Victory for the Players
By Hanna Lindon
As Balcombe’s Victory Players celebrate their 10th anniversary, we take a look at the group’s history and the secrets behind their success.
Balcombe’s Victory Hall is one of the most inventive war memorials in the UK. The Hall’s walls are covered with exquisitely painted frescoes. Some show the grim reality of life on the front line, others depict the contrast of rural existence during peacetime. As well as featuring in Ian Hislop’s recent BBC TV series Not Forgotten, this haunting backdrop was the driving force behind the creation of Balcombe’s thriving amateur dramatic society, the Victory Players.
Group Secretary Rodney Saunders has lived in the village for most of his life. It often used to occur to him that the Hall would be the perfect setting for the classic musical Oh! What a Lovely War!, so in 2003 he decided to put the idea into practice. “I was talking to a friend who was a very experienced amateur director,” he explains. “I asked him whether he would direct Oh! What a Lovely War! at the Victory Hall if I were to produce it, and he said yes. He suggested involving a musical director who lived in the village, making three of us. We put up a notice saying that we were going to put on this show and it just went from there.”
The Victory Players’ first production premiered at the end of March 2004, almost exactly ten years ago. Not only did the group have the advantage of a member with a garage full of specialist lighting equipment, they also persuaded local Oscar-winning actor, the late Paul Scofield, to record an opening and closing reading. Not surprisingly, the four-day run was a complete sellout. “People came up to me afterwards saying they didn’t know whether to laugh or cry,” says Rodney proudly. “That’s when I knew that it had been a success.”
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