They’re ten years old - Oh yes they are!
- Credit: Archant
The Crouch End Players are marking a decade of community spirited am-dram with a panto of Robin Hood
When Matt Hearne moved to Crouch End a decade ago, he realised he knew few people on his doorstep.
So he put an ad on Freecycle asking if anyone wanted to put on a pantomime.
Ten years later, the am-dram society he helped to found - The Crouch End Players - are marking their anniversary with a production of Robin Hood.
The hotel manager, who acted professionally as a teenager says: "I grew up in a village which had an amateur theatre goup and had the idea it might be fun to put on a panto in Crouch End to meet a few people locally.
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"The ad generated an overwhelming response of 50 or 60 people and when they turned up to the first meeting, I realised 'I am committed to doing this this'."
Their debut production of Dick Whittington sadly floundered due to lack of sponsorship. But a further shout out produced another well attended meeting including award-winning Duet For One playwright and local resident Tom Kempinski.
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"He kindly offered to let us do his unproduced comedy The Princess of Wales which became our first production."
Today members include lawyers, teachers and people from "all walks of life from 18 to 80".
They stage between three and nine shows a year including farces and of course Panto in a range of venues from Greig city Academy to the much lamented Earl Haig Hall.They once staged Toad of Toad Hall in Priory Park
"We are lucky that Crouch End is such a creative hub and fortunate to have brilliant people turn up with different skillsets, we have artists, graphic designers a vocal coach. Music director David Tims came to us as a 19-year-old and brought this exceptional school band with him.
"We have people who make costumes, build scenery, writers who have written short pieces that are developed into full plays. It has gone from strength to strength."
Annual outings include the Crouch End Festival where they "give back to the community" by staging work for free.
"It's become way more than I could have imagined," says Hearne.
"Members have met in the group, married and had children. For me the social and personal aspects are as important as the performances.
"I am incredibly proud that it's created a social hub for all kinds of diverse people."
The Players are run by a committee and audition panels mitigate against the dreaded am-dram practice of casting the same old faces as the leads.
"It could easily become elite but it's important to give people a chance. But I always say make it a bit better than they are expecting and you are onto a winner," says Hearne.
Challenges include the huge cost of storing all the sets and costumes, disappearing venues, and rising charges for venue rental, which may mean looking outside Crouch End to keep ticket prices down around the £10 mark.
But Hearne adds there's a strong group ethos: "If we want to do it, the group enables it to happen. What we want are people who have the right attitude and are willing to roll up their sleeves."
He adds: "Anyone who joins a well established group can feel like an outsider, but I always say after your first show you will be best friends for life. When people have worked together to build a set and put on a show it's an incredibly bonding experience. The next day, we are all tired but there's a huge sense of achievement and we get together for a big Sunday roast. It's very special."
Robin Hood runs at Greig City Academy, High Street, Hornsey from Feb 19-22.