WHILST Ilkley Playhouse has been ‘dark’, it hasn’t been quiet and as soon as they could, Ilkley Playhouse members, past and present, have been getting on with some of the jobs that there’s never usually time to do.

With plans very much in hand for the re-opening in December, Cari and Phil Marston have been making sure that the dressing rooms have been given a thorough going over and making sure that they are clean and tidy and ready for actors. At the same time, in a team organised by Chris Cundell, the bar has been redecorated and given a face-lift by members including the tireless working-party member Rosie McPherson and Conal Walsh. Conal spent many months at the Playhouse, working backstage on productions prior to undertaking a degree in Stage Management at Birmingham City University. Since graduating he has entered the hectic world of weekly rep at theatres in Nottingham and Chesterfield, where his career was beginning to take off, prior to Covid 19 putting a stop to most things on stage. However, with a laudable determination, he has chosen to put his enforced period of unemployment to good use by giving back to the theatre that supported him, in the most practical and helpful way possible.

More fantastic work has been going on in the depths of the playhouse cellars. The once cluttered prop stores have been totally cleared out and the often hastily replaced stage furniture has been catalogued, cleaned and re-ordered, making it far easier to find the essential items of set dressing. Stage Manager Julie Domaille and actor Wander Bruijel, took on this mammoth task with Chris Cundell, Artistic Director Jamesine Cundell-Walker and Nic Swan and they are happy to report that it is now possible to find everything needed, from old-fashioned prams and a spinning wheel to the humble chairs - in at least 20 different designs! Anyone who is willing and able to help with any jobs of work, should get in touch with office@Ilkleyplayhouse, where new members are always welcomed.

Fund raising has been a priority and in addition to the much appreciated donations received and the well-supported book stall, operated every other weekend by Jonty Hawkes, members have been finding other ways to support their theatre. Last weekend, Wander Bruijel made a sterling effort and ran his own Half Marathon raising a fantastic £850 (and counting) for the playhouse!

Ensuring that the theatre is Covid- ready for reopening is obviously a priority and with luck, by December the playhouse should be ready to fling wide its doors to let in an audience. Very exciting projects, including the performances of the 8x8x8 playwriting competition winners are scheduled for the festive season. This very popular initiative saw over eighty plays submitted! Eight plays of eight-minutes duration, for eight actors, have now been selected – we were really spoiled for choice! Some of the runners up are being considered for future projects. All being well, these will be performed over two nights in the Wildman theatre.

Also to look forward to is the ‘Yorkshire Nativity’ to be performed by actors from Ilkley Playhouse and accompanied by musicians from the Two Rivers Band. Written to reflect the events of 2020 and also to bring some seasonal sentiment and laughter, this will be an outdoor promenade performance of the Christmas story, brought up to date and made relevant for this most turbulent of times. Using the wonderful backdrop of Ilkley Manor House, in addition to other locations, this will definitely one to catch over the weekend before Christmas – more details to follow. Tickets for events will be limited so be sure to book early.

Do keep checking the Ilkley Playhouse web page and local press for details and look out for our players at the Bandstand – there’s always a chance that something entertaining will appear! And hopefully, at last, we will be able to lighten the darkness and fulfil our true purpose once more.

by Becky Carter