The Priory Players are a friendly group, open to anybody interested in amateur dramatics. Membership of the Company is £30 for those in full time employment and £15 for students, OAP's and those not in full time employment.
All our members ‘muck in’ to do all the jobs involved in putting on plays – from acting on the stage, helping out behind the scenes, set-building, painting, running the box-office to operating the stage lighting during the shows, whatever aspect of theatre you are interested in, we can offer you the opportunity to try your hand.
We meet every Tuesday at the Progress Hall from 8.00pm to 10.00pm and anybody who is interested in coming along one evening to see what we get up to is most welcome.
We put on three productions a year in June, October and our pantomime in January. Most of our pantomimes differ from the traditional pantos that other bigger theatres produce but still with a fairytale theme and lots of opportunity for audience participation (voluntary of course!).
We try to appeal to the widest age range and the emphasis is always on fun and laughter.
For our other two productions we try to find plays which challenge both the audience and cast, these may be straight or comedy but tend towards contemporary drama.
Check out the forthcoming productions page to see what we are rehearsing at the moment.
The hall is situated just off Well Hall Road, Eltham SE9 1SL and is a 5 minute walk from Eltham train station, various bus routes also stop nearby. If you are coming by car there is ample parking outside the hall or in the surrounding roads.
To see a larger scale map, including the surrounding area, click on the map image.
The history of The Priory Players
Trying to write a ‘potted history’ of The Priory Players is like trying to make a dish of potted whale. There is just so much good, rich, meaty stuff that it’s difficult to know what to put in and what to leave out.
Well, the beginning was 12 May, 1965 in the library of Christchurch Priory at the top of Eltham High Street. And it is from the Priory that the Company takes the name that it still retains.
We then ‘hovered’ between that library, the almost derelict Scout Hut next door and – once it was built – St. Thomas More Secondary School in Footscray Road.
Our existence was a bit haphazard and nomadic for a while but when a Parish Centre was built on the site of the old Scout Hut, it became our ‘Home’ for over forty years until ‘circumstances’ forced us to search for alternative accommodation. Which we now have, here, in the Progress Hall, thanks to the generosity and encouragement of the Hall Authorities.
During our years at Christchurch Centre we had many successes and presented as wide a range of theatrical productions as any Amateur Theatre Company in South East London.
Our very first Production was that wonderful old ‘pot boiler’ “The Happiest Days of your Life” – the school farce that became a classic Film with the wonderful Alistair Sim and Margaret Rutherford heading the cast.
Soon after that we presented our first ‘Home Groan’, Pantomime, written by Founding Director, Terence Cooling and entitled “Pantomania” or “King Arthur’s Peril”. With a cast of about fifty, encompassing all ages (as we still do), it was a happy success and led us into doing another Cooling Pantomime, “The Prince of the Northlands”, the following year – which the Eltham Times called “A Spanking Good, Four Gold Medal Show” – and we’ve been following that successful Yuletide tradition ever since.
But Pantos are only one aspect of our programmes. We have done straight plays like Jean Anhouil’s “Becket”, “Our Town” by Thornton Wilder, and “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” by William Shakespeare, not to mention the intense wartime drama “The Long and the Short and the Tall” by Willis Hall – set in a derelict hut in the Malayan Jungle.
There have been lighter shows, too. “Arsenic and Old Lace” was a popular winner and had Writer, Director and Actor Peter Howitt – who is still our president – in the cast. We are proud to have him as a member and also that – among other things – he went on to star as Joey Boswell in the hugely popular BBCtv Sitcom, “Bread”. More recently he wrote and directed the movie “Johnny English” with Rowan Atkinson.
Peter was in other shows and Pantomimes but he was also involved in what has probably been one of our most spectacular shows to date. Written by Terence Cooling and with music by Barry Hart, “The Phoenix of Rouen”, based on the story of Joan of Arc, had a cast of over fifty actors – with added choristers, bell-ringers and a full orchestra and classical organist. The climax to the first act was the coronation of the Dauphin as King Charles VII of France in Rheims Cathedral. Directed by the late Reg Deadman, “…it left the audiences clapping enthusiastically and tingling with excitement” – Kentish Times.
In addition to other Musical Shows and Theatre Works we have staged a whole variety of Revues, Youth Theatre Productions and Experimental Dramas. More recently we presented Robert Bolt’s “A Man for All Seasons”, the Alan Ayckbourn, “Norman Conquests” trilogy and other plays in his canon not to mention some very finely directed productions of Arthur Miller’s plays – including “Death of a Salesman”,”A View from the Bridge” and the spine tingling “The Crucible” – set during the infamous Salem Witch Trials.
Obviously, the ‘pot’ is far too small to provide anything but a ‘taster’ of who we are and what we are about. So, don’t just take our word for it – come and join us on any Tuesday evening at 8pm in our new home – and help us continue to make real Theatrical “Progress”. You will be very welcome.
Terence Cooling, Founder member