The British Players — as the name would suggest — are dedicated to the promotion of traditional British theater in the Washington area. Play selection is therefore centered around popular British playwrights, and the following styles tend to be favored:
Farce and Comedy
For many years, two theaters in Britain have continuously turned out great material for community theaters. At the Whitehall Theater, close to the heart of government, there was a standing company dedicated solely to the production of farces. The farce is broad comedy, with lots of mistaken or concealed identities. In every farce, there are bedrooms, and people are coming in and out of them, always having near misses with those who are trying to find out what they are up to. They always get caught in the end, there is a lot of innocent fun, and things move very fast. Farce looks like broad comedy, but is technically challenging. It is fast and relies on split second timing. For some reason, American authors (with the possible exception of Neil Simon) never really took up the form, and it remains one that is — perhaps surprising to some — shared only by Britain and France. Farce is a common choice for the British Players and always extremely popular. At the other end of England, in the seaside town of Scarborough, lies a theater dedicated to the most prolific of modern British comedy authors, Alan Ayckbourn. The author of more than 50 plays, he is the quintessential observer of British suburban life, and his plays have graced the British Players stage on many occasion. He started life as a stage manager, so producers and directors love him, as he is always at pains to ensure the feasibility of putting on his shows. You only have to look at PBS television to know that Washington audiences love British comedy, tinged as it always is with the touch of pathos, and this is a regular on our play selection.
Drama and Murder
But it can’t all be light and airy, so most years will see a show with a more serious edge. After all, who (apart from Shakespeare!) is a more famous British playwright than Agatha Christie. The Mousetrap is still running in the West End of London after 60 years! So murder mysteries will often be a part of our repertoire. But we do get ambitious from time to time, and go for more serious pieces, like “Getting Married” by George Bernard Shaw, that merciless observer of the foibles of British society.
Not that this is an exhaustive list, The British Players love to sing, so occasionally a musical entertainment will emerge, such as the 1950s musical “Free as Air”. Several shows have been put on to showcase the work of that most English of writers, Noel Coward, more than once in combination with the songs of his American counterpart Cole Porter, as “Cole and Noel”.
Do you have a favorite British Play or genre that you’d like to see on the British Players stage? Let us know and we might just put it on!