THEY are the lifeblood of Edinburgh’s theatre scene, both on and off stage, the city’s legions of amateur performers. By day they might be doctors, bus drivers or even local councillors, by night, however, they are transformed into actors, as committed to the role they have been cast in as any professional.
In recognition of this, the King’s Theatre hosts an annual season of large-scale amateur productions.
Over four weeks the cream of the Capital’s musical theatre fraternity showcase the result of weeks in the rehearsal room.
It’s one of the busiest periods in the much loved theatre and has become an integral part of its programme.
This year’s season runs from March 6-24 and then again from May 2-5, when the offerings include the ever-popular Footloose, the classic Hello Dolly!, the classy HMS Pinafore and Broadway favourite Guys and Dolls.
Of course, the companies performing over the coming weeks are just the tip of the iceberg.
The city and its surrounding areas boast a vibrant amateur theatre scene with clubs in Livingston, Balerno and a few in Musselburgh.
Most are on a constant search for new members, especially males, so if you have ever fancied trying your acting skills there’s plenty opportunity, just look them up and drop them an e-mail. Break a leg.
DUNCAN HENDRY is the Chief Executive of the Festival City Theatres Trust, which runs both the King’s and Festival Theatres.
“The amateur companies are a big part of what we do year-round at the King’s,” he says, keen to highlight the importance of the Capital’s amateur scene.
He explains, “As a charitable trust, we’re committed to engaging local participation in the performing arts and that activity ranges from the wide programme of talks, events and workshops we have at our theatres running alongside the big shows on our stages, to providing the opportunity for local companies to stage their own shows at the King’s and the Festival Theatre.”
Part of that commitment is what was previously known as the Local Hero season, four weeks, usually in the spring during which time the stage of The King’s is handed over to a number of the city’s largest amateur musical clubs.
“The spring season from the amateur companies at the King’s has become something of a fixture, and gives so many talented local performers the opportunity to shine,” he says.
“The dedication they give to putting on the shows is what it’s all about at any level of performing, and we do everything we can to support the local companies to ensure they stage the best shows they can.”
THE 2018 AMATEUR SEASON AT THE KING’S
HELLO DOLLY - SOUTHERN LIGHT OPERA
The Southern Light Opera Company began in 1897 and is the Capital’s oldest amateur theatre company.
Since 1924, the company has performed annually at The King’s, with the exceptions of the war years and 1985 and 2012 when the theatre was being refurbished.
In March they return with Jerry Herman’s perennial favourite Hello, Dolly!
Based on Thornton Wilder’s play The Matchmaker and set in 1890s New York, Hello, Dolly! is the story of widowed matchmaker Dolly Gallagher Levi, who, after negotiating marriages for others through a series of comic romantic entanglements, ultimately finds her own match.
Director Andy Johnston says, “A musical comedy at it’s very best – Jerry Herman’s legendary songs and Michael Stewart’s book is a perfect example of a show big on laughs, big on character and big on heart.”
The cast includes Elspeth Whyte as Dolly, Alan Hunter as Horace Vandergelder, John Bruce as Cornelius Hackl, Matthew O’Hagan as Barnaby Tucker, Tanya Williamson as Irene Molloy and Nicola Dryburgh as Minnie Fay.
Southern Light: Hello Dolly, King’s Theatre, Leven Street, 6-10 March, 7.30pm (Saturday matinee 2.30pm), £14-£19, 0131-529 6000
FOOTLOOSE - THE BOHEMIANS LYRIC OPERA COMPANY
THE Bohemians Lyric Opera Company, known to many simply as “The Bohemians” these days is one of the city’s major amateur company, staging productions in the Capital since 1909.
Every year the company provides more than 50 people from all walks of life with the opportunity to work with dynamic and experienced directors, musical directors, choreographers and technicians.
Following the success of 9 To 5 The Musical, last year, The Bohemians once more look to the silver screen for inspiration as they tackle the ever-popular musical Footloose.
Based on the 1984 movie of the same name, Footloose is the story of city-boy Ren, who thinks life is over when he is forced to move to an American rural backwater where dancing is banned. Ren can’t resist breaking the rules, and he’s not alone…
Before long Ren finds himself in all sorts of trouble, in love, and battling for the right to dance and have fun.
Featuring the classic pop hits Footloose, Let’s Hear It for the Boy and Holding Out for a Hero, Footloose The Musical fair rocks with rebellion and romance.
The Bohemians Lyric Opera Company Presents: Footloose, King’s Theatre, Leven Street, 14-17 March, 7.30pm (Saturday matinee 2.30pm), £16-£20, 0131-529 6000
HMS PINAFORE - EDINBURGH GILBERT AND SULLIVAN SOCIETY
JOIN EDGAS as they “sail the ocean blue” in one of Gilbert & Sullivan’s most popular comic operas, HMS Pinafore.
The Gilbert & Sullivan Society of Edinburgh was founded in 1924 to foster the love and appreciation of the works of WS Gilbert and Sir Arthur Sullivan.
The Society meets monthly between October and May for recitals, talks and other events with performing members meeting weekly during the winter to rehearse the annual production.
This year it’s HMS Pinafore, the comical tale of a love affair between sailor Ralph Rackstraw and his captain’s daughter, Josephine.
Unfortunately Josephine’s father, Captain Corcoran, has loftier ambitions for his daughter and plans to marry her off to the insufferable but wealthy Sir Joseph Porter, First Lord of the Admiralty.
When the captain discovers that the lovers are planning to elope, his attempts to thwart their plans lead to a shocking turning of the tables.
With famously jolly numbers including We Sail the Ocean Blue, I’m Called Little Buttercup and He is an Englishman, this fast-paced maritime caper is a treat for all the family.
EDGAS presents: H.M.S. Pinafore, King’s Theatre, Leven Street, 20-24 March, 7.30pm (Saturday matinee 2.30pm), £17-£25, 0131 529 6000
GUYS AND DOLLS - EDINBURGH MUSIC THEATRE
EMT have been entertaining the Capital since 1982, holding auditions for each new production to welcome new members into the company.
This May, they bring a sizzling New York tale of gamblers, gangsters and nightclub singers to The King’s stage.
Featuring some of Broadway’s greatest show-stopping tunes, including Luck be a Lady, Sit Down You’re Rockin’ the Boat and My Time of Day, an evening of entertainment is guaranteed.
EMT Chair, Jill Grimmond, says, “We are so excited to be returning to the King’s Theatre with a classic musical theatre show that appeals on so many levels.
“Sensational songs, comedy pathos and outstanding choreography will give our audiences a fantastic night out. The whole cast is working incredibly hard in rehearsals and some of the scenes have us all in stitches.
“Guys and Dolls is so well written, but our amazing performers take it to the next level, executing their delivery to perfection.
“It makes me burst with pride at how much talent we have in Edinburgh Music Theatre and we cannot wait to share it with audiences this May.”
EMT: Guys And Dolls, King’s Theatre, Leven Street, 2-5 May, 7.30pm (Saturday matinee 2.30pm), £15-£20, 0131-529 6000
THE PLAY’S THE THING
NOT all the city’s amateur companies are musically driven, for many the text is the thing, here are five of the best. You might want to watch for them when planning a night out.
PERFORMING since 1946, Leitheatre produce three full length plays a year, including a Fringe production. The company also takes part in the annual SCDA One Act Play Festival. leitheatre.com
EDINBURGH THEATRE ARTS
FOUNDED in the late 1940s and now one of the city’s most accomplished amateur companies, ETA won Evening News Drama Awards in 2008 and 2009, and in 2012 performed at the RSC Courtyard Theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon. edinburghtheatrearts.com
FOUNDED in 1954 the Edinburgh Graduate Theatre Group (EGTG) meet in the Grads Association rooms at 24 Buccleuch Place. egtg.co.uk
FORMED in 1996 by the amalgamation of The Makars (1932) and Davidson’s Mains Dramatic Club (1942), the Makars stage two or three full-scale productions a year. edinburghmakars.com
EDINBURGH PEOPLE’S THEATRE
EPT made their debut in 1943. In the 2011 ENDAs, EPT received the Evening News Capital Spirit Award for their Fringe production. ept.org.uk