St Michael’s Players
St Michael’s Players is one of two long-standing amateur dramatic groups in Chiswick. Set up in 1949, they practice and perform in the hall of St Michael’s Church, Elmwood Rd and play to packed audiences, especially for the annual pantomimes.
On their 65th anniversary, Chairman Alastair Dewar told The Chiswick Calendar’s Nick Raikes they’d chosen to celebrate with a production of A Midsummer Nigh’ts Dream because they realised that in all their long history they’d never done a Shakespeare before.
Celebrating their 70th anniversary in 2019 they chose an open air performance of Salad Days, presented in the gardens of St Paul’s Church, Grove Park. The story is about a young couple, fresh out of university, who while trying to decide what to do with their lives, come across a tramp who loans them a magical piano. They find that when it’s played, it makes anyone in the vicinity dance spontaneously. Their adventure takes them to an Egyptian themed nightclub and aboard a flying saucer. The show was the longest running musical of the 1950s.
The Long Road
They play they chose to take to perform in the Edinburgh Fringe could not have been more different. The Long Road by Shelagh Stephenson is about a family in crisis after a knife-crime death. It examines the redemptive possibilities of restorative justice — the idea that victims and perpetrators of crime can benefit from meeting each other and talking.
The company like to challenge themselves by performing a variety of plays, from tragedy to farce, traditional and modern. They choose plays which suit a small company and give their members an opportunity to take a turn in the limelight.
My Darling Boy
In 2014 the vicar of St Michael’s, Martine Oborne, wrote a play herself, to commemorate those who died from the church’s community in the First World War. The church won a Lottery grant to research the history of the immediate neighbourhood, finding out the stories of the men who died through letters and newspaper cuttings. My Darling Boy was based on a letter written by a mother to her teenage son who had enlisted under age, hoping he would be spared active duty.
The play begins at the outbreak of WW1 with the pride felt by families that their boys were fighting for the country and the expectation that war would be over by Christmas. My Darling Boy looks to the hopefulness that was shared at the time – that the lives lost would not have been in vain. That this would have been the war to end all wars. It was performed in 2014 and again in 2019 to commemorate the centenary of the war.
Martine says: “Just before the centenary of the start of the First World War, I began to reflect on the words I say at Remembrance services every November – Binyon’s words – ‘At the going down of the sun and in the morning, we will remember them’. It suddenly struck me that we could not remember the thirty-three men listed on our church monument that lost their lives in WW1 because we knew nothing about their stories”.
The play was well-crafted and made a direct connection for anyone who saw it to the people who lived around Fauconberg Rd in south Chiswick, in the very houses, or neighbouring houses of today’s congregation, including members of St Michael’s Players.
If you would like to join St Michael’s Players,the annual membership year runs from 1 January to 31 December. Email Chris Worley to find out more, at Chris.Hulatt@Worley.com or use the contact form on St Michael’s Players website.