We caught up with Janice Gray, director of our most recent production - "The Lady In The Van" - to find out what she loves about being part of APTG, and the experience of directing a well-known play with such success.
Tell us about the last play you directed for Playgoers
Having not directed for some years, the last being “Ring Round the Moon” for our 60th anniversary, I felt a little rusty and reluctant to direct, but I was so glad I did. I loved it! The whole thing. Alan Bennett’s brilliantly written script, through to the superb cast and a wonderful backstage team. Rehearsals from the word go were fun. The only concerns when setting out on the journey of “The Van” was the van itself but I need not have worried, as I am sure those that saw the production will agree (and can be found on our website). Any group out there wanting to buy a great van?
What is it that you love about directing?
The creative element. Seeing the vision in your head, trying to impart that to the cast and seeing the production over the weeks come alive, along with the additional elements that the cast and backstage team bring, culminating in the overall production. Seeing the enjoyment and pride that the cast have in what they are all doing and finally seeing the enjoyment and applause from the audience, making it all so worthwhile. What is difficult about being a director is the actual production nights when you let go. Your job is done, you become a nervous, but proud member of the audience. It feels a little like a bereavement, but it doesn’t last, as there is always next time!
How long have you been with the group, and why did you join?
I joined Amersham Playgoers Dramatic Society, as it was then called, for their May 1984 production of "They Came To A City" by J.B. Priestley. Having moved into the area and been involved with amateur dramatics since I was 14, I mentioned to one of my new neighbours about finding a group to join. She knew a member of the society and the rest is history.
What’s been the best bit?
Friendships that are formed within the society. People with a common interest coming together to create drama.
And your favourite role to date?
I have been so lucky to have played many great and varied parts: Eliza in "Pygmalion"; Nurse Ratched in "One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest"; Beverley in "Abigail’s Party"; Sylvia in "Stepping Out"; Grandma Mole in "The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole aged 13¾"; The Matron in "Be My Baby"; Maggie in "Outside Edge"; The Woman in "Veronica’s Room"; Doris in "The Cemetery Club", to mention a few! All great, so I don’t have a favourite. They are favourites at the time and each role brings it challenges, enjoyment and memories.
What do you do when you’re not acting/directing?
I’m always busy. I still work part time, attend Pilates twice a week, sit on two committees (including Playgoers), attend a monthly History group, play reading group (outside the society), love to garden, enjoy various crafts, going out for meals, theatre and generally socialising and visiting the grandchildren in Devon.
What's the best thing you’ve seen on the stage in the last year?
Sadly, I have not managed to see many professional theatre productions this year. Just a few at The National which are always great. Recently I enjoyed a showing of "Alligators" at the Hampstead Theatre. I didn’t fully know what I was going to see but thoroughly enjoyed the acting which was brilliant. Staged in an intimate small space, just right for the play and it kept me guessing all the way through, thinking one way and then another right to the very end.
What's it like being on the Playgoers' committee?
Like all committees we are elected to aid the smooth running of the society with best interests of the group in mind and looking forward to the future. Committee members each bring their own thoughts and suggestions and specialisms to the table. The refreshments are always good!