Gleaming for more than an Instant – 50 years of The Little Theatre in Hertford

PUBLISHED: 20:06 01 November 2020 | UPDATED: 20:06 01 November 2020

The title screen for the Company of Players' play Gleaming for an Instant.

The title screen for the Company of Players' play Gleaming for an Instant.

Company of Players

2020 marks the 50th anniversary of The Company of Players moving into their home at The Little Theatre in Balfour Street, Hertford.

The Little Theatre - home of the Company of Players.The Little Theatre - home of the Company of Players.

Celebrations were planned to mark the occasion.

The year opened very successfully in January with a production of Alfie by Bill Naughton.

Alfie was chosen as a play firmly rooted in the 1960s and well known as the film that catapulted Michael Caine to stardom in the title role.

On the last night of the run, CoPs revived its tradition of serving dinner to the audience, cast and crew at the end of the evening. It was a glittering affair and a fantastic start to the year.

The Little Theatre - home of the Company of Players - lit up in red to show support for the arts.The Little Theatre - home of the Company of Players - lit up in red to show support for the arts.

Little did anybody know that, just a few weeks later, along with many other arts venues across the county, COVID restrictions would close The Little Theatre in Balfour Street, Hertford.

Certainly, nobody would have believed that theatres would remain shut for the entire year.

At the start of 2020, the Company of Players also had a big project in mind.

At its core, The Little Theatre was a Victorian schoolhouse positioned behind a church that once stood on Port Vale.

Helen Budd as Elspeth and Ian Houghton as Michael in The Company of Players' online play Gleaming for an Instant.Helen Budd as Elspeth and Ian Houghton as Michael in The Company of Players' online play Gleaming for an Instant.

In the years since acquisition, modifications had been made to the building, most recently the addition of a small foyer in 1998.

The 50th year seemed like the perfect time to make new plans to both improve the audience experience and to make the building more versatile as a rehearsal space.

Proposals include enlarging the foyer, enabling full access for disabled people, providing new toilet facilities and extending the backstage area.

A good start has been made with raising the funds to facilitate the work.

Erica Jocelyn as Annabel and Des Turner as Policeman in a scene from the Company of Players' online play Gleaming for an Instant.Erica Jocelyn as Annabel and Des Turner as Policeman in a scene from the Company of Players' online play Gleaming for an Instant.

In a normal year the income stream from ticket sales would have added to membership subscriptions to boost the theatre company’s funds.

Next up, after Alfie, should have been Rabbit Hole by David Lindsay-Abaire.

It was fully rehearsed, entered into Hertford Theatre Week – itself a casualty of lockdown – and just a few weeks away from opening night when everything had to stop.

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CoPs’ June play, Arthur Conan Doyle’s tale of The Hound of the Baskervilles, was also cast and had commenced rehearsals.

Both have been deferred until it is possible to once again shine the light on stage at the theatre.

And so, since early March, The Little Theatre has been dark – all except for one brief gleam of light on the evening of August 12.

In solidarity with the ‘Light it in Red’ campaign begun by the company, We Make Events, to highlight the plight of all those working within the arts and events industry, a red light illuminated the building.

While the building has been dark, those who use it and take care of it have been feverishly looking for opportunities to keep drama alive.

CoPs member Stuart Handysides remembered a play that he had written for competition decades previously.

He had named it ‘Gleaming for an Instant’ and, as CoPs were looking to create a digital season to fill the theatrical void, it was agreed to make this the first play to be performed using Zoom.

There ensued a massive learning curve and exploration of the limits of Zoom, as the cast set up their homes as temporary recording studios and duplicate props were delivered to enable items to appear to pass between the actors.

Lighting and recording equipment often needed to be enhanced by supplying microphones and extra illumination.

The final two Zoom rehearsals were recorded and CoPs committee member and tech wizard, Ken Allford, then spent 10 days editing the recordings and adding linking scenes to create a cohesive whole.

The finished film was aired for two Zoom events to CoPs members and friends and has subsequently been uploaded to YouTube where it can be viewed until midnight on November 14 by entering https://youtu.be/9sjWOTttSks on any device with internet access.

It has already attracted over 450 views and raised more than £1,300 in donations towards the newly created Crowdfunder for the Theatre Redevelopment Fund.

Following the success of Gleaming, plans are already afoot to follow up with the next production in CoPs’ digital season, Girl Walks Into A Bar, on Thursday, November 19 and Sunday, November 22.

At the present time, there are no plans to charge for virtual tickets – available now from www.ticketsource.co.uk/cops – to watch future online plays via Zoom, but any donations would be gratefully received and can be made via www.crowdfunder.co.uk/cops-theatre-development-fund.


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