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Madhatters Theatre Club – Annual Report 2009-10

Welcome to the Madhatters’ AGM 2010 and the Annual Report. As usual, this report covers the year as far as this agm.

This has been a quiet year for the Madhatters. We have not staged any full productions but continue to meet regularly on a Wednesday evening at the Stables to read plays and also enjoy social outings. We have also worked with other organisations in staging plays and socials. However, these organisations are often struggling themselves…

We have had a lot of success in recruiting volunteers, especially with the poor employment situation. However, retaining volunteers has proved much harder –see spreadsheet with details. Most volunteers drift away without telling us that they are going. We try to chase them up but we rarely get a coherent reason to explain their departure. Often it seems to be down to personal circumstances rather than any problem with the Madhatters.

After the success of last May’s Recession Revue and our involvement in the very successful Gladstone play, we looked all set for another good year. We had several new young volunteers and we planned to stage Alan Ayckbourn’s Gizmo in our usual late November slot. However, the new volunteers were unable or unwilling to learn lines and their attendance was very irregular. Eventually we just staged a rehearsed reading of Gizmo at Henry Nihill House (HNH), a care home in Edgware. We had a full cast and the play went down well with our elderly audience. Margery Graves, aged 101, HNH resident and founder of the Mill Hill Operatic Society, gave it the thumbs up with a review on our website.

Our planned improvisation evening for May also disappeared without a trace, along with the volunteer who had suggested it.

However, we did have considerable success working with the Oxgate Tennis Club. They requested a reprise of our 2008 production of the hilarious Wages of Sin for their Hallowe’en party and we performed to a packed hall, adding a few Hallowe’en poems and songs. The cast was similar to before, with Carla gamely taking Ken’s part of Mr Brown. Lina also joined the cast for her debut with a Hallowe’en poem. We also organised a carol singing at the Tennis Club in aid of Save the Children, which added to the funds raised through the normal Win Roberts’ carol singing on Normanby and Mulgrave Road.

Once again our membership situation has not improved. Members have fallen by the wayside for a variety of reasons. Joan has been unwell and is not leaving her house because of her arthritis. Maureen has had cancer and a serious operation from which she is still recovering. Our hard core of active members continue to meet on a Wednesday night and we have welcomed Hannah and Jane regularly to our meetings, along with Ellie, all of whom we hope will stay. We thank Martin for his organising of play script s for us to read.

We were also sorry to hear of the death of Ernie Strong, husband of our president, Jan Strong. Martin and Joan attended the funeral in Ramsey. Jan is now very frail and in a care home.

We continue to enjoy social events and outings: to the National Theatre for a variety of shows; local theatre at the Tricycle and other local groups; a Christmas party at the Stables; excellent Mad March dinner at the Dollis Hill café, Vive Iterum; outings to other productions; and visits to under-study performances in the West End, kindly organised by Martin and Sheila. Several Madhatters have also joined in the open air Brent Arts Council play in Gladstone Park - a promenade production of Gladstone. Simon Mercer continues to do a sterling job on the Madhatters website.

We hope that the coming autumn will see a production. Hannah is keen to direct and it looks like we’ll go for Chain Reaction, a comedy about bent estate agents. We also hope to work again with the Oxgate Tennis Club, though we should beware of the impact a late October event may have on our main production. However, with the funding for Brent Arts Council so uncertain and the possibility that the Stables may be closed from the end of 2010, it is hard to be sure about anything.

We are, as ever, grateful for all our supporters: audience members, shops and organisations that display our posters, reviewers…

Cathy Mercer, Secretary, and Martin Redston, Chairman

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Madhatters Theatre Club – Annual Report 2008-2009

Once again, this has been a year of ups and downs for the Madhatters. We have also celebrated our 60th anniversary. We continue to have problems with recruiting and retaining volunteers, as well as audience numbers, but we have worked hard and tailored our drama for a range of different audiences and venues.

We put on two very popular shows this year at our normal dates: an Evening of Melodrama in November and a Recession Revue in May. We continue to work with pupils and staff from Malorees School and especially appreciate the support of Tom Rainbow, deputy head and head of music. We have expanded our venues, staging smaller shows at the Vive Iterum café in Dollis Hill and highlights of our productions for an old people’s home in Edgware.

Our Evening of Melodrama was staged at the Stables. We put on two plays: Andrew Sachs’ hilarious Wages of Sin, a choice made especially topical by the Russell Brand affair, and Black-Eyed Susan, by Douglas Jerrold. Martin directed us and Tom was master of music. The wages of Sin was probably the more successful play as it was so funny. Jess worked very hard @ dying dramatically and Martin was hilarious as Jasper the bent butler. Ken rejoined us briefly for this show and played Lady Priscilla’s second husband. Cathy gamely took the female lead in both melodramas after Fiona dropped out due to work pressure. She especially enjoyed the role of the scheming Lady Priscilla but found Black-Eyed Susan a bit too virtuous for her taste. Roger Kelly rejoined us just in time to take the part of the valiant William and threw himself into the acting and singing. Ken and Donald revelled in the parts of the dastardly Crosstree and Doggrass, while Joan energetically doubled up as chair and Admiral. We included a supper with our evening performances and Cathy organised a cream tea for the Sunday matinee. Mary Draffin wrote a witty review in the style of the melodrama.

We worked with children from Malorees School in May to stage a topical Recession Revue, complete with soup kitchen and mouth-watering snacks prepared by the cast to reflect the theme. Jess not only directed the show, he also researched and even wrote a lot of it. The company performed extracts from the 18th century play by Thomas Shadwell Stockjobbers, Not Serious Money, about the 80s City boom, Beating Depression, with memories of the Great American Depression, and Roaring Trade. The music and drama was spiced up with hilarious quotes from sages old and new on money. We were joined by Garry Smith’s excellent folk songs, Judi Friend with a very visual sketch about a city girl gone bust and Chris Channing on the guitar. Nigel Smith also joined us for one evening with folk songs. The Malorees children were directed by Jennifer Redston in a song and dance routine from Bugsy Malone and they devised an interesting sketch entitled The Man who Sold the World. Tom accompanied them on the piano. Martin obtained a grant of £2,000 from Grassroots for this show, which meant at least that we did not lose money.

Our preview Melodrama night in October was blighted by bad weather and produced a very small audience. Numbers for both shows were a bit disappointing and were, of course, not helped by engineering work on the Jubilee Line, with the network closed for both production weekends.

Once again our membership situation has not improved greatly. Simon Dutson has joined and stayed and we were very glad to welcome back Roger Kelly to our regular acting team. Other members have fallen by the wayside for a variety of reasons: Fiona had too much work to continue with us, Maureen has been ill, Steven moved to Stepney, Gemma was an enthusiastic and talented new member but has been unwell, Donald took a Madhatters sabbatical, Vic was made redundant and moved to Germany. New volunteers often contact us, especially through the Brent Volunteer Bureau, but rarely end up staying for long. Often they do not show up at all or have unrealistic expectations, assuming they can develop skills that we do not really offer on a continuous basis, especially stage make up. Other local groups also suffer similar problems. We are especially saddened by the current ill health of Maureen and wish her all the very best in her fight against cancer. Because of the cost of a stall, we decided not to have a stall at the Gladstonbury Festival and joined with the Gladstone! team in publicising the play in the park.

We continue to enjoy social outings: to the National Theatre for a variety of shows; local theatre at the Tricycle and other local groups; excellent Christmas dinner at the new Dollis Hill café, Vive Iterum; outings to other productions; and of course after-play parties, kindly hosted by Martin and Sheila. Several Madhatters have also joined in the open air Brent Arts Council play in Gladstone Park. Last July several members acted in a promenade production of Treasure Island, scripted by Martin’s son, Michael and his fiancée Amy. Michael and Amy once again came up trumps with a fantastic play about William Gladstone, complete with music and Victorian costumes. Martin obtained a very good grant and kind weather blessed most of the performances.

We were invited to stage a Hallowe’en drama @ the Vive Iterum Café. This attracted new audience and we received invitations afterwards to perform @ the Dollis Hill Tennis Club in 2010and also a birthday party. The 2010 show is going ahead but the birthday party fell through when the child’s father lost his job. To celebrate our 60th anniversary we held a party @ Martin’s and also planted 200 daffodil bulbs in Gladstone Park in September. We publicised our Hallowe’en night, the Melodrama preview @ the Stables and the daffodil plant in a special social newsletter.

We also sang carols for Save the Children in December and organised a Burns Night @ the Vive Iterum Café to celebrate Robbie Burns’ 250th birthday. Vive Iterum did fabulous food and we had a good turn out but the group were our normal crowd and we did not attract new audience, as we had hoped. Our effort to re-run the Recession Revue @ the Vive Iterum also fell flat: seems that Vive Iterum expect us to do the publicity and bring in the audience, unless they invite us to something they are organising themselves.

Simon Mercer has taken up management of the Madhatters website after Simon Redston finally admitted that he was finding it a bit much. Simon M has done an excellent job keeping it bang up to date – see for example the fine Gladstone! photos on the home page.

The coming year will be busy as we work to grow our membership. We plan to put on a play by a well-known playwright such as Alan Ayckbourn in November and hope that a big name with the promise of high-quality contemporary drama will help attract an audience. We also plan to contact local schools with special offers on school bookings and theatre workshops. The care home in Edgware are very keen to have us back for occasional Sunday afternoon shows and Michael’s singing goes down especially well. We have an advance invitation to put on a Hallowe’en show at the local tennis club.

We are, as ever, grateful for all our supporters: audience members, shops etc that display our posters, reviewers…

Cathy Mercer, Secretary, and Martin Redston, Chairman

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Madhatters Theatre Club – Annual Report 2007-2008

Welcome to the Madhatters’ AGM 2008 and the Annual Report.

Once again, this has been a year of ups and downs for the Madhatters. Due to a continuing fall in numbers, we have only been able to stage one play for the second year in succession. Nevertheless we put on a very popular production in November of Galton and Antrobus’ hit West End farce When did you last see your trousers?

We were very grateful to Tom Rainbow for his patient direction of us but farce requires swift action and reaction and we weren’t always fast enough. The star of the show was undoubtedly Roger Kelly’s magnificent box set with four (five?) doors, which consistently refused to stick and withstood nightly battles between bent copper Jess and our leading man, Leo, fulfilling a life ambition to star in a fast-paced farce. Donald continued his portrayal of crime in the dual role of burglar and bent police inspector and Cathy was the long-suffering ‘bit on the side’. Michael and Fiona stole the show as a stoned punk and Danish au pair; while Martin’s dirty old home secretary and Roger’s gravely-voiced colonel both went down well. Maureen made a fine debut in dangly ear-rings and negligee as dirty Deirdre and doubled up as seamstress on duty, mending the suit which Leo and Martin mauled in a magnificent fight every night. We greatly appreciated the help of Bulgarian Anetta, who stepped in to do sound and light for us at very short notice. We also appreciated her mother’s excellent cheese bread. However, it must be stressed that our small company was very over-stretched with the hard work of acting, set building, lighting, sound, publicity, programme design and printing for this production.

We decided to take a rest from acting in May. Instead we put on the Madhatters Mish Mash, an evening of music and monologues, with audience participation and food and drink, all for £5.00. This proved a great success with, among other turns, recorder recitals by Judy Friend, who also took like a fish to water to the part of Cecily in an impromptu Importance of Being Earnest. Some audience members commented that this was the most entertaining Madhatters evening they’d been to and we hope to stage Mish Mash 2 in September, as a curtain raiser to our November show and to build up funds and our presence at the Stables.

Once again we had a stall at the Gladstonbury Festival, though unfortunately the takings of £60 were stolen. Our ‘play in a day’ in August fell to the wayside due to lack of take-up, probably due to everyone being on holiday and because of the time lapse from its advertisement at Gladstonbury. However, the ‘play in a day’ attempt did result in the recruitment of new local member Maureen MacMillan who is not only an enthusiastic actress but also an excellent cake maker and seamstress, as she proved with her diligent work on the suit-that-tore in When did you last see your trousers.

Sadly our membership situation has not improved this year. Our ‘play in a day’ only recruited one new member. We are also very glad to welcome back Fiona Cowie to our regular acting team. Other members have fallen by the wayside for a variety of reasons: Rosanna is concentrating on her studies, Leo has moved to Luton, Roger to Oxford and Anetta had too much work to continue with us. However, new members do not join to fill the gaps. Other local groups are suffering similar problems.

We were very sorry to learn of the premature death of Richard Lees, our former lighting and sound manager. Richard, who was only 48, had suffered for several years from painful cancer and the after-effects of a stroke. We were also saddened by the death of Tim, Joan’s long-term friend and a loyal supporter of the Madhatters, again after a long and painful illness. Several Madhatters attended his funeral in Willesden. On a more positive note, we congratulate Greg, long-term front-of-house helper, and his partner Becky on the birth of Stephen in May.

We continue to enjoy social outings: to the National Theatre for a variety of shows; open air theatre at Shaw’s Corner and Regents Park; local theatre at the Tricycle and other local groups; excellent Christmas dinner at the new Dollis Hill café, Vive Iterum; outings to other productions; and of course after-play parties, kindly hosted by Martin and Sheila. Several Madhatters have also joined in the open air Brent Arts Council play in Gladstone Park. Last July several members acted in a lovely promenade performance of Peer Gynt. This July are acting in a promenade production of Treasure Island, scripted by Martin’s son, Michael. We hope to have our yearly visit in August to the Regents Park Open Air Theatre for their musical Gigi.

The coming year will be busy as we work to rebuild our membership, with an increase in our social events at the Stables, starting with something in September, a Hallowe’en visitation to the Dollis Hill café and an evening of melodrama with pupils at Malorees at the end of November. We are also planting a mass of daffodil bulbs in Gladstone Park in September to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the Madhatters Theatre Club!

Cathy Mercer, Secretary, and Martin Redston, Chairman

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Madhatters Theatre Club – Annual Report 2006-2007

Welcome to the Madhatters’ AGM 2007 and the Annual Report. This has been a year of ups and downs for the Madhatters. We had two excellent major productions in 2006, The Roaring Boy of Brent in May, specially written for us by Audrey Ringrose, and a very successful version of Dylan Thomas’ Under Milkwood in November. Both these productions involved children from Malorees School again and Malorees’ deputy head Tom Rainbow directed the music with his usual aplomb. We decided to take a rest from acting in May 2007. We have had several social outings and once again had a stall at the Gladstonbury Festival, which resulted in some good recruits.

After our successful production of The Roaring Boy in Brent last May, our membership looked extremely strong by the end of 2006, especially as the large number of small but interesting parts in Roaring Boy and Under Milkwood pulled in several people looking for a taste of theatre. We welcomed to our cast Rosanna, Tom, Sue Ling and Tricia, who all played several parts in Under Milkwood with flair; Tom’s girlfriend Joan is a theatre professional and dealt very ably with the lights for Under Milkwood.

However, in the new year, various personal or work-related problems meant that none of our new recruits were able to act in our May production. This, coupled with family and work commitments for Teresa Kelly and Melissa, another recruit, Shirly, Sue O’Connell and Shane O’Connor, plus Simone Dornbach’s sudden emigration to the USA, meant that we were unable to cast for both the spring shows that we selected. So we decided to have a fundraising social evening instead, our evening at the race, which was hugely enjoyable and raised £141 for our funds. We must be the only amateur dramatic group in the world with a shortage of women!

On a more positive note, we were glad to welcome back Edit Howard to front-of-house and cake baking after serious illness and we congratulate Greg Howard, long-term front-of-house helper, on his marriage in May to Becky, now also a front-of-house helper. We have also been keeping in touch with Richard Lees, our former lighting and sound manager, who continues to suffer serious ill health.

Our two productions both went off very well.

Our May production was The Roaring Boy of Brent, a play about local highwaymen specially written for us by Audrey Ringrose, an active member of the Playwrights and Players group at the Soho Theatre. Because of the historical and community nature of this play, we were able to win a substantial grant from the Arts Council. This meant some beautiful period costumes, proper fees for the playwright and also support for a professional director, Jonathon Bidgood, who got excellent results not only from the actors but also from the children of Malorees School. Particularly outstanding performances were put in by Jess as the would-be highwayman and Donald Elliott, Martin and Leo all did well as baddies: escapologist Jack Sheppard, dastardly double-dealing Jonothan Wild; and eighteenth century heart throb Jeremiah Lewis. Both Teresa Kelly and Sue O’Connell performed well when they stepped in at very short notice to play the bibulous mother of Jack Shepherd after Joan Foster was unfortunately too ill to take the part.

Our November production was a production of Dylan Thomas’ Under Milkwood. We had hoped that Jonathon would be able to direct us again but sadly, due to heavy work commitments, this could not be. We were very grateful to Susan Shrand, actress and teacher, for stepping in to direct the ever-changing cast. Once again we involved the children and this time Cathy directed them. Under Milkwood proved an entertaining play to act, with lots of small but interesting parts and musical interludes, excellently handled by Tom Rainbow. We welcomed Tom, Rosanna, Susan and Tricia to their debuts in this production and all did extremely well. Sue O’Connell was outstanding as single-mum Polly Garter.

Many thanks to everyone for all their hard work acting, directing, set building, lighting, sound, publicity, programme design and printing.

We continue to enjoy social outings: to open air theatre at Shaw’s Corner and Regents Park; to the West End to Evita; local theatre at the Tricycle and other local groups; excellent Christmas dinner at the Little Star restaurant; outings to other productions; and of course after-play parties, kindly hosted by Martin and Sheila. Dates for the social diary: Sunday 22 July: Mrs Warren’s Profession at Shaw’s Corner; and Tuesday 24 July, Lady Be Good at the Regents Park Open Air Theatre.

The coming year will be busy as we work hard to rebuild our membership, with active leafleting and recruiting, a ‘play in a day’ in the Stables 12 August, which will hopefully bring in new blood to acting - play tbc - and a high-profile farce at Malorees at the end of November.

Cathy Mercer, Secretary, and Martin Redston, Chairman

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Madhatters Theatre Club Report for year ending 31 March 2006

Madhatters Theatre Club - Annual Report 2005-2006. Welcome to the Madhatters' AGM 2006 and the Annual Report. We are pleased to report another year of progress for the Madhatters. Once again we have had our two major productions - both successful and with the support of Malorees School. We have had several social outings and once again had a stall at the Gladstonebury Festival. Our membership has continued to grow this year. We welcomed to our cast Shirly Marom, who shows a particular flare in learning lines; Angella Hodge, who made a one-off appearance in Dry Rot; Simone Dornbach, who combines a little acting with set building; and Sue O'Connell, Shane O'Connor and Chris Channing who joined us for our 2006-7 productions. We also welcomed back Corrine Gladstone to acting and costume support and Paul Hurst returned to prompt us through Dry Rot. We were particularly sad to lose the help of Edit Howard on front-of-house due to ill health. We were also shocked at the news of Richard Lees' stroke just before Christmas but are glad that Richard is now on the mend. Richard has managed our sound and lighting for several years. Our two productions both went off very well. Our May production was John Chapman's Dry Rot, a classic Whitehall farce. Simon Rawlings directed us but the star turn was certainly the set, with a sliding panel and a collapsing stair case, constructed by Johnson and Clayton Smith. Dry Rot is a fast and furious farce and many of the audience commented that this was the best Madhatters production that they had seen. Particularly outstanding performances were put in by Roger Kelly as the permanently apoplectic Colonel Wagstaff; Donald Elliott in a fat suit as the spiv Alfred Tubbe; Jess Abbo as the confused French jockey; and Leo Zahra as the very athletic jockey Fred Phipps. Our November production was an evening with a French theme of Grand Guignol horror-comedy: Chop Chop and The kiss of blood, with a short connecting piece written specially for us by Corrine. Jess Abbo made his debut as director. Our production ran for two weeks, with four performances, both on Friday and Saturday evenings, in the first week at Malorees School and then at the Stables Art Centre. We sold out on our fist night at the Stables and this new venue helped recruit new audiences. This was a semi-staged production, without major scenery or costumes, although the guillotine in Chop Chop made a great impression. The audience enjoyed a French buffet supper, ably organised by Simon Mercer. We decided at the end of the year not to renew our membership of NODA. Our box office takings have passed the £1,000 mark which means that the membership fee is much higher and we felt that we derived little benefit from our membership, since NODA focuses mainly on operatic groups, with little relevance to inner-city drama groups such as ourselves. Moreover, we insure ourselves outside NODA and we felt that the feedback received on NODA reviews were largely negative, offering little to build on. However, we may review our NODA membership in future years. Many thanks to everyone for all their hard work acting, directing, set building, lighting, sound, publicity, programme design and printing. We continue to enjoy social outings: to open air theatre at Shaw's Corner and Regents Park (Shaw's Pygmalion and HMS Pinnafore); excellent Christmas dinner at the Little Star restaurant; outings to other productions; and of course after-play parties, kindly hosted by Martin and Sheila. Once again, we feel that we can look to the future with confidence, with established, attractive rehearsal and performance venues, charitable status and a great website.

Cathy Mercer, Secretary, and Martin Redston, Chair.

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Madhatters Theatre Club Report for year ending 31 March 2005

2004-5 has been another successful year for the Madhatters. It has seen us putting on two successful comedies in May and November and forging closer links with pupils and staff at Malorees School. Our May production of Aristophanes' Frogs was the play that many people said we couldn't do but we proved that it was very funny as well as very old - it dates from 405 BC, making it one of the oldest comic works in the world. Cathy directed and we performed it in the round, making ample use of Jim Robson's excellent PowerPoint contest in the second half. Year 4 Malorees pupils performed the frog chorus and stole the show. Their presence also meant a substantial increase in our audience numbers. Our November production once again was performed in the round and included pupils from Malorees, this time in a dramatisation of 101 Dalmatians, directed by Martin, with Cathy working with the children. The children played a larger part throughout this production, with two pupils taking the part of Lucky, the leader of the puppies, and about 20 other children playing the chorus of puppies. Jess' atmospheric and witty paintings, projected on a screen, sets the numerous scenes which helped the play to move swiftly and smoothly from the manicured lawns of Regents Park to the dingy Suffolk hide-out of Cruella de Vil. We also welcomed Diane Stirling-Gallagher, making her debut as the cook in 101 Dalmatians to great critical acclaim. In both productions we received terrific support from staff at Malorees, especially Tom Rainbow. This year we decided not to participate in Gladstonbury because the sound levels of the music have drowned out our previous dramatic efforts. However, we have continued to play an active part in Brent Arts Council and NODA, although the reviews that we have had from our NODA critic, Harvey Kesselmann, have not been very helpful. We have also continued to enjoy social outings, once again enjoying a picnic and Shavian drama at Shaw's Corner, an alfresco musical at Regents Park Open Air Theatre and several visits to other productions, as well as an excellent Christmas dinner in the Little Star in Willesden. We continue to enjoy the excellent facilities of the Stables for rehearsals, refurbished to an even higher standard in May 2005. Our major concern is membership, with a serious shortage of technical back-up and actors, especially female actors, making us perhaps the only amateur dramatics group in the UK with this problem.

Cathy Mercer Secretary

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The Madhatters Theatre Club is a registered charity (Registered charity No. 1095317)
and is affliated to the Brent Arts Council
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