In the great scheme of things, Martins Bank’s Manchester Players do not feature much at all when copared to the volume of output from the Bank’s other amateurs. It seems that they were encouraged by the Argosy Players in Liverpool, to stage at least two performances for the benefit of like-minded staff gathered at the little theatre in the basement at Head Offic. We have the available coverage of these two performances below, and even though the Manchester Players appear to be the supporting act to their Liverpool counterparts, there is fulsome praise for their efforts. The somewhat awkwardly titled “Antic Alibi” (1951) is a drama which amongst other things includes a lady of “questionable character” who is presented well by Manchester Staff Member Glenys Jones. (We do hope that this refers to her acting ability, and not to some trait of poor Glenys herself!) The equally intriguing “Inquest on Monday” (1954) is also performed in front of not only the top brass of Head Office, but also a large representation of the management of the whole district – so no pressure there, then. Martins Bank Magazine appraises these performances below…
Manchester Players in: Antic Alibi by Jack Walsh
Staged: 16/11/1951 at the Little Theatre, Head Office Liverpool
It was very pleasant indeed to welcome the Manchester Players to Liverpool on November 16th when, in conjunction with the Argosy Players two one-act plays were presented in the little theatre at Head Office. The occasion was the first of its kind, and received recognition in the presence of Mr. and Mrs. Verity, Mrs. Conacher, Mr. and Mrs. Tarn, Mr. Banks, Mr. Price, Mr. and Mrs. Carter, Mr. and Mrs. Whiteley, and a very strong representation of members of the management and staff of the Liverpool district. The theatre was packed. The choice of the Manchester Players fell on “Antic Alibi”, a drama by Jack Walsh. Comparisons on an occasion such as this are inevitable but it can fairly be said, without any attempt whatever to sit on the fence, that there wasn't much to choose between the two performances and both companies put on well-acted and enjoyable shows.
Left to right: Edna Holden, William Keil, Glenys Jones and Joan Middleton
The Manchester Players did not need any prompting, however! The Manchester actors had obviously been on the stage before and Glenys Jones's presentation of the lady of questionable character was extremely good and brought her well-merited applause. Joan Middleton as Lady Stamming and William Keil as her solicitor had that ever-present difficulty of working up a rapid state of suspense within the time limit of one act. They managed excellently until the departure of Glenys Jones. After that we thought that they experienced some difficulty in maintaining it, though from an acting point of view the scope is there. The difficult part where the solicitor strikes his client and the subsequent situation seemed to lack fire. Nevertheless, these two actors carried the play and held their audience, it was just that slight unevenness which struck us. The part of the maid was taken by Edna Holden, who had much more of a part than is usually allotted to a maid. She did it with dignity and poise, and that artificial subservience which is so often seen on the amateur stage in this role, was, happily, lacking. It was a very enjoyable little play and the Manchester Players can feel proud of it.
Manchester Players in: Inquest on Monday by Mark Pearson
Staged: 29/10/1954 at the Little Theatre, Head Office Liverpool
Under the auspices of the Society, the Manchester Players and the Argosy Players entertained members in the basement theatre at Head Office on October 29th. Among those present we were pleased to see Mr. and Mrs. Verity and Mr. and Mrs. Maxwell. Mr. R. H. Price, Chairman of the Society, opened the proceedings by welcoming the Manchester Players whose show was put on first, and at the conclusion of the evening Mr. J. L. Shenton thanked the Society on behalf of Manchester for the evening's hospitality. There was a long interval between the two plays, due in part to a complicated change of scenery, but no one minded as the refreshments provided were the excuse for turning the evening into a very pleasant social occasion. With regard to the performances themselves, both plays suffered from under rehearsal and there was some prompting—one very bad spell indeed with the Argosy Players.
Colin Shuttleworth, Beryl Brown, Peter Hargreaves, Harry Turton (seated) and Bowden Black.
The advantages of working together regularly as a team were obvious in the smoother and more harmonious blending of personalities in the Argosy performance and the dramatic piece, they chose lent itself to a close-knit performance. Manchester chose a much more difficult play to stage. Inquest on Monday by Mark Pearson, with seven principal characters, no more than two being on the stage at the same time, one of the two being on throughout. The choice of play, which contained frequent digs and pokes at bank clerks and the banking profession caused hilarity out of proportion to the intentions of the playwright who probably never visualised his play being performed before an exclusively bank audience. This made the task of the players much more difficult and they are to be complimented on getting away with it as well as they did. The action takes place near a park bench on which is seated an old gentleman. Various people join him and then move on and each is concerned with an incident which took place at the spot a few nights previously. The old gentleman was excellently portrayed by Harry Turton. Beryl Brown as the young wife was also excellent, quite the best of the other principals and we understand that she is the holder of awards for dramatic art. The part of her husband was played by Peter Hargreaves—quite a good performance. The American, played by Colin Shuttleworth, rather fell down on his accent but was otherwise good. The policeman, played by Bowden Black, was a bit “ stagey,” partly owing to a uniform which was on the large side, but the portrayal was quite adequate. The walking-on parts caused much amusement. A city gentleman, hurrying across the park, complete with brief case, could hardly have been bettered than as E. S. Doughty played him. The racing walker, played by Cecil Tenneson, w as handicapped by the width of the stage, but he got his laughs all right. The courting couple, played by Gwen Lloyd and Ronald Pope were also completely convincing. Altogether a nicely presented little play—congratulations to Peggy Bedford, the producer.