Curtains raise for Pudsey theatre company as it premieres first post-lockdown performance

A theatre company in Pudsey is preparing to get back on stage for the first time in 18 months.

Sunday, 14th November 2021, 4:45 am
David Robbins pictured at the Comenius Centre, Fulneck School, Pudsey (Photo: Simon Hulme)
David Robbins pictured at the Comenius Centre, Fulneck School, Pudsey (Photo: Simon Hulme)

Not only is Fulneck Dramatic Society bringing the curtain back up at what is the only live theatre in west Leeds - it is starting to make plans to celebrate its 100th anniversary in two years time.

From Tuesday November 17 it will be reviving W Somerset Maugham’s comedy, ‘Home and Beauty’.

It is a “charming” light comedy/farce that is set just after the First World War.

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From Tuesday November 17 the theatre will be reviving W Somerset Maugham’s comedy, ‘Home and Beauty’ (Photo: Simon Hulme)

The story goes that society girl, Victoria, lost Bill, her first husband, in the war and the young widow has re-married, to Bill’s best friend, Frederick.

With two young children – one from each husband – along with peace, domestic bliss is on the cards.

But an unexpected arrival provides a bigger explosion at home than anything the troops had been throwing at each other in the previous four years in Flanders.

Director, Dave Robbins, says the play is set during the last worldwide pandemic, which actually killed more people than died in the First World War.

So, it is quite fitting that Fulneck Dramatic Society will return with this after an 18 month hiatus.

Mr Robbins said: “Theatre is all about timing, our last production in 2020 could not have been better timed. We put the curtain down on the Saturday night and the nation went into lockdown two days later so we just got in there.

“We managed to get a production that was filmed and we were able to get it on-line but this is the first time we have been back on stage for 18 months.

“I first read this play back in 2019, before the pandemic was even making the news. At the time I couldn’t get quite the right cast, so I shelved it until I had the right people to make it work.”

Maugham is one of Mr Robbins’ favourite writers and the dramatic society has in the past covered Shakespeare, Russian playwright Anton Chekhov, Norwegian writers and pantomime.

Fulneck Dramatic Society is based at Fulneck’s Comenius Arts Centre, which is thought to be the only operating theatre in west Leeds, and is nestled in a Moravian settlement dating back to 1744.

The theatre company itself is steeped in history, as its centenary approaches, but it is very much looking forward to the future.

Mr Robbins explained: “Our theatre we think is the only operating theatre in west Leeds. There used to be church halls and things around but, one by one, they have fallen by the wayside.

“Whether it is luck or clever management, we are still here and still thriving, and will be after this production.

“It is an interesting time for the group because we are just short of a hundred years old and have a centenary in two years.”

He added that for the first time the acting society is the only occupant of the arts centre, having previously shared it with the local school until it moved out.

However, that brings extra challenges, such as funding the upkeep of the place single handedly. Fulneck Dramatic Society has already spent £20,000 on the building with roof and guttering repairs and refurbishment of the toilet block.

In order to make the venue viable for the next 100 years, the society is looking to turn it into a hub where bands could rehearse and gig and groups, such as pilates, can use it during the day time.

Mr Robbins added: “Our long-term plan is to try to create an arts hub operating from the community centre. It is very embryonic but to get people involved from the outset would be the ultimate aim.”

‘Home & Beauty’ opens on Tuesday November 16 with further performances at Fulneck’s Comenius Arts Centre on Wednesday 17, Thursday 18, Friday 19 and Saturday 20. Curtain up at 7.30pm.

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