Hampshire amateur drama group - Chris van Schaick column

The smell of the greasepaint and the roar of the crowd has Chris set for centre stage as he reveals his love for his local Amateur Dramatics Group

I’d pay good money to see an estate agent make a prat of themselves – and the other day that’s just what I did. The seven quid I shelled out was a complete bargain.

The realtor in question was in fact a friend and neighbour of mine called Mark. He was wearing a daft check suit and doing silly things brilliantly well as he played one of the character parts in the village Am Dram’s winter musical. The lead part was taken by a graphic designer called Ben. My mate Jeremy, who earns his crust creating online learning programmes, also played a leading role.

Afterwards I sat with Mark and Jeremy in the pub a few yards from the village hall where the musical action had taken place. They’d scraped off their make-up and were quenching their throats with pints of the local brew. We quaffed and analysed and chewed it over and as I said: “Loves, you were wonderful,” it occurred to me that what an adornment to Hampshire its countless Am Dram groups are; talk about binding communities into one. We all know about the school and the church and how they bring villages together. And there’s hell to pay at the prospect of losing a pub or a local shop. But I reckon that any village’s Am Dram group is a binding agent of a special quality.

In local thesping, everybody really is in it together, and everybody’s so game. The performers are game to get up on stage. The audience are game to show up on a Friday night not knowing quite what they’ll get. And the people who sell the tickets and serve the drinks are game to give up their time in exchange for not much glory. Everybody suspends a bit of something in the cause of togetherness. What’s more, I’m sure the fact that the players, backstage team and the audience get together in the pub afterwards provides part of the magic.

You may be wondering if I carry a bit of a torch for my local Am Dram group – and you’d be right. For reasons I now can’t quite remember, I went to the auditions a few years ago for our own local stage version of that old 70s sitcom Are You Being Served? I got the gig, played a couple of smallish parts and so it came to pass that I squeezed Mrs Slocombe’s boobs in front of the whole village wearing an improbable false moustache.

I can do culture too, you know, and followed up as a butler in an Oscar Wilde story.

But now the local players’ cycle has brought them back to 1970s tv cheese and by the time you read this I’ll know if I have been preferred for the spring production. Can’t say too much about what the show is. But it was a huge hit on tele in the 1970s.

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So there you have it, dry old Meon Valley Man is, in fact, a luvvie; a complete sucker for the smell of the greasepaint and the roar of the crowd.

There was some loose talk in the pub the other night about a possible production of The Full Monty in 2016. But, as an actor, I’m with Helen Mirren. I only take my kit off if it’s absolutely necessary for the part.



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