Tough times for Cissbury Players

The Cissbury Players, base in Findon, need to recruit more members
The Cissbury Players, base in Findon, need to recruit more members

The Cissbury Players are hoping to pull themselves back from the brink of extinction with their latest – and just possibly, their last – production.

Dwindling numbers of performers have meant difficult times, and they are hoping that they are not now facing the final curtain.

As spokesman Dave Holden says, their November production could be their last if no new members come forward.

If the worst comes to the worst, then at least their chosen play will prove a fitting swansong, Dave added.

In Act One of Simon Brett’s ingeniously-structured thriller Silhouette, Inspector Bruton (Dave Holden) and two officers (John Maplesden and Claire Buckland) arrive at a converted Sussex barn to investigate the murder of famous actor Martin Powell (Mike Liassides). Bruton interrogates Powell’s wife, actress Celia Wallis (Barbara Maxwell), who is apparently in the clear. But who is Neville Smallwood (Ben Williams), the drunken journalist sleeping in her bed, who argued with Powell shortly before his death? And what is his secret?

“In Act Two, which takes place before the murder, all our expectations of the characters and the plot are turned on their heads,” Dave promises. “Even the figure silhouetted against the front door is not what he or she seems to be.”

But throughout, the Cissbury players will be hoping that they themselves won’t be the ultimate victim.

The play will be staged at Findon Village Hall on November 21, 22 and 23. On November 27, the Wednesday following the play, the group are holding a recruitment evening in Findon Village Hall from 8 to 10pm – make-or-break time for the company.

Dave is hoping that as many people will turn up at the evening as possible. And if you can’t make the evening, just get in touch via www.cissburyplayers.net or look for Cissbury Players on Facebook.

Better still, come and see the play, Dave urges. You don’t have to appear on stage. The group also need help backstage and front of house.

The irony is that the company doesn’t struggle for audiences. It can count on several hundred for their shows (an average of 250 in total for each play over three nights). The problem is getting people onto the stage.

As Dave says, he finds himself in every production: “It would be nice to say I am taking this next production off!

“We are really hoping that we can continue. It really depends on the number of people that turn up for the recruitment evening.

“We probably need up to about half a dozen people. We could possibly get by with just another four. It could be anyone, men or women.

“At the moment we have got just enough, but it always means having to ring around and badger people.”

Just a few extra people would give the company the cushion it needs – and maybe even a chance for Dave for step back for a while.

“We have got about 20 people at the moment, but not all of them are available all of the time.”

Currently on the great spectrum that has optimism at one end and pessimism at the other, Dave admits he is wavering somewhere in the middle – a huge shame given all the rewards that being a member of the company brings.

“It’s very nerve-racking going on stage. I get very nervous, but it is the satisfaction of knowing that you have done something that the audience has enjoyed.

“Sometimes people will come up to me in the street. I was in our local burger shop, and the chap behind the counter said ‘I saw you in the play!’”

Doors open at 7.15pm, curtain up 7.45pm. Tickets, priced £7.50, are available from Peckham’s the Butchers in Findon High Street or can be reserved for payment on the door by ringing 01903 240660 or 07905 339816.