RATHER than surrender to gloom and despondency, they came out fighting at Northumberland Theatre Company (NTC) after learning in March that they will lose their regular Arts Council funding from 2012.
Moral support came from far and wide and the company vowed to continue to serve its village hall audiences across the country.
This they will be doing from September 2 with a revival of writer Stewart Howson’s sparkling adaptation of Tartuffe, last seen about nine years ago.
The play, by French playwright Molière, was premiered in 1664 and promptly banned by Louis XIV. Tartuffe is a fraud and a scallywag, but a plausible one. The king feared his less bright subjects might not get it.
NTC reckon everyone will get it. Director Gillian Hambleton says: “It’s full of bawdy humour which is very Carry On. The writing is very funny anyway but Stewart’s adaptation is wonderful and full of current references.”
In the title role is Middlesbrough-born actor Louis Roberts who has been having a ball during rehearsals in Alnwick.
“It’s a really nice cast and we’ve all worked together before so we all get on well and know how each other works,” he enthuses.
“That helps when you’ve got a show as complicated as this. There are a lot of different elements to it and it’s very physical and energetic. It’s also in rhyme as well so there’s very little room for ad libbing.”
The players all carry masks on sticks but not to help them create a character, explains Louis. Rather, as each character speaks, he or she drops the mask - much like a spotlight falling on each speaker.
“It is very much in the style of the Carry On films with lots of storylines coming together in the last few scenes,” says Louis.
“There’s one particular scene that includes a very famous comic set piece. Let’s just say the table scene was very interesting to rehearse.”
Louis, a 27-year-old master of understatement, says he had never thought of becoming an actor. There was none of it in the family. His mum’s a florist and his dad a courier for Grattan.
“It was a kind of accident. I did drama for AS level, somebody saw me in the drama exam and asked if I wanted to be in a theatre-in-education show at the Arc in Stockton.”
He then got a place on the InterACT training course run by NTC which organises on-the-job training for young people interested in a career in the professional theatre.