BareBones Theatre Company seeks to fill a cultural gap by touring high quality productions of small cast plays to the village communities of Herefordshire.
Herefordshire is the most sparsely populated county in England. One effect of this thin spread is that the scattered villages tend to form tightly knit communities based around the school, pub, church and village hall. However, a missing element in such communities ifs often the total lack of access to live entertainment.
The widespread availability of films on video/DVD does, to some degree, serve to overcome the lack of local cinemas, but no such substitute exists for theatre. Whilst many of its village communities can boast well-established and equipped village halls, few have any opportunity of seeing live theatrical performance without undertaking long journeys to distant and sometimes expensive theatres. Even well established amateur theatre companies in the more densely populated areas of the county, find it difficult to attract audiences from any but immediately neighbouring villages.
In the beginning
Formed in July 2004 by five amateur theatre enthusiasts, BareBones took up the challenge of touring amateur theatre productions throughout Herefordshire.
Starting out with the bare mimimum of technical equipment, the company sought to attract a following with the quality of it's acting and interpretation and so build a following in a regular touring circuit.
We realised from the outset that this was no easy task. Each of the five founder members invested sufficient money to assemble the basic equipment necessary to take theatrical productions into flat floored village halls around the county. Then, with a large box trailer bought with a 'Community Champions' grant, we set about our task.
Finding an audience
The only way in which we could build a regular and loyal following in the village communities was by word of mouth but first we had to attract audiences in sufficient numbers to spread that word. Wherever we went with our first production, Shirley Valentine, we received an enthusiastic reception. Sometimes however, the audience was so small that there really was nothing on which to build and in a couple of cases we had regretfully to remove those villages from our planned circuit.
Our next production, Steel Magnolias, saw enormously increased support and the beginnings of a genuine following. Whilst this was of course a great source of joy, it brought with it yet another problem. Larger audiences in flat floored village halls mean that those at the back have little chance of seeeing the actors.
Were we now to become an early victim of our own success? Fortunately we managed to secure a lottery grant under the "Awards for All" scheme, which met a major part of the cost of portable staging. We now travel with our stage, a set, full lighting and sound rigs and are able to offer the full theatre experience in any venue capable of housing us and an audience.
Now, after ten years and thirty touring productions, ten festival productions and twenty youth productions, we are active, solvent and enjoying growing support.
But we are not complacent. We know just what a fickle thing theatrical support is, and we'll continue to work hard to retain it.
How we work
This company adheres, in all that it does, to a simple basic principle: "What is possible?". We believe that unless a venture is rooted in practical reality it'll probably end in tears! We've seen too many amateur companies trying to stretch small cast talent to populate large cast plays. So when we select a play for performance we first ask three basic questions:
- Can we cast it? (Not just numerically but with appropriate quality actors)
- Can we stage it? (On a 20' x 16' stage Phantom of the Opera is right out!)
- Will it attract an audience? (We'd do more Pinter, Mamet, etc. but we have to consolidate a following first)
Having selected a play and cast it in an open audition, the piece will normally be rehearsed two or perhaps three times a week, usually for eight or nine weeks. Being a touring group we have no permanent home so rehearsals will usually be held at some members home or, if neccessary, in a hired hall.
Scenery is always kept to a minimum. Travelling with a full box set is really not an attractive proposition. We prefer anyway to rely upon the quality of performance to create the required illusion rather than employing elaborate settings. Why else did we call ourselves BareBones?
Each play is toured to four, five or six separate venues. These are predominantly village halls within Herefordshire. We have found however that adding one purpose built theatre to each tour has given that financial boost which has sometimes subsidised a first venture into a new village hall. Similarly we do occasionally stray outside of Herefordshire and into adjacent counties. All part of the art of the possible!
Each venue typically plays host to a single performances: a Friday or a Saturday evening. So, on the Friday afternoon the BareBones trailer arrives and a volunteer crew spends a couple of hours turning the village hall into a theatre. A stage is erected and curtained, and a set is built. Lighting and sound equipment is erected, cabled and focussed. When audience members start to arrives shortly after seven o'clock they take their places in a totally new environment. A theatre.
After a single performance the whole procedure is reversed and everything goes back into the trailer. The process of striking the whole thing is usually accomplished in about forty minutes with everyone joining in. A thirsty actor will work like a navvy with the prospect of a quick pint before closing time! Then the trailer rolls out of the village to repeat the process somewhere else either on the following day or on the next weekend. It feels a bit like circus. Theatre in a box!
Meet the team
Whilst initially the company was managed by it's five founder members, it now has a committee of eight. Together they undertake all of those tasks, and make all of those decisions, which constitute management of a very active touring theatre company.
Dave is the Company Chairman and Treasurer. After more than 50 years of continuous involvement with amateur theatre he is as enthusiastic as ever. As an actor he has played leading roles in around two hundred productions for amateur companies in Kent, Berkshire and Herefordshire. Now primarily a Director, he finds that BareBones occupies the vast majority of his time.
The twin passions in Howard's life are amateur theatre and Cardiff City football club. As tour manager he is kept busy with the many tasks associated with venue bookings and taking to the road. He brings a wealth of experience in acting and posesses administrative and organisational skills that are invaluable to the company. He is also the quickest study in the group by a long, long way. He can learn a play whilst the rest of us are sharpening our pencils!
Margaret, one of the five founder members, brings a wealth of theatre experience to the company having been an enthusiastic and active amateur actress for over fifty years. Always a willing all rounder, even when not cast she will always be totally immersed in a production. She is currently the company Secretary.
'Dickie', another founder member, established and managed a youth theatre for The Phoenix Theatre in Ross-on-Wye. When BareBones was born we had no intention initially of running a youth theatre, but such is the man's appeal that, in real Pied Piper fashion, most of his old membership followed him so we had no choice but to start Bare Bones Youth. Dickie is our Stage Manager with responsibility for the 'getin' and 'getout'.
Jeanette has been with Bare Bones virtually from the outset. She brings a wealth of acting experience and ability and has shown her versatility in a great diversity of roles. Another of those ladies who, if not cast, is always willing to support a production in whatever way required.
Gordon is a man with a wealth of experience to add to his considerable acting skills. His willingness to take on any production task from leading man to teamaker is testament to a lifelong and enduring passion for things theatrical. As long as there are still 'Gordons' in amateur theatre, their undying enthusiasm will ensure it's survival in the face of television, DVDs, the internet and any other form of mass media.
Stella is one of those wonderful people without whom any group struggles. When it comes to costumes or props she's unbeatable. Playwrights seem to delight in demanding the unusual but Stella remains unphased by even the most bizarre items. Bare Bones counts itself lucky to secure such a 'stellar' performer.
We welcome enquiries from anyone interested in joining the BareBones Theatre Company.
- We look for total commitment to the company and it’s productions once any project schedule has been developed and accepted.
- You will be encouraged to "muck in" and help in the many tasks associated with presenting and touring a high quality theatrical production.
- We rehearse 2/3 times a week.
We don't insist on enormous experience or expertise in any of the many disciplines and skills that the art of theatre encompasses. We do look for enthusiasm, a sense of fun, a willingness to learn and develop, and the desire to be part of a harmonious creative team.
If you would like to be involved with this small friendly group or would like more information please contact us.