These days Funtington Players is locally renowned as a dramatic society that regularly and reliably produces amateur theatre of the highest standard. But where did it all start?
Our earliest documented production was a 1946 programme for a pantomime, Mother Goose, attributed to St Mary’s Youth Fellowship and Funtington Scouts. Not quite the Funtington Players as yet, but significantly it featured some of the stalwarts whose names would be synonymous with the Players throughout their earliest days, including the Reverend Norman Dunlop, newly returned from five years in a prisoner of war camp.
The name “The Funtington Players” was first published in 1949, for a production of Wasn’t it Odd by Kenneth Horne.
For several years the FPs produced a steady stream of three act plays, and evenings of a variety of one act plays. Attendances were good, and the productions proved popular with audiences, who paid between 1s 6d (7½p) and 3s 6d (17½p) for their tickets. A proposal to increase the number of 3s 6d tickets “by making a Dress Circle by raising chairs on builders’ planks” was set aside. It was implemented thirty years later (in a much safer form!) when our fully raked auditorium seating was developed.
Such was the popularity of the productions that, in 1963, the possibility of extending the presentations to three nights was discussed, although the consensus was that “two fairly full houses would be better”. Despite these successes, however, it often proved difficult to find sufficient actors to cast the productions.
At the 1964 AGM it was announced that the Women’s Institute Hall would be closed down indefinitely because of concerns over its safety. Despite having no home, The Funtington Players soldiered on. The indefatigable Enid Dunlop devised and produced a succession of Passion and Nativity Plays, which were performed at St Mary’s Church. In 1966 the Christmas play featured an extra cast member, Amos the donkey, a much loved local inhabitant!
Finally, after much fund raising and a Government grant, enough money had been raised to repair the hall and transfer the ownership to a Village trust. In October 1970 the Players were once again back at the hall with a presentation of The Black Sheep of the Family by L. du Garde Peach and Ian Hay. So successful was the play that, along with an increase in the annual subscription to five shillings, the year-end balance of the club soared to £72. The Funtington Players revival, and the modern phase of the society, had begun.
The 1975 production of Anastasia, directed by Henry Parkinson, set the standard for future presentations. The final ballroom scene was a galaxy of red, white and black costumes set against red velvet and gold furniture. The acting of Pam Parkinson and Enid Dunlop (in her farewell performance) were widely acclaimed.
The following year marked another first, when the Players broke away from the proscenium arch and performed The Heiress in the body of the hall, surrounded by the audience. 1976 also saw the first attempt at two shows in a year, a tradition that continues to the present day.
Ambitious sets were always a Funtington Players feature as shown above from 1957.
Pam Parkinson, Macro Wilson and
Edith Dunlop in Anastasia 1975
Funtington Players - History
Robert Horton, Holly Shakespeare, Sybil Grindrod, Noel Edwards, Anna Mallam,Pam Parkinson, Muriel Carnegie in Victoriana 1983