The History of Javea Players
Most successful organisations have very modest beginnings. So often, too, one finds that it is the initiative and drive of one individual that was responsible for getting things started. In the case of this Society it was Janet Phillips. Sadly, she died tragically before the first production was staged. Janet Phillips gathered together a small group of like-minded people way back in 1976, and that is where this ‘history’ commences.
The first play chosen by the group was ‘Murder by Request’, and it is a mark of their enthusiasm and dedication that within that first year they managed to perform three plays. The difficulties they faced do not leave much to the imagination. It was only a year after the end of the Franco regime and bureaucracy was still a factor to be taken into account. They managed to get permission to use the old ‘Casa de la Falange’, later renamed ‘Casa de Cultura’, which has now been pulled down and replaced by a new building also called the ‘Casa de Cultura’. The ‘Casa de la Falange’ was he local headquarters of the followers of Franco and was more suited to political meetings and military salutes etc., from the ancient balconies. But it was a start. There are many stories about that time; for instance, to obtain enough electricity for the minimum required for stage lighting they had to tap into the street light outside! Also, as the ‘Casa de la Falange’ was situated at the top of the Calle Mayor in the Pueblo, it was not unknown for a band to march past with individual musicians trying to outdo other for decibel prominence! Meantime all action on the stage had to cease until they had marched past. But all good things come to an end and eventually the Ayuntamiento decided that the old building was becoming too dangerous for further use. Javea Players had to find another home.
Panic! With a play well into rehearsals and little notice to find another venue fortune smiled on the Society in the form of Sr. Cevera Pastor, the then Alcalde of Benitachell, who allowed us to use the old cinema. It was dusty and tatty but suddenly, from a tiny proscenium-arch stage we now had a large stage and, by moving the seats in the auditorium the facility to perform semi or full arena. From the large ‘dressing room!’ under the stage we could organize our ‘props’ etc more efficiently although as the actors moved on the stage above we were showered with dust from the woodworm ridden joists. Toilet facilities though adequate were rather primitive by today’s standards and the Ladies toilet was by the side of the stage. Well, beggars couldn’t be choosers! Full advantage was taken of the space we now had in our first production at Benitachell, ‘Oh what a Lovely War’. This was our first attempt at a play with music and a section of the membership were not in favour of this development. However despite this opposition, the Society continued to include Musicals in the selection of plays, and ‘Toad of Toad Hall’ was also performed at Benitachell, another a great success. A further big advantage in using the old cinema was that we had ample time to build our sets there. However, although Sr, Cevera had kindly let us use the premises, legally it should not have been used, and once again Javea Players were without a theatre!
Our first attempt at Shakespeare! ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ was performed at – of all places – the Moli Blanc disco Winter room. It was quite a challenge, as within half an hour of the final curtain we had to erase all evidence of our presence before the clients arrived for the Disco! With a large cast there were plenty of willing hands and what seemed impossible was achieved every night of the performances. It was great experience acting in the round, but unfortunately we could only accommodate an audience of one hundred each night. However obviously Sr.Guillermo did not find that our presence generated enough revenue so this was our one and only excursion into using the disco as a theatre.
By this time the members could be excused for beginning to think they were doomed to becoming a group of strolling players. Then we heard that the Union Musical de Gata had a theatre. However, after the Cinema and Disco, the move to the Union Musical theatre could be described as ‘from the sublime to the ridiculous’. Understandably, it had been designed by Union Musical as a concert hall with no thought for using it for plays. But one thing our members have never lacked is ingenuity, and this was stretched to the limit at Gata. There were no wings, and the only access down below to the dressing room was down a metal staircase in the corner stage left. The set had to be free standing, and an ‘A’ frame had to be manufactured, supported either side by structures standing on the stage. Also the electricity supply was inadequate. However the Union Musical people were very cooperative and a three-phase supply was installed. Despite the limitations we have staged many ambitious productions at Gata, with much success.
Over the years we have also performed outside during the Summer, at the Ojo de Buey (now defunct), and the Inn on the Green. These outside performances have proved to be very popular.
This was an important year for the Players. For so long we had been going from one place to another for rehearsals, keeping our wardrobe in a garage, our flats etc in another place and lighting equipment elsewhere. Eventually we rented the Oasis for rehearsals, but the whole arrangement was unsatisfactory and costly. The Committee at that time under the Chairmanship of Tony Cabban decided to recommend the purchase of a property in which we could rehearse and keep all our costumes and equipment in the one place. It was a bold step, but by loans from members and a loan from the Bank sufficient money was raised to buy a premises in the Thiviers district of Javea. Initial doubts by some members as to the wisdom of doing this proved to be unfounded and the purchase of our premises has been an outstanding success. Much of the work needed to turn the premises into the Studio Theatre as it is now is was undertaken by the members. With the acquisition of the Studio we were able to stage plays suited for a bijou theatre as well as using it for social events. Also we now had somewhere to build sets for our productions.
SOCIAL AND OTHER EVENTS.
From the beginning this side of the Society has been important and have increased now that we have our own premises. For many years we were active in the San Juan Fiestas and were accorded the privilege of leading the Fiesta procession. However, the expenses incurred as a result of moving from the Casa de la Falange to Benitachell then to the Moli Blanc and to Gata strained the resources to such extent that money was not available for building a Float etc for the fiestas, and we ceased to be involved in this. We were involved in the International Festival since that event began until 1999. Many other, purely social, events were organised during the year, such as a visit to the Go-karts, and also various events in the Studio. There was an annual dinner, and after-show dinners. Altogether, with five productions each year and several social events organised, Javea Players became a vibrant and very active Society.
We rented The Shed in Gata to store all Flats, Costumes, Lighting and Sound equipment and to provide space to build sets. As a result of the freed up space in the Studio we were able to install a new kitchen. The chairs that had been donated by Blevins Franks in 2007 were replaced.
Javea Players persuaded the Union Musical to install new seating,lights and generally refurbish the theatre. A number of JPs helped install the new seating.
We also held the Summer Show in Javea Old Town for the first time , with dinner outside Bar Imperial followed by a production in the Casa de Cultura. It proved very popular.
We invited a professional actor to perform for the first time. Tim Hardy performed The Trials of Galileo and it was a huge success.
We rented additional storage space in Gata, which we named “The ClothesProp” to house all our Costumes and Props. As a result The Shed was reorganised to make working there more comfortable and efficient.