The Purple Theatre Company has attracted the attention of the late, great Corin Redgrave and the booming Brian Blessed, and group members say its shows are the perfect springboard for a life on the stage and screen. Chances are, if you land a role, you might find yourself a spouse as well, writes HANNAH BEWLEY
AFTER an eclectic, erudite and effervescent show during Hillingdon Arts Week in June, the Purple Theatre Company is recreating the magic at the Compass Theatre with Purple Pieces Forsooth! – The Second Act.
The group was formed in 1997 by a keen group of dramatists made up of students and alumni from Brunel University. Its first show was Mort, adapted from the Terry Pratchett novel of the same name.
After great responses and the success of six shows, the Purple Theatre Company opened its doors to people outside the university and went on to produce musicals, comedies, dramas and interactive theatre experiences.
Forsooth, its 41st production which is made up of extracts from Shakespeare and new pieces inspired by his writing, brings together humour, high-art and finely tuned acting and tries to demonstrate the inclusive, open and creative environment which the group operates in.
Chrisa Dickson Leach, 31, who, like many of the members met her husband through the group, explained how the production process works. “Anyone is welcome to pitch an idea, and carry this through and direct it”, she said.
All ideas are presented to the management board which makes the final decision, but it takes a lot of input from the members.
The management accountant, who lives in Chelsea, said there was also a strong social aspect to being part of the group
“There are a lot of ‘Purple couples’, possibly five or six, and there are more and more ‘Purple children’ coming along the whole time.
“I met my husband, Bas, in 2005 while we were doing ’Allo ’Allo, and a few months later we realised we quite liked each other and have now been married two years.”
Mrs Dickson Leach used to be a committee member and treasurer, but now wants to spend more time with her police officer husband.
In Forsooth, she plays the Bard, who acts as a narrator between sketches.
“The real Bard would be turning in his grave if he knew a woman was on stage, let alone playing someone with his name,” she said.
“I have really enjoyed re-reading plays and looking into Shakespeare again. I have realised that so much nowadays is influence by his work. I think it is fantastic.”
The group rehearses in the 2nd Uxbridge Scouts hut in Gatting Way. After finishing grappling with Shakespearean tragedy and rollicking comedy, it will put on Ruddigore, by the witty and wiley Gilbert and Sullivan. No ounce of deception, spooks, heartbreak and songs will be spared by the company which has members aged from 18 to their mid-40s.
Forsooth is supported by the Royal Shakespeare Company in the form of its Open Stages project, which was set up to encourage amateur theatre and strengthen links between smaller theatres and the big names in the profession.
Brian Blessed took over from Corin Redgrave, who died last year, as the company’s patron.
Manveer Sahota, company publicity manager, joined in 2009. He studied business at Queen Mary University, but decided to become a full-time actor. “I would never have done this as a career if it wasn’t for the Purple group,” he said.
“While I was doing a degree in business I completely changed what I wanted to do because of what I learned through the group. It’s not just the confidence it gives you, but there are also professional actors who give a lot of advice.”
It would seem the gamble has paid off, as he recently filmed with Dame Judi Dench.
A huge variety of sketches make up Forsooth part two, ranging from pure Shakespeare with extracts from King Lear and Macbeth, to Face Folio, a Romeo and Juliet-inspired take on Facebook, plus a trip down memory lane, a la Blackadder.
Craig Cameron-Fisher is a professional actor who has just finished filming for the Dark Knight Rises and will appear in the latest Martin Scorsese film, Hugo.
He said: “I joined in 2000 and it really changed my life, and made me want to do it full-time. It really gave me the confidence to do other things.”
l Purple Pieces Forsooth! The Second Act, is at the Compass Theatre in Ickenham on Wednesday, October 19 and Thursday, October 20 at 7.30pm.