AS I SEE IT: The confessions of an amateur thespian

“Kiss Me, Kate” has been running in Clitheroe and this week’s column is about amateur theatre in general.

First, dear readers, a confession: I myself am an amateur thespian. I can’t help it, but there it is. It’s all my wife’s fault.

Until the age of 22, I had been a typical Padiham Thickneck, with interests no wider than my mates, beer, darts, The Clarets, and occasionally girls.

Then on our second date my girlfriend, as she was then, persuaded me to take her to the cinema to watch “Cabaret”, the multi-Oscar winning musical starring Liza Minnelli. I’d always equated musicals with some bloke singing after escaping from the top of a burning haystack or some bint shampooing her hair and singing about it... nothing to do with reality and frankly quite daft.

“Cabaret” changed that. Set in a sleazy Berlin nightclub against the backdrop of the rise of Nazism, it was a moving and often disturbing story, and the exciting sexy musical numbers were where they belonged; right there on a stage, not in the middle of a street or on top of a castle.

Wow, I was hooked! Little did I realise at the time that “Cabaret” has been recognised as the perfect show to entice a non-gay man into musicals. After that, I began to accept musicals as a valid form of entertainment if one was prepared to suspend disbelief and accept the unfeasible plots. I even volunteered to review amateur shows for the evening paper I worked for, at Burnley and Bacup, “Ozzy” and “Tod”, Colne and Calderstones and Clitheroe.

It was still several more years before I plucked up the courage to tread the boards myself, having been press-ganged into the chorus of a 50-year revue at Colne, insisting I wouldn’t wear make-up or do any stupid dances.

Once again, I was hooked, and since then I’ve played umpteen roles in musicals ranging from second-to-last Peer to enter in “Iolanthe” to the title role in “Sweeney Todd”, to Kate’s dad Baptista in “Kiss Me, Kate” at Colne, in which David Hulme, the producer of this week’s Clitheroe show, was song-and-dance man Bill. Which takes us neatly back to where I started these musings.

Amateur theatre is like that. Everybody knows someone else from another society, there’s always gossip, scandal, bouquets and brickbats hurled, the same shows crop up again and again, and a lot of very dedicated people work their socks off to please their audiences. I believe we amateurs and our followers don’t make enough effort to support other societies’ shows.

Myself, I’m feeling quite guilty that it’s years since I last saw a show at Clitheroe. I should go more often. So should everyone. Let’s all go those few extra miles. It would be truly “Wunderbar.”

Eric Beardsworth