History

1924 was a special year for Shoreham. After much effort a Village Hall was built as a memorial to those in the parish who had given their lives in the First World War. Opposite the site of the hall lived H.R.Barbor (1893-1933), a drama critic, journalist and playwright who had the idea of staging a production of 'A Midsummer Night's Dream' with a cast drawn from among the 1500 villagers. So, in a crowded meeting in the new Village Hall the Village Players were formed and their first production played to the delight of the locals. In fact, such was their enthusiasm that it was necessary to have two casts playing on alternate nights to accommodate all those who wished to take part.



Amongst the cast were local artist Harold Copping who as well as designing the costumes, also played the part of Bottom. The play was repeated later in the year in the grounds of Dunstall Priory, at that time home of Lord Dunsany, who had agreed to be our first President.

Over the years the enthusiasm of the village for the Players varied, but they have survived to become one of the oldest Amateur Dramatic groups in the country.



The Players uniquely still cast almost exclusively from people who live in, or have some association with, the village. Only on the rare occasions when this has not been possible have producers been permitted to go outside for their actors.



That first production of the 'Dream' was repeated in 1964 and more recently in 1998 when the Players were approached by the Darent Valley Enhancement Programme with a view to them sponsoring an outdoor entertainment on a riverside site. And so the third and perhaps one of the most ambitious productions was staged at Preston Farm.



The 'Dream' is by no means the only play by Shakespeare in the Players repertoire. 'Twelfth Night' (twice), 'The Merchant of Venice', The Winter's Tale and even 'King Lear' appear in a list of productions which includes plays ranging from Shaw to Coward, from Priestley to AA Milne. Musicals were not attempted until fairly recently, but since 'Oliver', in 1982, we have presented 'My Fair Lady', 'Oklahoma', 'Fiddler On The Roof', 'The Boyfriend' and 'Bugsy Malone'. Pantomimes, too, have been performed only in recent years, all written by our own home-grown playwright, Katie Kingshill.



The Village Hall has not been our only stage. Over the years we have several times been allowed to perform in Shoreham Church, mostly dramatic readings and Nativity plays, but also T.S.Eliot's 'Murder In The Cathedral' and most recently, 'Lark Rise'. For the second year running (2005-6) we were asked to put on a production at the beautiful  Victorian barn at the Quadrangle, for which Katie Kingshill wrote 'Samuel Palmer' and Shoreham Smugglers'.



There is a thriving Shoreham Junior Players section who have for several years performed during the Shoreham Festival, and of course, in the pantomimes, but in the last few years they have really come of age with full scale productions of 'Peter Pan', 'Bugsy Malone' an 'Wind In The Willows' and 'Oliver!' (2008).

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