4. This Small-Town Repertory Theatre
(with an overly ambitious company director)
This stunning art-deco theatre was custom-made for the people of Levander Point, Merseyside in 1954. Paid for and overseen by the reclusive and eccentric patron of the arts (a circuitous term here meaning rich person) Benedict Bertolcht. This was all the more surprising because the local theatre group, the Levander Players were little more than a pantomime troupe. It was a bit incongruous to compare the group to the theatre that bore its name (a lavish building that would never have me as a resident). That is until Benedict’s son, Briar Bertolcht, came back to town drama degree in hand.
Bertolcht Jnr had always thought the town’s thespian ambitions should match the dazzling refinement of the Levander Repertory Theatre. He immediately named himself company director and set to scheduling a more aspirational programme, one that will here forth be presented with a series of case studies:
In May 1978, Phoebe Mainer, who worked the desk at the local hotel, slipped in a matinee performance of Ionesco‘s Rhinoceros during her lunch break each day. This is in addition to her pounding the creaky stage floor as Elmire in Tartuffe each night of the week. Furthermore, she would learn her lines in three languages; English, the original French and, for one night a week, Welsh. Catering to patrons from the nearby country. “That was lush, that was!” the Welsh tourists would regularly exclaim upon leaving the theatre.
David Humlon, founding member of the Levender Players, knew that it was difficult to get the numbers to perform any works with large cast lists. As a result, in the pantomime days of the troupe they would rarely stage plays with large character lists. Ever since Briar, the beret-wearing maniac, joined there is no limit to what they will put on. One Shakespeare Sunday David played both Othello and Iago… talk about a schizophrenic adaptation.
On top of the never-ending works of great writers, Bertolcht has also written a number of shows for the company too. None of which really set the stage alight… well except for his musical rendition of Firestarter… just not in the way he’s hoped.
A lot of the volunteer performers put in long hours. I mean, just take a look at Alison Petterbright’s timetable for the 1984 Spring Season and take in the full spectacle:
Because of these extensive hours, the company director eventually conceded that the performers could spend the night in the unused projection booth. On occasions where they were too tired to go home, they’d nestle into hammocks and switch on the old projector, it’s soothing buzz sending them quickly off to sleep.
I believe that if I’d mosey on over to Merseyside, Briar Bertolcht would probably allow me to live in this amazing building. There’s always room in the projection booth. In exchange though, I’m sure he’d expect a good number of performances from me each week and that is a concession my mind… and my body are not yet willing to make.
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