Madhatters Theatre Club

 


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Madhatters Theatre Club – Annual Report 2014-15

Welcome to the Madhatters’ AGM 2015 and the Annual Report. I’m delighted to say that this has generally been a most successful year for the Madhatters. We have settled into King’s Hall, we’ve staged two successful productions and also organised the King’s Hall Christmas variety show. We were very fortunate to recruit an excellent local magician who likes to perform with us and we’re delighted that Martin’s many years of hard work was rewarded at a fantastic ceremony in London’s City Hall, where Mayor Boris Johnson presented him with a certificate marking 20 years of volunteering as chair, director and actor, and the rest of us enjoyed a great party.

At the end of November we marked the centenary of World War I with a production of JM ‘Peter Pan’ Barrie’s The Old Lady Shows her Medals (TOL). Jay adapted the play to suit our needs and started directing it but, after some issues, Martin took over directing. Tom Rainbow directed our singing of stirring WWI songs and we had large audiences, enjoying cream teas served by Bob and Eileen.

TOL is a short but moving play based in London, with a poor cleaning lady befriending a lonely young Scottish soldier. Sam and Mary did a fantastic job in the lead parts and they were joined by Martin and Jess as officer and soldier, Jess also as vicar and Cathy, Gillian and Adeline as the old lady’s friends. Harold performed excellent magic for the music hall scene and we were supported throughout by Maggie Robson, who not only joined in the chorus but also did a fantastic job singing Burlington Bertie. Mira also joined us for the singing. We were delighted that Mary, Gillian and Adeline all returned from their debuts to join in the KH variety show and our June Alice production. Sam moved to Ramsgate so unfortunately was not able to continue with us.

The week after, we organised and produced the KH Christmas variety show. Some of the KH groups did a turn and the Madhatters reprised the WWI songs from TOL. Simon did the lights and Maggie and Martin compered. Valerie decorated the hall beautifully and organised mulled wine. The variety show was a great success, with good audiences. However, it was a great deal of work for everyone, including the audience and especially for Cathy, who liaised with KH groups. Our autumn show will therefore not be as close as this one to the variety show.

In June we staged a production of Alice in Wonderland, marking the 150th anniversary of the book’s publication. Martin directed and once again it was an all-singing all-dancing show, with very good audiences and tea and jam tarts for the audience, supplied by Gillian and served by Bob and Eileen.

Mary made a super Alice and Jess narrated as Lewis and stepped in as King of Hearts. Cathy broke her foot just before the show and so played the Queen from a wheelchair. Everyone else multi-tasked: Alicja, making her debut as Mouse and Gardener, Maria also making her debut as Gryphon and Rabbit, Gillian as Caterpillar, Cheshire Cat and Gardener, Adeline as Duchess, Mad Hatter and Fish Footman and Martin as Mock Turtle, Soldier, Frog Footman and March Hare. Chris guested as Dormouse, Harold performed magic for the Queen of Hearts and 10-year old Charlotte joined us as Laughing Gardener and Cook.

Grahame, Mary and Jess all provided a variety of large and small Alice’s. We invited children to dress up as Alice characters and also organised an Alice art display and were delighted that a local Parents and Toddlers group came along. We also staged a preview of the Mock Turtle scene in March at a Brent volunteers evening, with the new Brent mayor in the audience.

Managing new volunteers has been the usual story: many people contact us but few stay –see table for details. However, we are delighted that some of our volunteers have stayed for several shows and we hope that they will stay on.

We continue to meet on a Wednesday night at KH and now have the main hall the whole evening, instead of having to meet in the small and rather pokey back room until 9.15 because of the youth club meeting in the main hall: the KH youth club has sadly folded due to a shortage of adult volunteers. However, their loss is very much our gain, as it’s a super hall with fantastic acoustics and attracts good audiences.

Storage of our equipment has also become an issue, since Malorees Junior School suddenly asked us to remove our container with lights, flats and costumes. Some of these will be stored in KH and the rest as best we can.

We also continue to enjoy social events and outings and saw an excellent production of Marilyn – the Musical, with Maggie as Marilyn’s mum. We have also done several quizzes and won a few. We are, as ever, grateful for all our supporters: audience, front of house, especially Bob and Eileen, reviewers, green grocers…

Cathy Mercer, Secretary, and Martin Redston, Chairman

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Madhatters Theatre Club – Annual Report 2013-14

Welcome to the Madhatters’ AGM 2014 and our Annual Report of the Madhatters’ 66th year

This has been another difficult year for the Madhatters, since we became homeless in April 2013, when we were no longer able to meet at Mungo’s on Pound Lane.

After meeting at Cathy’s house over the summer, we moved to King’s Hall in Willesden in September. This has the benefit of making us part of a community centre with lots going on and we have taken part in their/our very successful September autumn fair, where we had our usual book stall and made a few pounds, and the December variety show, when Jess and Cathy acted the ever popular Kiss me, Hardy sketch about political correctness and Michael played the mouth organ and sang country ‘n western songs to a packed house of 200+, made mellow with mulled wine. It was fantastic playing to a large house and the audience appreciated our sophisticated comedy among the song and dance routines.

We have worked on a Murder Mystery game for presentation at Kings Hall in September and Martin and Simon have been helping Kings Hall with their electrical maintenance eg changing spotlight bulbs, fluorescent tubes etc in the hall and offering Madhatters' lighting equipment for loan at the hall. We have also attended King’s Hall committee meetings and their agm.

However, there is a major problem with the funding gap: our membership subs simply cannot cover our rental costs. There is also a potential issue with forthcoming changes in King’s Hall management.

Our homelessness meant that we were not able to accommodate the teenagers from the Challenge again and the Challenge have not invited us to take part this year, possibly because they are unable to operate in the present climate of funding cuts.

Our move also meant that we were unable to arrange the small social and dramatic events we had organised so successfully at Mungo’s, eg our evenings of comedy sketches and our very successful Christmas party for Mungo’s residents, incorporating the Dollis Hill Art Group, though it’s worth noting that the Dollis Hill Art Group have stopped meeting altogether. Crucially, the Madhatters Theatre Club kept on going.

At the end of November we staged a low-key production, a rehearsed reading of Orson Wells’ War of the Worlds. It was Jess’ idea and he directed, as well as taking on two major roles. Martin and Michael also played several roles and were both convincing as militia commanders, scientists, professor and secretary of state. Cathy and Kay as announcers provided dramatic bulletins of multiple disasters, while Mary and Barbara did well in their many parts. Mark made his Madhatters debut as Orson Welles and he threw himself into the role, projecting well. It was good also to see Ken acting again.

Simon managed sound and Adeline ran front of house, with the help of Max. Our audience also enjoyed nibbles and Cathy’s quiz. This last seemed to be the most popular part of the evening with our audience and was certainly the easiest to organise, points to bear in mind for future event planning.

Simon Redston continues to host our website and Simon Mercer does a grand job managing it. We continue to recruit through our website as well as the Brent Magazine and local noticeboards. As ever, there is a problem with retention of new volunteers and we have also lost much loved member Mary through on-going eye sight problems. Ken also decided that he would step back because of similar problems.

We continue to meet on a Wednesday evening at King’s Hall for play reading, improvisations and tea and biscuits, but it is likely that we will have to move our regular rehearsals to a lower-cost venue. We hope however to maintain a foothold at King’s Hall, retaining membership, participating in their autumn fair, perhaps with a murder mystery, and running the variety show. We look also to a WWI themed evening in the autumn, with music, cream tea and a production of JM Barrie’s TOL and a multi-media production of Enron in the late spring. It is encouraging also to learn that Malorees are keen to have us back on board.

We are, as ever, grateful for all our supporters: audience members, St M’s, shops and organisations that display our posters, reviewers, green grocers…

Cathy Mercer, Secretary, and Martin Redston, Chairman

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Madhatters Theatre Club – Annual Report 2012-13

Welcome to the Madhatters’ AGM 2013 and the Annual Report. This has been another busy year for the Madhatters. We staged a full production in November and an evening of carols and readings at St Mungo’s, as well as working there with teenagers from The Challenge. However, in April things went suddenly very wrong when we lost our regular meeting and performance venue at St Mungo’s and our beloved treasurer, Joan Foster, suddenly but peacefully passed away. She is much missed.

In August and September we worked with local teenagers from the Challenge to put on an afternoon of improvised sketches on the theme of work. This was performed to Mungo’s residents and an invited audience, with tea and biscuits and music and singing by Michael and his harmonica, with a collection for Mungo’s. Challenge students also organised a sponsored walk in theatrical costumes in aid of us and raised £72. One of the students came back to help front of house in our winter production and the Challenge are keen to work with us in the future. However, we are unable to accommodate them this year without a regular venue.

At the end of November we staged a production of Robert Bolt’s Thwarting of Baron Bolligrew, a medieval romp directed by Martin. The play was a great success, playing to good houses, and Malorees Junior School once again proved an excellent venue. We used costumes from Theme Traders to glamorise the staging and the team built a beautiful set, with a marvellous nest full of treasure for Mike Magpie and a ship for the perilous voyage to Bolligrew Island. Lighting was once again by Asli and Keenan and we appreciated the front of house work of Simon, Max, Adeline and Omar from the Challenge.

Cathy took the lead as noble knight Oblong Fitzoblong and fought a dramatic duel with Michael’s evil Squire Blackheart, complete with specially grown moustache. Jess revelled in his role as story teller and Martin enjoyed playing the wicked Baron Bolligrew. Barbara is now a well established member and made a dignified duke, while Mary threw herself into the role of the wicked wizard Molloch. Ken surpassed himself in three roles, as mayor, captain and a knight, and Sue clearly loved playing Mike Magpie, as well as prompting with enthusiasm. Kay guested as the egg painter Obadiah Bobbleknob.

Thwarting has a large number of small roles and crowd scenes, which made it ideal for working with Malorees pupils and incorporating new members. We welcomed Angie, Annie and Siobhan to our group and all took roles, though they found acting more challenging than anticipated and have not returned since the production. As in previous years, we worked with Malorees pupils and involved them in the play. However, this proved more difficult than before and we missed Tom Rainbow’s support. Thank you to Cathy and Barbara for their hard work here.

At Christmas we staged an evening of carols and readings, with tea and mince pies for Mungo’s residents. Cathy arranged readings and cracker jokes and a good number of residents joined us and members of the Dollis Hill Art Group for singing and socialising under the Christmas tree.

Following the success of our 2012 festival of Irish culture for St Patrick’s Day at the Corrib Rest in Queen’s Park, we planned another Irish festival for May 2013. Our treasurer Joan was also chair of the group we were staging this for. We rehearsed two modern Irish comedies by Donal Horgan, who kindly allowed us to perform without payment of royalties. However, due to Joan’s sudden and tragic death, the festival was cancelled.

On Easter Sunday we were shocked and saddened by the sudden death of our longest standing member and treasurer of many years, Joan Foster. She was 84 and in reasonable health, so her death was totally unexpected. We were relieved however that her death was quick and painless and many Madhatters past and present went to her funeral. We miss Joan greatly.

Until the start of April, we enjoyed free rehearsal and performance space at St Mungo’s, the homeless centre on Pound Lane. However, in the new financial year the management of the Pound Lane rehabilitation centre for homeless men changed to Look Ahead and they made severe cuts across the board, removing the very successful community facilities. Since then we have been meeting in the living rooms of Cathy and Martin, reading plays.

We are actively looking for a new venue but this change is especially disappointing as we had established such a good relationship with St Mungo’s residents, who regularly popped in to join our Wednesday evening meetings and came in large numbers to our shows, many of which were staged at Pound Lane. When we meet residents they invariably tell us that they miss our companionship and energy, elements both now sadly lacking at Pound Lane.

Once again a large number of volunteers have visited the Madhatters. We welcomed many potential new members, who generally visited once twice and then disappeared, though some never got beyond initial email or telephone contact. We were delighted that Annie, Angie and Siobhan took part in Bolligrew, although all of them disappeared after the show, perhaps because they found the commitment too much. Chrissie, who joined us last year, also disappeared after taking on a part in Bolligrew. Once again retaining other volunteers has proved hard (Secretary has details). We were glad to join Michael in May when he received his Brent Active Citizen award at Brent Town Hall and then had a party with the mayor.

Our hard core of active members continue to meet on a Wednesday night and we hope to have a new venue sorted out soon. We continue to enjoy social events and outings. However, until we have established a regular venue for meeting and performance, our immediate future is uncertain. We are, as ever, grateful for all our supporters: audience members, St M’s, shops and organisations that display our posters, reviewers, green grocers…

Cathy Mercer, Secretary, and Martin Redston, Chairman

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Madhatters Theatre Club – Annual Report 2011-12

Welcome to the Madhatters’ AGM 2012 and the Annual Report. This has been another busy year for the Madhatters. We staged a full production in November, a carol concert and two revues in St Mungo’s and also at the Corrib Rest. We also continue to meet regularly on a Wednesday evening to rehearse and read plays and enjoy social outings. We have had great success working with St Mungo’s Pound Lane.

In December we staged a production of Alan Ayckbourn’s Way Upstream, directed by Martin. The play was a great success, playing to good houses, and Malorees Junior School once again proved an excellent venue. We were especially grateful to Tom Rainbow for his unfailing help.

Set on a boat on a boating holiday that goes very wrong, Way Upstream is known for its staging difficulties. We got round these by keeping our boat on dry land, with fantastic river scenes projected on a screen. Our cast included Jess, Sue, Cathy and Martin as the two holidaying couples; Michael as the jovial helper who takes over, Kay as Fleur, his posh friend, and Mary as the ever obliging Mrs Hatfield, the secretary who keeps popping round. Jess designed his usual excellent fliers and programme, the team built an excellent set, Kinnan and Asli stepped in to manage light and sound, Anetta stage-managed and Simon ran front of house. John the green grocer gave us fruit and Edit provided cakes.

We also staged a festival of Irish culture for St Patrick’s Day, with dancing, poetry, music and drama, as well as a slap-up lunch. This was supported by a generous grant from the Irish government and staged at the Corrib Rest in Queen’s Park. It was great fun and we especially welcomed the support of Sheila, Chris, Judi, Hilda and Molly in our Irish drama and thank Joan for arranging the grant to make the event possible.

We ran a cut-down reprise of our Irish festival for residents of St Mungo’s a few days after the original and also staged an evening of songs and sketches themed round lust and adultery. The invited audience made donations towards the running of St M’s.

We continue to enjoy free rehearsal space at St Mungo’s, the homeless centre on Pound Lane. St M’s have been very generous with their facilities and we have enjoyed the company of residents dropping in to our Wednesday meetings, watching rehearsals and coming to special productions.

Once again a large number of volunteers have visited the Madhatters. We have welcomed Chrissie who came to see our Way Upstream and was so impressed that she joined. We appreciate her excellent cakes! We have also welcomed Barbara as a regular member. However, once again retaining other volunteers has proved hard (Secretary has details).

Joan has continued our greatly appreciated and efficient treasurer. We thank Joan for her hard work for so many years. Our hard core of active members continue to meet on a Wednesday night and we have welcomed Chrissie, Ken and Barbara regularly to our meetings, all of whom we hope will stay.

Chris from Brent Community Television – BNCTV – filmed an evening with the Madhatters and his excellent film is now online, available for the world to watch. We attended the funeral of Jan Strong in August. Jan was a stalwart member for many years and past president. We miss her but are delighted to have the continued enthusiastic support of Peter and Ethel Fidler, two of our founder members, and of Tom Rainbow, one of our vice presidents.

We continue to enjoy social events and outings: quiz nights, to the National Theatre for a variety of shows; local theatre at the Tricycle and other local productions; an excellent Christmas dinner at Kilburn’s Small and Beautiful; outings to other productions; and visits to under-study performances in the West End, kindly organised by Martin and Sheila. We also go to see a lot of Sheila’s shows, which keeps us busy as she is in so many.

We hope that the coming autumn will see a big production, probably at St M’s, as we have lost the support of Tom Rainbow at Malorees because of his retirement. We are going for Robert Bolt’s medieval comedy, The Thwarting of Barron Bolligrew – lots of magic, magpies and a very fierce dragon. We are also looking forward to working with the Big Challenge teenage volunteers in September on sketches and songs on the theme of work. The Big Challenge volunteers are also arranging a fund raising day for us. We are delighted to work with the Big Challenge and hope that this will be the first of many Big Challenge projects.

We are, as ever, grateful for all our supporters: audience members, St M’s, shops and organisations that display our posters, reviewers, green grocers…

Cathy Mercer, Secretary, and Martin Redston, Chairman

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Madhatters Theatre Club – Annual Report 2010-11

Welcome to the Madhatters’ AGM 2011 and the Annual Report. This has been a busy year for the Madhatters. We staged a full production in November, moved home twice and continue to meet regularly on a Wednesday evening to rehearse, read plays and enjoy social outings. We also continue to work with other organisations. We have had great success working with U3A Brent and St Mungo’s Pound Lane.

In November we staged a production of Chain Reaction, a topical comedy about bent estate agents, directed by Hannah Bourgault, now Hannah Torrance. The play was a great success, playing to good houses: we were fortunate that we performed in the week before the snow came down, so our audiences were not affected by bad weather. Hannah bought the script from Comedy Players, a group based in Derbyshire, and tweaked it to cater for the extra parts we needed by splitting the two main roles. Comedy Players kindly let us have the play for half the performance fee.

Our cast included Donald Elliott and Martin Redston as a pair of unscrupulous estate agents, Jane Byrne and Nikki Amory as their frustrated assistants, Cathy Mercer as their frustrated customer and Jess Abbo as his usual incompetent policeman, this time with a terrible case of hiccups. Michael Fay doubled up as handyman and burglar and Roger Kelly made a brief appearance as assistant burglar. Jess designed his usual excellent fliers and programme, Hannah managed light and sound and Simon Mercer ran front of house. John the green grocer gave us fruit and Edit provided cakes.

However, sadly we were not able to stage our planned spring production of Aristophanes’ Wasps, due to poor attendance by supporting players and our lack of success in recruiting Malorees pupils. They just seemed too busy with SATs and school concerts L

Due to the lack of council funding for Brent Arts Council and the closure of the Stables, we had to move to Malorees Junior School, our performance venue. We are very grateful to the school and especially to the ever helpful Tom Rainbow for their generosity and hospitality. Malorees Junior School has excellent facilities and it is especially good to rehearse in our performance venue.

We have also been offered free rehearsal space by St Mungo’s, the homeless centre  on Pound Lane, to plan and rehearse an evening of entertainment for residents, including any who might want to take part. We therefore moved there in June until our show, Sunday 21st August at 7pm - complete with refreshments provided by St Mungo’s.

We also moved our archive of papers, going back to 1948, to Brent Archives.

Once again a large number of volunteers have visited the Madhatters. We are especially happy to welcome Sue and Mary, who have both become regular members, and Danni, a student from China, who came every Wednesday during her month stay in Dollis Hill. However, once again retaining other volunteers has proved hard –see spreadsheet over for details.

Joan is unwell and is stepping down as treasurer but Max from Brent Arts Council is happy to take over her post. We thank Joan for her hard work for so many years. Our hard core of active members continue to meet on a Wednesday night and we have welcomed Mary and Sue regularly to our meetings, both of whom we hope will stay. We were sorry that Jean and Stuart Gunn, founder members, decided to resign as vice-presidents due to health problems but we are delighted to have the continued enthusiastic support of Peter and Ethel Fidler, two more of our founder members.

We were especially saddened by Maureen’s death. She had been ill for a long time but her end was very sudden. A group of Madhatters attended her funeral at Golders Green Crematorium and Martin made a brief speech in praise of her energy and enthusiasm.

We were also glad to congratulate Hannah on her wedding to Ryan but sad to lose her when she moved back to Leicester. We also congratulate Greg and Becky on their new baby Celia. They have often helped front of house

We continue to enjoy social events and outings: quiz nights, to the National Theatre for a variety of shows; local theatre at the Tricycle and other local productions; an excellent Christmas 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. We also go to see a lot of Sheila’s shows, which keeps us busy as she is in so many. It was a pity however that there was no play in Gladstone Park in 2010 nor anything scheduled for 2011: another sad victim of the cuts.

We hope that the coming autumn will see a production. We have looked at several Alan Ayckbourn plays and it looks like we’ll go for Way Upstream.

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

Cathy Mercer, Secretary, and Martin Redston, Chairman

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The Madhatters Theatre Club is a registered charity (Registered charity No. 1095317)
and is affliated to the Brent Arts Council
© 2017 Madhatters Theatre Club

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