Updated: Nov 28, 2019
If you search hard enough, in the back streets of every small town or village across the UK, you will find an amateur dramatic group. A collection of like-minded people who spend their spare time learning lines, painting scenery, making costumes, and having fun. At the end of it all, they put on a performance to their returning audiences, the majority of which tend to be friends and family. But why? They’re not people who like showing off (well, maybe a little). But mostly, local theatre groups want to bring joy to the community and share an experience that their audience will never forget.
Elemental Theatre Company are no different. We work hard to bring new and different types of theatre to areas of Nottingham that doesn’t see a lot of theatre except the yearly pantomime and school productions. Our aim is to keep costs down to ensure that the general public can afford a ticket without breaking the bank, at the same time giving them an immersive theatre production. We spend hours and hours hunting down props from the dark recesses of our spare rooms, charity shops, then beg borrow and steal anything else we need. We spend numerous rehearsals perfecting pauses, manipulating monologues and tweaking different scenes, all to make sure that we are putting on the best performance possible.
It’s a lot of work, time and energy, but we don’t get paid. We don’t do it for that. The biggest reward is seeing other people enjoying themselves and the overwhelming positive feedback after the show. The reaction from the audience during “Murder at Redrum Manor”, when everyone realised they had been duped into believing the play was genuinely going wrong, was one of the best theatrical experiences I have had. The sheer enjoyment that people got from “Teechers”, the characters that people relate to, that people root for, that people hate. The sense of experience and union, culminating in a standing ovation on the closing night. For the duration of two hours or so, a group of people are going to go on a theatrical journey together, with no interruption from the outside world, no social media, no phone calls, no texts. That’s an excellent (and these days, rare) thing.
Even watching television is becoming a isolated experience now, especially in this age of Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime. With excellent websites such as digitaltheatre.com, even professional theatre can be streamed to your devices from the comfort of your own homes.
Amateur theatre offers a more inclusive experience. Quite often the mistakes, mishaps and slip ups can make live performance something to behold, and a unique performance that no one else will get to see (with some shows, they're different every night!)
I watch a lot of amateur theatre productions, and in many ways, I have enjoyed them more than a lot of professional productions. Seeing the effort that’s gone into the hand-painted scenery and mismatched furniture and props. The intensive work that’s being put in by all the actors and chorus around their 9 to 5 jobs. Even the lovely people on front of house making tea and coffee and selling the hastily put together programmes.
For the audience – the teamwork and passion is clear to see. The productions might not be up to the quality of professional theatre, but that isn’t the point. They have put in just as much work, if not more on such a small budget, and ultimately, they are proud of what they are performing. It is now more important than ever that amateur theatre groups continue to support each other, watching and promoting each other. It’s easy for them to get lost in amidst all the other entertainment services on offer. We cannot let that happen. There’s nothing else is the world quite like 'am dram'.
-Tom Morley, July 2019