Thame Players Theatre re-opens in July!

In common with theatres across the UK, the Players Theatre has been closed since March 2020 with no shows being staged during the entire period. Now, in line with the government’s roadmap, the theatre will be re-opening its doors to the public in just over six weeks’ time.

What’s coming up?

The first show in July will be Thame Players’ production of Diary of a Nobody. Originally written by George and Weedon Grossmith and adapted for the stage by Hugh Osborne in 2011, it’s a hilarious spoof on late Victorian society, uproariously recreating the story of Charles Pooter, a middle-class bank clerk with social aspirations far beyond his status, who decides the world deserves to hear his diary.

Hot on its heels will be the first visiting show of 2021, VooDoo Room, featuring some of the UK’s finest musicians. They will be paying musical homage to legendary superstars such as Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton and Cream, and performing classics such as Hey Joe, Sunshine of Your Love, Purple Haze, and Layla.

Also in July, Neil Phillips, the Wine Tipster, returns to the Players Theatre to host his popular evening of wine discovery, entertainment and tastings.

Technical upgrades during lockdown ….

During the last 15 months of lockdowns, Thame Players, who own and run the Players Theatre, have not been idle. They’ve been busy adding to the theatre’s technical facilities, to improve the audience experience and enable more people to see more shows – and not only in the auditorium!

The first of these projects was a sound infrastructure upgrade, installing more sophisticated sound equipment and digital cabling. At its heart is a new digital mixing desk, operated remotely from a phone or tablet, enabling sound adjustments to be made from multiple locations. It’s great for sound checks, and the sound engineer doesn’t have to keep running up and down stairs! A dedicated technical network connects all the new equipment together.

The objective is to improve audio quality for the audience to suit all hearing abilities, reduce interference and buzzing, add to sound flexibility for musical acts especially, and increase special effects capabilities. This project was grant-funded through the South Oxfordshire District Council’s Councillor Community Grant Scheme 2019/20 and was completed last autumn.

Watch shows in the theatre or at home …

Last October, the Thame Arts & Literature Festival (digiTAL) was live streamed from the theatre. Although necessitated by government restrictions, it was a highly successful event, reaching audiences in the UK and beyond. It made Thame Players think about installing their own live streaming equipment, as a way of reaching wider audiences. This led to the second major project, involving the purchase of professional cameras, a video-editing PC, and software that allows mixing and broadcasting of shows. As part of the project, a small studio room adjacent to the sound and lighting booth has been created, so that video mixing can take place prior to streaming shows.

As a result, the Players Theatre is a state-of-the-art entertainment venue, catering to bigger audiences, locally or farther afield. Shows can be streamed so that virtual audiences watching at home can view shows at the same time as they’re being performed in front of physical audiences in the theatre, complete with the feel of the live atmosphere in the auditorium. This new capability was set up thanks to a grant from the OxLEP Kickstart Grant Scheme, funded through the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), managed by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG), and delivered by OxLEP. The scheme was created to support Oxfordshire businesses affected by Covid-19.

A better audience experience

The third major project involved the installation of a new talkback system, equivalent to those used by many professional theatres, and replacing an outdated 20-year-old system. It improves ease and efficiency of communication throughout the theatre. This means the stage manager can start shows more promptly, cue sound and lighting effects more effectively and, in the event of an emergency, halt the show speedily. Audiences will benefit from a more streamlined and professional experience, whether they are watching a Thame Players’ in-house production or any of the theatre’s many visiting shows. This upgrade was facilitated thanks to grants awarded through the Oxfordshire County Council Councillor Priority Fund 2020/21 and the South Oxfordshire Councillor Grant Scheme 2020/21.

Mike Chester, Chair of Thame Players, commented

‘We are really looking forward to welcoming audiences once again, with all these fantastic technical improvements in the theatre. Thame Players are fortunate to have been awarded grants from South Oxfordshire District Council, Oxfordshire County Council, and OxLEP/ERDF, facilitating the installation of superb new equipment. We offer our thanks to each of these organisations, who have enabled us to improve our facilities and the audience experience, whether enjoyed in the theatre or in their own homes’.

The Players Theatre re-opens with Diary of a Nobody, a Thame Players’ production, at 7.45 pm from 6th – 10th July. Tickets are £10 (£9 concessions) or £8 (no concessions) on Tuesday and Wednesday only and can be purchased online from the Thame Players Theatre website or in person from the Information Centre at Thame Town Hall (check opening times).

Pictured – SODC Cllrs Kate Gregory and Pieter-Paul Barker with Wayne Gibson, a member of the Thame Players Theatre tech team.

Date posted: Thursday 27 May 2021