70 years of Giffnock Theatre Players
The GTP story begins in 1948. Local man Tom Craston had written a play and formed a group to stage it, and he was now intent on building a theatre where local groups could perform. Giffnock Police Station was the unlikely venue for a meeting of local folk interested in forming a repertory company.
The original idea was to present 4-6 plays a year, the first being Grand National Night. 23 women and 1 man turned up for the initial auditions, most of whom were not up to standard.
So several people were recruited from other clubs, one of whom was Rikki Fulton, who secured a part in the play, and would of course go on to become on of the all-time greats of Scottish entertainment.
Grand National Night was performed at Eastwood School (later to be known as Williamwood) in May 1949, tickets costing 3/6 for the front row and 2/- for the rest. The free programme indicated that proceeds were “in aid of Local Theatre Building Fund”.
The show realised a profit of just under £70.
Local people supported the new club from its early days. On the first night of that first production a certain Mr Pringle made an appeal from the stage and a collection was started. And help was forhcoming in many ways: folk would give not only their time but would lend out tools, props, even furniture.
In those early years finding rehearsal space was a constant challenge. Among the many and varied venues used were the Giffnock Court House. Wycherly Studios in Shawlands, the tearoom of the Tudor Cinema in Giffnock (later the site of Morrisons and then Whole Foods Market) and the Green’s Playhouse cinema (later the Apollo).
A Patrons’ Scheme was developed, by which theatregoers could receive priority bookings for all 3 shows in the season.
At one point the club had over 1000 patrons.
In 1956 Tom Craston decided the club members should build their own sets instead of hiring. Money was tight – for years Tom made the crew straighten the nails from the set to be used for the next production!
Throughout the 50, 60s and 70s the club went from strength to strength, prsenting a huge range of plays - comedies, thrillers, period pieces, farce - nothing was outwith the scope of GTP. And yet such achievements were despite the continuing use of a succession of rehearsal venues that varied in condition and comfort.
A Guide hut in Church Road, Giffnock was used for a time in the 70s - again cold and damp. Toilet seats were designed for children, so very low!
Throughout the 1960s performances took place in Clarkston Hall> It was not tiered and it was very difficult to see the stage from about half-way back. Indeed a local paper review stated that “only a giraffe would follow the play in comfort.”
When the new Eastwood Theatre opened in 1973 the first production to be staged was GTP’s The Schoolmistress.
A year later came the Silver Jubilee production of I Remember Mama which had 29 scenes and a cast of 40!
Then in 1983 came a hugely important development. The club’s treasurer arranged for GTP to purchase Bradford’s old bakery in Fenwick Road at a cost of £20,000. And so after years of leading an almost nomadic existence, and sometimes using accommodation that was almost uninhabitable, Giffnock Theatre Players finally had a permanent home - and crucially one where sets could be built and costumes and props stored, as well as a decent rehearsal and social space. The club is one of the few amateur groups to have its own premises.
And what of the future for GTP? Well, membership is very healthy indeed, with almost 70 folk on the books - and not just actors but individuals with specific interests and skills in set design and construction, stage management, costumes, props sourcing, etc.
In the past few months alone almost a dozen people have joined, and of all ages. GTP really does offer something for everyone: good mental and physical activity which addresses the key 21st century concerns around mental health, physical fitness and loneliness.
Season 2018-19 promises to be as successful as any in the club’s long and illustrious history.
Meantime the April production of Steel Magnolias is just around the corner. Famously filmed with Shirley Maclaine and Dolly Parton, the play celebrates the power of women and their capacity for both delicacy and toughness, tenderness and strength. Truly a play for our times.
Steel Magnolias is being presented in Clarkston Hall on Friday 20th April at 7.30pm and on Saturday, April 21 at 2.30pm and 7.30pm
Tickets are £12 and can be purchased by phoning 07518 201756 or by emailing [email protected]
For further information and for all the latest news from Giffnock Theatre Players, please visit their website: www.giffnocktheatreplayers.com/. You can also find them on Facebook at www.facebook.com/giffnockplayers, or follow them on Twitter at twitter.com/giffnockplayers.
Some little anecdotes from the past 70 years!
· One location found was a cold and damp ground floor flat in Shawlands. Apparently the kitchen and toilet were dreadful. In an upstairs flat the Ancient Order of Buffaloes would hold meetings and strange noises could be heard.
· Another venue was the pavilion of Eastwood Golf Club in Orchard Park Avenue. One of the directors obtained old tip-up seats from Green’s Playhouse cinema, and these were placed around the walls.
· In the golf club kitchen there were holes in the floor and water could be seen underneath - there was an underground burn!
· Another location was a house in Cathcart where you had to use a torch to reach the kitchen. Rhuallan House in Giffnock was also used. Sets were stored in the stables of Eastwood House, and at one point in a condemned public toilet in Newton Mearns.
· One of the early prop mistresses was rumoured to carry a notebook around when visiting members’ homes ,and she would make a note of what she saw in case there was anything that could be used on stage.
·On the opening night of the 100th production - Dear Octopus - all the ladies in the cast were presented with a red rose.
GTP participated in a number of Eastwood District Council Civic Nights, expenses covered by the Council.
·In the early 80s GTP broke new ground by presenting a children’s play - How Jan Klassen Cured The King. It was a sell-out, with so many children turning up that it was 3 children to 2 seats. The local paper’s reviewer had to stand in the lighting box, alongside a policeman who came to see what was going on!
With grateful thanks to GTP member Margaret Tomlinson