The curtain is rising on a new era of drama, music and comedy for one of South Yorkshire’s best loved and longest running community theatre groups.
Wales Methodist Church Pantomime Players was launched in 1944 by the then 15-year-old Roy Staniforth with a production of a panto version of Robinson Crusoe.
Over the decades that followed the society grew from its small origins at Wales Methodist Church and the demands of an ever-growing audience - and cast - led eventually to its moving performances to the Montgomery Theatre in Sheffield city centre, where the group still performs today.
Out of that original society also grew the Wales Musical Theatre Company, which specialised in staging extravagant concert style show with casts of more than 70 players, aged from five to 80.
Roy Staniforth died earlier this year at the age of 88, hailed in the national press as Britain’s oldest panto dame, one of the best known and loved personalities in South Yorkshire community theatre, the man who nurtured generations of young talent.
And now the two sides of his theatrical legacy are coming together as Wales Community Theatre Players.
“As you can imagine, we have only taken this decision following a lengthy period of discussion with all our members,” said Wales chair of trustees Nick Challenger.
“At the heart of the decision is the fact that we want to ensure Roy’s wonderful legacy for future generations of young people and we feel we can do that best by bringing all our great talent of all ages together into one brilliant community theatre company.”
Following the move, the new Wales Community Theatre Players are progressing with plans to obtain charitable status.
The aim moving forward is to build on existing success with the pantomime being joined by at least one other major show per year.
And the company will continue to be based in Wales, where Roy’s original dream was born and where the majority of the members still live.
“We are a community group and our members still very much live in wales and surrounding areas like Aston and Killamarsh,” said Nick.
“That sense of community is, we feel, what makes us so very special, and far from losing that, we will be developing it and developing our links with our performing home, Sheffield’s Montgomery Theatre.
“At the same time, though, we are also investigating ways of bringing some of our productions right back to grass roots level in the Wales area.
“We have asked our members what they want to see us doing and they are all very excited at the idea of not only producing our famous annual pantomime but also in taking the first steps towards musicals and other shows.”
“Our new name gives us much greater visibility we feel, while having charitable statues will help us seek the sort of grant aid funding that should help us survive many more decades into the future.
“We also want to create even greater opportunities for members of the community to become involved in theatre, which is what Roy Staniforth wanted from the earliest days of the society and which has become the foundation of everything we do.”
To find out more about Wales Community Theatre Players and how to get involved simply visit the Wales Community Theatre Players Facebook page.