The Bedford Players – A Potted History (Abridged and Unfinished)

Disclaimer

This is all from my own recollections, and harvested from various sites around the net, so if any of it is inaccurate or incorrect, please let me know. My tattered cortex has enough trouble with shopping lists, so be gentle.

Let’s go back in time…

During the early 1980’s, there were a number of theatre groups active in Bedford:

  • The Bradgate Players – Formed from members of the Bradgate Tennis Club
  • The Company – Specialised in musicals, like Cabaret, Some Like It Hot etc.
  • The Bedford Amateur Operatic Society – Went more for the Gilbert & Sullivan side of things.
  • Bedford Dramatic Club – Last but not least, the BDC did straight-down-the-line drama. Orton, Ayckbourn, Coward, you name it.
A very rough map of the layout of the Players Place

A very rough map of the layout of the Players Place

These groups had 2 things in common: Not Much Money, and No Premises.

So they came together and bought a group of portacabins behind the Army Cadet building, by North Wing Hospital. The building was renovated, with new paint, woodwork, a bar (cheapest Red Stripe in Bedford), and one-bar electric heaters to (barely) stave off the winter chill. It was great – 3½ rehearsal rooms, storage for props, costumes, sets and the like, and an address.

This last was very important – a single point of contact for a number of groups. And the fact the groups were all thrown in together meant that a lot of cross-pollination went on (in more ways than one).

Bradgate later became the Swan Theatre Company, and more recently, BAOS became ShowCo, and they both continue to do great shows.

I left Bedford in 1990, so what happened after that is sketchy. The group left the cabins in the mid-1990’s and where they went I don’t know. But then in 2002, The Place opened its doors. This is a new venue and happens to be based at the site of the old Bradgate Tennis Club. The Circle Line of time comes full circle, and opens its doors once more at the Temple of irony.

Click here for a rough-and-ready map of where the cabins used to be. As you can see, the cabins have long since disappeared. Once the groups left, they rapidly deteriorated, and I believe a fire destroyed them in the end. A sad (but inevitable) end to the site of so many memories.