The group known as the Clumber Players was originally conceived in late 1979 as a result of the desire of members of local dramatic societies to undertake the challenge of a Shakespearean production.
During the summer of 1979, individuals from one of the interested groups were involved with the authorities in Clumber Park to negotiate permission for a sponsored walk and mummers play. In the course of discussions, the Walled Gardens were offered as a suitable venue for a performance. This secluded area with potential for being isolated was not what was wanted for the mummers play but opened up wonderful scope for a Shakespearean play. It would offer not only a ‘neutral’ venue but one with a difference, a perfect open air setting in beautiful Clumber Park.
With some excitement, the individuals reported back to local groups. The participants at that stage were the Lindrick Players, the Portland Players (now alas no more), and the then Worksop Dramatic Society (now the Dukeries Theatre Group). Members of all the groups met and, following an excited meeting, agreed to stage a performance of William Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night in the Walled Gardens in July 1980.
Problems such as staging were quickly overcome thanks to the kindness of local firms in loaning pallets, and the rehearsals were soon underway. The memories of past rivalries between groups were forgotten in the excitement of the joint venture, and enthusiasm and determination enabled the Clumber Players to overcome the myriad problems of staging such an event, a new experience for everyone.
The performance was very well received and the Clumber Players, fired by their success, decided that they wanted to repeat the experience. However, memories of lugging pallets did not rank among their favourite: wouldn’t it be better if there were a permanent stage?
Long weeks of negotiations with the authorities of the National Trust (and Clumber Park in particular) ensued. In those days, Clumber Park did not stage the welter of events that take place today, and they were ready to welcome the group. After much discussion and stipulations about the design, materials, etc, a site on the west wall of the Old Turning Yard was selected and the Clumber Players set to work.
From the summer of 1981 onwards, groups could be seen assiduously labouring, raising money and chatting up local firms for materials, and in June 1982 the work was completed. It was with great pride that the Clumber Players donated the results of their labours to the National Trust.
And so to the first production on the new stage, William Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, in what proved to be the wettest week of the year! Oh! How it rained! But the wonderful thing was the faithful audiences – they came and enjoyed the play and helped the Clumber Players establish a tradition; despite what the elements throw at them, if there’s an audience, be it of only one, the play goes ahead.
Since then the reputation of the Clumber Players has grown. Although mainly devoted to the works of William Shakespeare, from time to time the Clumber Players branch out into productions of other classics.
The actors you see on stage come from all over the area and relish the challenges of outdoor productions. However, all their efforts would be futile were it not for you, our faithful audience.
And so, in the words of Feste in Twelfth Night, we will ‘strive to please you everyday’.