The Athenaeum Limelight Players

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According to our Archives, ALPs and its forerunners are 50 years old!  The first recorded production, by Jenny and Alan Sach, was Treasure Hunt in early 1969, which was presented in Horningsham Village Hall. Once the group was able to move into the Athenaeum, it became the Athenaeum Players and remained steadfastly so until the Athenaeum went into liquidation in the late 1990s. Membership fluctuated but the core was faithful.

A look back at those first 25 years shows a variety of traditional plays, but in 1981 there was the much acclaimed and sell-out production of Julian Slade’s Salad Days, followed in 1982 by another musical play Free as Air, and later the Agatha Christie spoof Something’s Afoot. Mention must be made here of the extraordinary talents of Ben Goodger, the Set Designer and Props-creator. He was responsible for the evocative Victorian setting for When We are Married in 1980, which won first prize at the Newport Drama Festival. This production was also noted for the quality of its costumes, created by Sylvia Chard, another founder-member of the Players. Her magic touch with needle and thread has been succeeded by Cate Hiscocks, who created every single costume, both male and female, for The Taming of the Shrew (2016) and Pride and Prejudice (2017) and who made Queenie’s beautiful costume in tonight’s production of Blackadder II.

Originally the Players had a faithful band of Patrons & Friends, most of whom have now morphed into the Friends of the Athenaeum. Our original president was Lord Weymouth, now Lord Bath, and our founding benefactors/members were Eustace Middleton and Michael Upsall  of Warminster’s Middleton & Upsall firm of Solicitors.

1994 marked Adela Forestier-Walker’s solo performance in the first-ever amateur production of Willy Russell’s Shirley Valentine.  The last production before the Athenaeum went into liquidation was Thomas Hardy’s The Day after the Fair, in which both Adela and Jacky Page featured. At this point, to prevent it going completely ‘dark’, Susi Tenty kept the Theatre open with a couple of pantomimes under the name The Masqueraders, which was made up of various enthusiasts including members of the Athenaeum Variety Group. In 2000 with the ‘Lights Fully On’ and a Trust formed, The Athenaeum Masqueraders took off. However, shortly afterwards they amicably split in two, with one group wanting to concentrate on straight plays - finally settling on the Athenaeum Limelight Players we have today.

The last twenty years have widened our scope; social media brings in new talent from around the area, and stage and lighting equipment have been upgraded in the theatre. ALPs members attend courses often by practitioners of the National Operatic and Dramatic Association (NODA) and have been frequently nominated for one of the prestigious NODA awards. We have branched into successful productions of Shakespeare, notably Graham Thomas’ clever 2015 adaptation of Macbeth, sponsored in part by the RSC which also supported our 2016 The Taming of the Shrew. On the lighter side, our reproductions of popular TV series like The Vicar of Dibley, ’Allo ‘Allo!, Dad’s Army, Yes Prime Minister and Fawlty Towers have brought us full circle with this Blackadder II.

The Players are a faithful lot - Adela has been around since the early ‘80s and we have family members going way back - Jacky Page is the daughter of Audrey and Bob Page who joined in the mid ‘80s, and Jacky’s daughter Natasha played “Juliet” in our exciting version of Romeo & Juliet in 2013.

Why not send us YOUR memories of fifty years of the Athenaeum Players!