Final bow for drama group

PUBLISHED: 15:51 07 February 2008 | UPDATED: 21:22 31 May 2010

Founder Francis Brownlie

Founder Francis Brownlie

THE curtains have been lowered for the last time and the actors have made their final bow as a pioneering village theatre company comes to a close. Established in 1964, the Sawston Players long and illustrious history has ended after their founder Franci

Sawston Players’ production of Mary Poppins at Sawston Village College in January 1974 Picture: SUBMITTED

THE curtains have been lowered for the last time and the actors have made their final bow as a pioneering village theatre company comes to a close.

Established in 1964, the Sawston Players' long and illustrious history has ended after their founder Francis Brownlie decided there was no longer enough support for the group.

"We have had some wonderful times, but I would rather end the group now than have it fizzle out slowly," she said. "I tried to cast an eight-part play in January, but we only had three actors who wanted the roles.

"Over the past few years we have had difficulty replacing our younger members who have gone off to university and drama school."

Running for 43 years, amateur drama group, the Sawston Players, was founded by director Francis Brownlie and her late husband Robert when they were asked to put on a play to raise money for Sawston Catholic Church.

A year later the adventurous group put on a production of Sleeping Beauty - the first pantomime to be held in the village - which proved hugely popular.

"None of the other villages were doing pantomimes at this time - we were the first. It was about four years later before the other groups caught on," said Mrs Brownlie.

The expanding drama group soon grew out of their home at the church hall and moved to bigger premises at Sawston Village College.

With a growing reputation as an original and dynamic drama group they soon notched up a string of firsts and in 1974 they became the first company to put on a production of Mary Poppins.

Then in 1976 they became the only company to perform a play in the British Science Museum.

"A Cambridge writer had put together a play about Charles Babbage, the inventor of the first computer, and he asked me if I knew anyone who could direct it.

Of course I said I would do it," said Mrs Brownlie.

"The play was at the science museum because they were celebrating building this computer. It was a huge thing - not like the tiny computers you get nowadays."

The Sawston Players have toured Europe and twice performed in Germany. They have also appeared at many festivals including the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.

The remainder of the money from the Sawston Players' bank account, a total of £1000, will be donated to the Sawston Drama Festival, which takes place on Thursday, Friday and Saturday April 3, 4 and 5.

A new professional company Sky Blue Theatre Group will now be the focus of Mrs Brownlie's attention.

Its first production will be a murder mystery held at Icknield Primary School, Sawston, on Saturday March 15.

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