Skip to main content
A Magazine for

Summerseat Players Theatre Company Local Theatre for Local (and Non-Local) People

We discuss the Ramsbottom-based theatre company's past, present and future, from sports changing rooms to an exciting 2022 programme.

Let’s get this straight from the start – or the heart, whichever suits you: this interview with Stephen Davies from Summerseat Players Theatre Company is about small provincial theatre coping in lockdown and moving forward.

Local means the local people – be they people or…people – so don’t get this wrong #ActLocal. If you don’t get the reference or pathetic attempt at humour, stop now or read on. I’ll still be dining on out-of-date food, whatever happens.

The conversation starts with chat about difficulties in organising the interview, through no fault, and Stephen sets us in motion:

“So my role, along with a colleague, is production, in selecting the plays to be performed, casting, rehearsals, et cetera. The basic artistic output of the theatre.”

That’s, err… some job, Stephen?

“Yep, this is my sixth season, excluding one pandemic year.”

Strong, staunch theatre work, Stephen. Why? How? Wherefore, Stephen?

“Well, I trained in sound design at uni and did a bit of acting, so through that acting and that experience it led to me getting involved with local theatre, and moving up steps, so to speak.”

Step on, Stephen. Step on.

“So, with local amateur theatre, what I’ve found is striking that balance between amateur performance – remember, no one is being paid – and providing good performances.”

Believe me, this theatre has a good reputation, so standards are important – amateur or no – and as with maybe a top football club, standards drop, then heads will roll; obviously in a dramatic cardboard way, with red paint.

Ramsbottom is a creative place and Summerseat is but a cardboard-bloodied head roll away; the perfect place for local creativity.

Expand, Stephen...

“A wonderfully creative community, with Rammy music festival, our theatre group…”

It is a wonderful place.

My old weed-smoking, magic mushroom-foraging ground. Smokin’ chimney paper mills and railway lines? Tears and fears.

The set for Hobson's Choice at Ramsbottom Theatre

The set for Hobson's Choice at Ramsbottom Theatre

Image via Summerseat Players

1967/68: the beginning. What a time for theatre! I was four years old and Stephen wasn’t, and the Summerseat theatre had a tin roof and was great for a production of King Lear with the hail and wind cracking, but not much else. The changing rooms were awash with football socks.

“Stories from the old days of taking out nails from the set and straightening them for reuse.”

Yep, done that – not theatrically, but to build my shed. This is what Art entails, by the way.

“So from this and the help of benefactors we have a wonderful facility, with an upstairs in the round facility”

I have to interject here – it’s only got an upstairs in the round facility and a main stage. Incredible. Just go there if you want to be involved in theatre; no excuses, you’ll be welcome.

So just imagine that, if you get cast, you have six weeks to rehearse on the stage you’ll perform on? Do it.

“High on our agenda has always been youth development [nice one, Stephen], so to that point, at least once a year we give over a production to the youngsters to direct and produce something of their own; otherwise, how will they progress?”

Look upon this example and bow wow wow.

“Yeah, we’ve had a great 50 years, as the chairman said, but let’s have another.” I presume he means another 50 years and not another light ale.

Forza Summerseat! If it’s in you, it’s gotta come out. The words of theatre; cos words are theatre.

Inspirations? Local theatre person made good?

“Ralf Little came through here before The Royle Family bow down. Kate O’Flynn, and others, have gone onto have good careers.”

Yep, I heard some names… show offs, show offs; there’s enough show offs (and thank jah for that). “But we do try to teach the younger actors that it’s a tough world to succeed in and there are more actors than roles to fill.”

Like too much cargo and not enough HGV drivers, eh?

Ladies and Gentlemen, there will now be a short interlude whilst Stephen and I discuss our own personal favourites and dislikes, remakes, sequels, and prequels. Hmm, good title for a film – jot that down, Brian. Refreshments are available from the kiosk in the foyer, thank you.

LOCKDOWN!

What happened, Stephen? (I don’t mean ‘How did you cause it?’ Far from me to blame you personally for the global pandemic, but who knows?) What happened at the theatre?

Flyer for The Railway Children performed by Summerseat Players at Ramsbottom Theatre

Flyer for The Railway Children performed by Summerseat Players at Ramsbottom Theatre

Image via Summerseat Players

“We were mid-production and in full flow mode, so we had to cancel the production amidst huge disappointment, just stunned. And months went by with nothing we could do. Further months went by, and we decided to do a monologue project.”

Great stuff, Stephen. Locked down, not beaten down. “So we launched a writing competition for said monologues and had 400 entries. So we filmed the winning entries and have been showing them to great acclaim.”

Now, I’m not going to review their production of The Railway Children as played by adults – not my job – but I get the feeling talking to Stephen that it was at least a different take, which is what it should be, let’s face it?

Flyer for the Summerseat Players production of George Orwell's 1984 at Ramsbottom Theatre

Flyer for the Summerseat Players production of George Orwell's 1984 at Ramsbottom Theatre

Image via Summerseat Players

In my chaotic world, shit just happens, so Stephen enlightens me as far as production schedules work. “So the first scheduled play is always a gentle comedy and as we move into November we try to involve a younger children and family-friendly production. In January, what could be better than a spiritually uplifting farce? In the spring, we do the serious stuff and into summer something lighter.”

Sounds like a well-oiled machine, and the chairman sounds like he’s well oiled!

So… next up? “1984” Ooh! Now we’re talking apt, if that is such a thing?

“We picked that play before the pandemic hit, so it wasn’t planned.”

Ain’t pandemics a bitch, eh?

“Yes, in a normal season we would have 900 patrons buying a season ticket, which is the lifeblood of the theatre, so [these are] difficult, difficult times.”

Keep on keeping on, Summerseat players, ‘cause players gotta play.

More Stage

American Utopia

The Broadway show version of David Byrne’s album, filmed by Spike Lee, is a confident, thought-provoking, political answer to Talking Heads’ much-lauded Stop Making Sense concert film.

Naomi Sumner Chan Adopted Voices

Naomi answered our questions on the writing and research process for her latest production Same Same Different and the complex themes that emerge from adoption.

Strife in a Northern Town

With a cast whose credits include Coronation Street (writer and co-producer, Jennifer Banks) and Victoria Wood’s That Day We Sang (co-star,…

More Stage