10th Anniversary Celebration
Dates and details
2016 was the 10th year of Cumnor Players and to mark this achievement we held various celebratory events through the year which will finish in 2017 with our "Oscar's Night" celebratory dinner....
|Event||Date and Location||Information|
|"Oscar's night" celebratory dinner||30th June 2017; The Cherwell Boathouse||Gala dinner for anyone
involved with the Players during our 10 year history.
Tickets now on sale. Cash or cheques to "Cumnor Players". Order by email to:
Celebrating 10 years of the Cumnor Players
Thank you to everyone who has supported the Cumnor Players over the last 10 years. The idea for an amateur dramatic society in the parish of Cumnor was first pitched in 2006 and every year since December 2007, we have had the opportunity to celebrate the wonderful tradition of panto and other theatrical projects. It would not be possible without help from parents, the village hall committee, Cumnor Primary School, local businesses, the Sewing Bees, Cumnor Parish News, and all the people who over the years have got involved directly in acting, writing, playing instruments, building sets, or helping front of house. And we want to thank the most important group of all – our audience!
How it all started
‘Can I eat this?’. That is what the son of one of the panto committee says before Christmas as he picks up something that looks edible but could be a prop. Even before he was one, Thomas Lewis who is now 10 has known nothing other in December than a festive tide of drying papier mache offerings and painted canvas sweeping into the kitchen. His mum Jacqui is involved in set design and acting every year: indeed, she was the one who roped everyone in, fired up with thoughts of playing Dames and plucky heroes.
She was putting up Christmas decorations in a hotel when the idea popped into her head. On returning home, she asked friend Amanda Gaydon, who was babysitting, and then one by one other parents were recruited for panto – in Cumnor park while the children played… or by word of mouth.
They advertised a do in the pub to widen the net further and draw people in. ‘That night you pretty much got a part if you put your hand up,’ says Amanda Gaydon. ‘People who had never done anything like it before came forward. We agreed that Cinderella should be the first pantomime. We had little in the way of funding so paid for the things we needed for the show out of our own money.’
The village hall committee backed the idea, generously allowing the Cumnor Players the use of the hall for the performances. All practice took place at people’s houses, with only the nail-biting dress rehearsal choreographed in Cumnor Primary School hall in the final days. ‘We rehearsed the first scene a million times,’ says Amanda. ‘A week before the show, there was a lot of nervous giggling. Everyone was told to buckle down or the show would be horribly humiliating!’
As well as actors, musicians were recruited. The musical director for Cinderella Dave Gaydon plus Rachael Claridge, drummer Jon Buxton and saxophonist Jon Heffernan made up the original panto band, The Pantones.
The creative spark was lit for Ally Baker, and she volunteered to write the first script AND design and craft all the costumes. Publisher Ian Bannerman was asked if he would edit Cinderella which had taken her two months to write, and ‘add funnier jokes’. Local author Philip Pullman also contributed, writing verse for the Fairy Godmother played by food writer Sophie Grigson, then living in Cumnor. She made marvellous meringues to sustain the cast, boosting morale and energy levels.
The performances were a sell-out and the audience showed their appreciation. It was uplifting for those involved and the momentum just carried on… The second panto, Peter Pan, had a magnificent response, with a long queue of hopefuls lined up for casting.
Since then, highlights have included Jack and the Beanstalk (2014) receiving a runner-up prize in national finals from NODA (National Operatic and Dramatic Association); the Cumnor Players performed two years running in front of audiences of several thousand at Camp Bestival in Dorset; and also took an extract from The Darke Years, first shown in Cumnor, to the Courtyard Theatre in Stratford upon Avon in 2014 as part of the Royal Shakespeare Company project, Open Stages. Rehearsals are now underway for Robin and the Hoods, with five rather than the usual four performances planned to mark this special year.