"So.. any ideas for our next play?"
"Well, I was thinking, perhaps Nicholas Nickleby"
"Mmm.. sounds interesting. Can't go wrong with a bit of Dickens. Anyone staged it before?""Oh yes, in 1980, The Royal Shakespeare Company's production became a theatrical legend, and nearly thirty years later the Chichester Festival version took the west end by storm."
"So nothing much to live up to then, tell us more."
"Well, it's got a cast of over 70 characters; all ages from malnourished children through to doddering theatricals; heartbroken Nicklebys, heartbreaking Smike, the evil Squeers and the frighteningly bad Crummles Theatre Company."
"And 36 scenes that range from London to Yorkshire and on to Portsmouth; including a roadside inn, a run-down school, a gentleman's parlour, a milliner's showroom, the open countryside, and a travelling theatre stage."
"And you were thinking we could put this on in the village hall?"
"Oh yes, we can have it ready for March."
And now, suddenly, it is March. And tonight Nicholas Nickleby Part One will open in the village hall.
Scheduling the rehearsals, to bring a huge cast to the hall for the right scenes on the right day, would have baffled even the logistics specialists at Eddie Stobart. Creating the costumes that could take us from Dickensian London to Shakespearean Verona, would have had even the wardrobe ladies of Strictly Come Dancing quaking in their sparkling boots. Sourcing the props and assembling the sets, a design challenge that no Sixty-Minute-Makeover could ever have achieved. Above all that, casting 40 people and steering them through from faltering incoherence to confident eloquence, with only encouragement and support to keep them on track, was something that only the bravest director would have attempted, or achieved.
Never can it be said that the Shoreham Village Players lack heart. For those of you lucky enough to be there tonight, you will see what happens when a brave woman decides to take that heart and send it beating through the village. If you don't yet have tickets, get down to the village shop and snap up the last few, not only will you get to experience a fine night at the theatre, you'll get to see what makes Shoreham the very best village in the world.