our 54th Production since being founded in 1965, here is an account from our early beginnings written by the late Phil Mason, a dedicated and supportive patron of the players until his sad passing.
Little did Stan Griffiths realise how popular pantomime would be in Allestree when, his suggestion the Vicar and parochial church council of St Nicholas Church agreed to the newly completed church hall to be used to stage an annual pantomime.
Since its inaugural meeting in October 1963 when the group adopted the name “St Nicholas Players” as the performers and helpers were almost exclusively recruited from the church choir and congregation, some 50,000 tickets have been sold!
“Cinderella” our first pantomime staged in January 1965 had the Vicar Brian Coleman and Don Henderson, the organist and choirmaster starring as The Watchman and Buttons respectively and church wardens Lamack McConnelly and Jeff Willey were “front of house managers”. Gordon Bewley, well known in Derby drama circles and Jean Goodwin, acclaimed choreographer, gave valuable assistance to Stan and Phil Mason thus ensuring the productions resounding success.
As the group had no funds the Church Council agreed to underwrite any losses arising from the production of “Cinderella” In the end we managed to return a surplus of £122 after the payment of all costs and expenses! We retained £25 towards the 1966 production of ‘Dick Whittington’ and the balance was donated to the Church. The price of our tickets in 1965 were 3s and 6d for adults and 2 s for children (In today’s ‘currency’ 17 pence and 10 pence respectively)
When the Scout HQ building at the back of the hall was completed in 1981 we were able to use it for back stage changing facilities thus overcoming previous problems of overcrowding and inconveniences of changing in caravans. In the formative years we shared our surpluses with the Church, the 151 Scout Group and St Johns Ambulance (who provided first aid cover for our performances). For some time now the Church, 151 Scout Group and St Johns Ambulance levy charges for the use of the premises and their services. The focus of our surpluses has changed over the last decade and we now make quite significant donations to local children charities. We made donations totalling £1300 from our 2011 production of Beauty and the Beast.
Productions in the 21st century bear little resemblance to those in the sixties and seventies with one important exception – our success still relies on the enjoyment derived from our audiences and the hard work and commitment from our talented members and committee. Whilst retaining popular titles such as “Jack and the Beanstalk”, “Robinson Crusoe”, “Sleeping Beauty” “Snow White” etc dialogue, music and dances are right up-to –date and our scripts are written ‘in-house” which avoids the necessity to purchase scripts and pay expensive royalties. We have also invested heavily in high specification computer controlled lighting and sound equipment which has enhanced the quality of our productions immensely.
For many years we had the pleasure of entertaining the Lord Lieutenant of Derbyshire, Lt Colonal Peter Hilton and his wife at the last evening as our company patrons. Sadly both have now passed away.