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Trinity Players - the story 
Thursday 21st January 2016

TRINITY PLAYERS
1984 - 2015
The Story

ONCE UPON A TIME …….

In 1984 at Holy Trinity Church, Southchurch, Southend on Sea the Rector and Rural Dean of Southend, Reverend John Gore, spoke to a member of the congregation one Sunday about her experiences in drama. 

This was the favourite topic of conversation for Ann Lewin as she had been in amateur dramatics for many years so her enthusiasm knew no bounds.  Ann came to Southend in 1967 and joined the Southend Drama Group. 

They were lucky to produce one play each year at The Palace Theatre, Westcliff on Sea.  She joined the Lindisfarne Players in 1975 performing 3 plays a year at The Focus Theatre. 

Ann joined Southend Shakespeare Company in 1980 so with her long experience and with the support of Reverend Gore it was suggested that a drama group could be formed at Holy Trinity Church.  The church has a hall which has an average size stage and curtains and other facilities to accommodate an audience.It was arranged that any interested parties could attend a meeting with Rev. Gore and Ann Lewin with a view to getting a group started.  This was attended by some 10 people of differing ages and experience in the theatre. 

A committee was formed with Rev. Gore as President and “The Trinity Players” was born.
A treasurer and secretary were appointed and a “Constitution and Rules” was drawn up.  The aim of the Society was to “…… further the dramatic arts and to educate the public in appreciation of these arts by performances of plays, readings and other such things as are contusive to these objects”.  Originally, all committee members were bound to be members of Holy Trinity Church.

The Trinity Players had many extremely successful years, far more successful than anything which could possibly have been envisaged when the group first formed.  There were many talented actors and actresses and very willing people to direct including back stage crew.  The group had a very loyal audience mainly made up of church members and friends and in the beginning the hall was full for every production, with standing room only!  There was a set builder and an artist (Colin Peck) who painted the scenery, which was always given resounding applause when the curtain opened.
 
The debut production in April 1984 was two one act plays, The Tea Cosy and Red Peppers and, as shown in the first income and expenditure account, a princely sum of £184.09 profit was made.  This was amazing considering tickets were issued at £1.50.  Membership to the group was £2 per annum but The Trinity Players, being a Church group, were exempt from hire fees for the hall at that time, which obviously enabled the group to increase profits and pay for royalties for their next production.
Being a Church group did bring its problems though.  The verger of the Church would unlock the hall at 8.00pm on the Tuesday rehearsal evenings and was there with key in hand to lock up at 10.00pm whether we were ready or not.  We also had to work around other Church commitments which was fine, mostly, until we were reminded that the Guides and Brownies who had meetings on Fridays were to use the hall as priority.  Then there was the badminton group and keep fit classes to work around but somehow we managed to get around the problems and rehearsals and productions got off the ground.

The Trinity Players next production was “When We Are Married” by J B Priestley.  Considering the limited size of the stage, in one scene we managed to accommodate all 14 people in the cast plus a piano!  This was some feat for the director.  A production of this play was also on in London at the same time which was quite a coup as amateur productions were not always permitted whilst a professional production was in progress.

Other successful productions were Terence Rattigan’s “The Browning Version”, the Norman Conquest plays and others by Alan Ayckbourn, Neil Simon, Noel Coward and many other well-known reputable authors.  “Blithe Spirit” was certainly a challenge for the set builders as they had to rig ‘props’ falling off shelves etc.

As Trinity Players became well known in local drama circles, it was decided to enter in the Southend One Act Play Festivals held at The Focus Theatre.  Trinity Players were extremely successful in this festival achieving many awards for Best Production, Best Director, Best Female and Best Male artist, Best Set etc. together with a special award for a play written by one of Trinity Players’ founder members, Alan Cook, who was given the award posthumously.  This was one of the highlights of Trinity Players for which they were very proud.
Trinity Players had their ups and downs including ‘red tape bureaucracy’, accidents, postponements and cancellations
.
Trinity Players production of Blithe Spirit where the set builders had their work cut out to make props fly into the air or fall onto the floor, was a great achievement for the backstage staff.  The group were nearly there when the secretary applied for a temporary events licence from Southend Borough Council for the production of the play.  Unfortunately, the play had to be postponed due to the illness of one of the cast, and it was presumed that the licence would be carried over to another date but this was not the view of the Council.  Another licence had to be applied for the rescheduled production which needed ten working days’ notice.  The Council said it would be breaking the law to perform without a licence but it all seemed like red tape to the group who would be performing in a church hall for churchgoing elderly people!  On a positive note, Trinity Players did have a brilliant write up in the local paper giving them lots of publicity for the rescheduled production.  The show did go on to great acclaim, in the end!

All thespians are familiar with the good luck phrase “break a leg” before a production but, unfortunately, this really did happen when the leading lady literally did break her leg before the performance.  The production of the comedy “Home and Beauty” by Somerset Maugham had to be postponed while the leading lady recovered enough to go on the stage.  Instead of cancelling the show the director decided to carry on at a later date with the leading lady hobbling slightly and putting her foot up when she could.  Again, there was some great publicity in the local paper which drew in bigger audiences not a situation to be recommended!

Trinity Players production of “Communicating Doors” was performed once in the earlier days and again, with a completely different cast, years later.  This was a very interesting exercise as different directors put a different slant on the productions.
 
“Still Life” (Brief Encounter) was another repeated production with the original cast invited to see the new production bringing back fond memories all round.
Trinity Players was very proud of the fact that they gave opportunities and experience to people who were interested in drama but had never previously ‘trod the boards’ and in this way some very good local talent was discovered and stayed with the group to give some outstanding performances.

Altogether, Trinity Players were an extremely successful amateur dramatic group with some wonderful productions, a group that wanted to perform classic plays and plays they could be really proud of.  Trinity Players had several extremely talented directors too but as time went on, there was an increase in the number of other local groups and the competition was fierce, not only for audiences but for actors/actresses too.  Where loyal members of Trinity Players stayed exclusively with the group in the beginning, newcomers often flitted from one group to another and, although there is a great deal of acting talent in Southend, sometimes it was difficult to cast plays with the members that we had and we had to ‘borrow’ people from other groups.  As in a lot of drama groups, people move on, youngsters do other things, older people get older!  A great attraction for local drama groups was, and still is, the opportunity to play at the Palace Theatre, particularly in the Dixon Studios and performing in a church hall lost some of its appeal.

The group membership dwindled which always reflects on the audience numbers although our loyal “Friends” were always so supportive.  Finances became difficult as income decreased and expenses increased so much as to be unaffordable and when some long standing committee members felt it was time to resign after 30 years, the few remaining members of Trinity Players could no longer sustain the group.

And hereby stands the tale …………………..

It is always sad when previously successful enterprises fall and none more so than Trinity Players.  It was the end of an era which gave so much pleasure to the local community and the Players themselves for which all those involved should be very proud.

Jean Goodson
(former Secretary)
December 2015
 
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