Dramatic pause

Wanstead Players’ 2016 production of Blithe SpiritWanstead Players’ 2016 production of Blithe Spirit

Amateur dramatics company Wanstead Players has relaunched itself as WP Drama, with a new home in South Woodford. Lindsey Sculfor explains the changes ahead of their first post-COVID performance

Wanstead Players is reputed to be the oldest amateur drama group in east London and Essex. After successfully performing at the Kenneth More Theatre in Ilford for 43 years, the company is moving to a new venue at the Redbridge Drama Centre in South Woodford. We have marked this revitalising new venture by rebranding ourselves as WP Drama (not having been based in Wanstead for some time).

Wanstead Players has always been noted for producing high-quality, wide-ranging tragedies, comedies, dramas and musicals by such authors as Wilde, Dickens, Ibsen, Priestley, Shaw, Godber, Shakespeare and Coward. Members of the company have even written their own plays.

Our company includes members from teenagers to senior citizens, many of whom not only act but also provide backstage expertise, and we constantly welcome new members. Some of the company have been encouraged to tread more exalted boards, including Louise Jameson, Tony Robinson, Don Henderson and Ricky Groves, who started his career as Gary in Eastenders. We are now hoping that relocating to a new venue will provide an opportunity not only to broaden our audience but to attract new talent to join us as actors, directors, technical managers and crew.

Loot by Joe Orton was intended to be performed back in March 2020, but with two weeks to go, COVID intervened and we were locked down and out. Instead of giving up, it was merely moved to the back burner, and we are very happy to announce that it will now be our first show as WP Drama in our lovely new venue, a fresh start all round.

During COVID lockdown, members kept in touch by ‘cinema evenings’ organised by the director of Loot, Brian Seaton. People met in the virtual Zoom bar before the show to catch up. YouTube then provided the platform for a screening of a past Wanstead Players production; audiences reconvened in the Zoom bar afterwards to share happy memories or relive disasters. There are always a few of those!

Loot is a black, outrageous and anarchic comedy satirising the mismatch between the way society dictates people should behave in religious and secular situations, and the reality. It takes a shot at the Church, attitudes to death and bereavement and the corruption of the police force. Premiered in 1965, it reflects some of the attitudes of the day which are less acceptable to current audiences, but its themes remain relevant and topical.

We are delighted by the welcome we have received from Redbridge Drama Centre and look forward to exciting times.

WP Drama will perform Loot at Redbridge Drama Centre from Thursday 18 to Saturday 20 November (tickets: £13). Call 020 8708 8803 or visit wpdrama.co.uk