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And here we are, July 2020 and still busy hiding from Covid-19. But at least it gives me time to continue fine-tuning the archive. I’ve begun finishing the entries for the earlier shows by compiling specific cast photograph portraits taken from shots of the shows to help visitors identify the actors. It will help with the cast lists. Of course, the main photographs of each show remains a separate thread with each show’s entries and I’m pleased with the result.
Still plenty of shows to process, so keep the faith!
Too much time has passed: last year (2019) was simply too busy for us and we spent very little time working on the archive and adding it to this website. However, things appear to be easing and hopefully there’ll be a steady – if perhaps slow – return to more posiive activity on the site.
For those faithful visitors who return now and again we give our grateful thanks for your patience and hope the new entries will have been worth your wait.
For new visitors, we offer greetings and know you will enjoy exploring this fascinating lost world of the Grange Theatre and its remarkable 40-plus years history.
Update time – mid April and we’ve started to view and abstract stills from some 20 videos of past shows. This is exceptionally time consuming (the video has to be viewed in real time and, when a suitable frame appears, freeze it, take a shapshot, process it via Photoshop and add it to this website in jgeg format under its correct show page. Repeat ad infinitum to end of show!) but will at least provide images from shows for which there are no pre-existing photographs available.
And while this process is in its early stages, an idea struck us: many shows do have photographs of the action and, currently, some have every image captioned whilst others merely tell the viewer “awaiting caption”. This quickly leads to rather boring repetition. By far a better proposal is to add at the beginning of the photo series one further one which contains thumbnails of the cast members – in order of appearance – so that the viewer will recognise that person as the photo show progresses.
So far only Absent Friends has been thus treated and although the appearance of the thumbnails needs fine-tuning, I think it’s fair to say the idea actually works. So; one done, around a hundred to go – and that’s before we really get stuck into the video backlog.
As we often say; please have patience. When the archive is finally completed and this website brought to fruition, the story of the Grange Theatre will be safe for all time.
A delightful interlude, when a friend (Jill Lea) made contact with us. Jill was part of the Grange’s gang back in the day and had professional theatre contacts. Her quite diminutive frame held a particularly dedicated character, and Fred was always quite content to accept whatever work she’d undertaken, without him having to check it afterwards (not always the case with some folk!) They both share(d) the determination to do a job to the best of their ability, and it was a joy when Jill recently made contact.
Even better was her acknowledgement that somewhere in the cellar of her home in France (which she shares with the ever-patient Chris) are a few boxes still containing Little Tew ephemera. A quick search has already turned up two programmes we hadn’t got in the archive! Welcome back, Jill and Chris!
Stephen’s a very patient chap – it’s ‘only’ taken me four months to add the programme and (as a bonus) a newspaper critique for Le Chandelier which he’d found in his home. I believe Graham’s seeing whether he can embed the Pam Ayres recording into our site, but there may be copyright issues to sort out first.
July 2018 and work gently progresses. In fact, now we’ve discovered around 20 ancient VHS tapes, each of which carries one entire performance of a show. Unfortunately the tapes had been stored in a damp room and were absolutely covered in mould; so much so that I couldn’t even wind them by hand, never mind in a VHS player.
In despair I took them to a local computer repair shop whom I’ve used down the years (Quick Fix Computers, Broad Street, Banbury OX16 5BT – 01295 251581 – website at http://www.quickfix-computers.co.uk ) and these marvellous chaps act as agents for a video/film transfer company. I was most impressed, just two weeks later, to receive 21 shiny new DVDs onto which each show had been carefully copied once the wizards had somehow purged the tapes of years of mould etc. As a satisfied customer I can very heartily recommend them.
Of course, now I have the task of watching each one on a computer and trying to get screen shots of suitably interesting moments during each show. It may take a while . . .
Early March 2018 now, and almost all the show photographs from the archive have been identified, scanned, tidied up, resized and uploaded to their relevant entries on our website.
The next task will be to add the names of cast members to each image – a daunting prospect and one which I’m afraid will naturally take quite some time because not only the electronic image needs captioning but each physical photograph in the archive requires the same annotation: sadly there’s no guarantee this website will survive for the same length of time as the archive itself should – once our work is finished, the archive will be lodged with the Oxfordshire Museums’ Resource Service as part of their own local history archive.
However, having the show entries at last populated with supporting photos is in itself a huge step forwards and we ask your patience in the coming months as we continue our task.
January 2018 and pretty well the final part of our story has been added (Dismantling the theatre) although there’s one further article to come regarding coralling (!) some audience members if they’d gone exploring the gardens during a show’s intervals and were late back for Act II.
There’s still a good number of show photos to be identified/sorted/scanned but, as always, we will be most grateful if you’ve got any tucked away that we could copy.
Well, since my previous posting life has dramatically got in the way – as it often does. But now here we are in mid-December and I have more free time to devote to this website.
Back in August Bushy Fade asked (tongue-in-cheek) whether we were busy clearing snow to keep the audience dry? Obviously not a summer occupation but he was referring to one particular moment during a winter show (can’t just recall which one now) when – at the start of the interval – a patron found Fred and, rather meekly, informed him that water was dripping down onto his seat B2 and could anything possibly be done to alleviate the problem?
*sigh* Luckily there wasn’t any complex set-change into Act 2 so ladders were hurriedly brought round and Fred (in full DJ) shinned up and found the roof tile which had slipped enough to allow rain penetration.
Well, it’s a year ago since I posted this news and progress is still on-going now in July 2017. A lot of photos have been scanned but uploading them takes time. The next tranche will cover our final show, The Shell Seekers, and will expand the associated memories attaching to it. Hopefully, this will happen within the next fortnight. Watch this space . . . !
Following on from the Bushy Fade, I’ve remembered an old theatre joke that describe’s Ian’s habit perfectly.
A famous singer agreed to appear at an evening gala concert held in her local village hall in aid of the church fund. She called in during the afternoon and found the caretaker.
“Now,” she said to him, “when I come on-stage I want the lights to dim leaving just one spot tight on my face. As I begin my first number, build the lights to full with mainly straw- and gold-coloured filters predominating.
“At the end of that number, fade to blackout, pause two seconds and then build to full again, this time in cool blue for my sad song. No blackout at end, just a cross-fade into deep golds for my final number.
“Slowly tighen down to that one spot during the song so that within ten bars of the end the stage is entirely dark apart from my face. At the close, go to blackout and immediately up into full light for my bows.”
And the world-weary caretaker replied, “Does that mean you want the light switch up or down?”
He could well have been related to Ian !
Aha! another memory, this time from techie Ian Bushrod. I’ll expand on his valuable contribution to the theatre a little later but I must explain his “Bushy fade” comment.
At the close of every performance, the houselights came on so the audience could see to leave, and some walk-out music would be quietly played and the front-of-house lights left on dim just to dress the main curtains.
Sometimes a few folk would remain seated (to discuss the show and often to avoid the initial crush in the bar and the slow-moving cars leaving the drive).
Once the techies had pretty much put the control room to bed we’d gently fade the sound and lights out in what we hoped was a suitably professional manner. But not if Ian was on the controls they weren’t!
The (in)famous Bushy Fade consisted of simply cutting power to sound and lights, leaving just the auditorium lights up! Subtle, not!
One emotion shared by all the cast on the shows down the years was mild panic at being so very close to the front row of the audience; if standing downstage at the apron the poor saps were less than six feet from the patrons occupying Row A. The very close proximity meant there was nowhere to hide if lines were forgotten, and the costumes and set also had to be produced to a very high quality.
We had problems, too, if a following scene was being set behind the midcloth while the current one was running. The stage shared with the auditorium a very sharp and clear accoustic – good for actors’ voice projection but worrying for any (sometimes) leaden-footed stage crew pussyfooting their way across a dimly-lit upstage area especially if heavy furniture had to be shifted on or off. Not only would it be rather embarrassing for the audience to have heard anguished whispers emenating from seemingly nowhere, but of course such “noises off” could be so distracting for the actors downstage.
(These grandiloquent stage terms make the theatre sound much larger than it in fact was: there will soon be a separate section in this website detailing the, er, bijou area within which such memorable magic as Jackie refers to above was created. As they say, “you really had to be there…”)
Hi Neil! Thanks for finding the time to visit us and share memories. I remember you well, not only for your superb acting (send money soon!) but for your height on-stage relative to others in the cast.
You and a few more tall actors used to give me headaches on lighting as I had to continually fade down & up any lights beneath which you passed to avoid your noble bonce seemingly flashing on and off like a belisha beacon.
That, in turn, would cause problems with unwanted shadows falling onto backcloths, especially those painted to depict country views. If there’s one thing guaranteed to ruin an effect, it’s a distracting shadow on seemingly distant scenes.
I didn’t always just sit idle in the control room guzzling Guinness, you know!