One thing you do not expect to find nestled behind Milnerton’s library is a small, but perfectly formed theatre. Discovered by me through a serendipitous online browse, the Milnerton Playhouse is home to the Milnerton Players – a group of dedicated drama lovers who come together several times a year to put on plays, social evenings and much more.
This year’s inaugural production is Jonathan Harvey’s Beautiful Thing, written in 1993 and set in one of South East London’s less desirable neighbourhoods. Johann van der Merwe has adapted the script to make it more culturally South African and set it in the present day – to great success. Single mothers, delinquent teenagers, abusive fathers and two teenage boys finding their feet with their own sexuality in the surrounds of a housing estate: Harvey’s play demonstrates just how similar human beings are, whether they have lived in 90s London or present day Kaap Stadt.
Amateur theatre society they may be, but the production is anything but amateur. Barry Altwig’s set design is professional and stunning and the cast come together to create a show that involves you from the beginning – although, for some the brief nudity and adult themes proved too much to bear for the second half!
Sean Robinson as Jamie and Ryan Bird as Ste create a brilliantly awkward but endearing chemistry together as the teenagers coming to terms with their sexuality and their attraction to each other. Emmanuel Ferreira stood out as the clingy, toy boy artist boyfriend of Jamie’s mom Sandra – played by newcomer to the stage Colleen Lorusso. And Ilze van Dorp gave a confident performance of Leah, the Amy Winehouse obsessed next door neighbour.
The theatre has all the hospitable charm of a particularly welcomingly home – complete with coffee bar, smoking room, well stocked and well priced bar and a 112 seater auditorium. The whole enterprise – from marketers to chairmen, actors, sound and lighting and set designers – is run on a volunteer basis, with everyone involved still going to their day jobs between the hours of nine to five.
The challenge, says chairman Wayne Hendricks, is to find willing cast members from the younger demographic, as many such actors are already involved in some of the Mother City’s other dramatic societies.
2015 will see the theatre put on six productions: the most it has ever achieved. And they hope that 2016 will be even busier yet, as they invite other theatrical troupes to the space.
With winter on its way, a trip to the Milnerton Playhouse is a must. To catch the final two performances of Beautiful Thing, this Thursday and Friday, click here.
The playhouse’s next production will start at the end of May: Wait Until Dark by Fredrick Knott.