Players have the licence to thrill

Timothy Dalton in a Belper Players production
Timothy Dalton in a Belper Players production

Clearly neither shaken, nor stirred, the Belper Players theatre group is going strong as it celebrates its 75th year.

With a Licence to ‘Thrill’, their performances will knock the living daylights out of you.

NBENLM110411F1 - Belper Players are celebrating their 75th year

NBENLM110411F1 - Belper Players are celebrating their 75th year

The group, who’s most famous old boy is former James Bond star himself, Timothy Dalton, was founded in 1936 and its very first production was an open air version of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, in the Memorial Gardens in Belper.

To mark the anniversary, they are recreating history by performing the same play in the same location.

It takes place on Thursday, July 28, Friday, July 29 and Saturday, July 30.

The production is the centrepiece of the Players’ celebrations, which also include an anniversary dinner for members and patrons at the Lion Hotel, Bridge Street, Belper. A 1930s menu is being drawn up for the occasion.

Players’ president Jeanne Crane, 84, who made her debut with the group in 1942, aged 16, said: “It is quite an achievement for a society to still be going after 75 years.

“Everyone is looking forward to the celebrations. It has been a pleasure to have been a part of the group. Over the years I’ve had some lovely parts.”

Dalton, who came to Belper as a toddler, attended Herbert Strutt School. He played James Bond in The Living Daylights (1987) and Licence to Kill (1989).

But before that, the now 65-year-old actor was a star in Belper.

Jeanne, whose last appearance on stage was in Steel Magnolias at the Strutts Centre, on Derby Road, Belper, last year, picked Dalton for one of the group’s plays after seeing him in a school production of Tiger at the Gates.

She said: “We asked him to come into this children’s play called Out of the Frying Pan. He was 16 years old.”

Jeanne said Dalton was with the Players for about three years before enrolling at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA).

She has wrote to him in the hope of receiving a message about the anniversary, but so far has heard nothing back.

Jeanne did remember an amusing tale which showed Dalton had not forgotten his roots. She said: “Three years ago my younger son was a chef in a big hotel in Surrey. He was walking down a corridor and Timothy Dalton was walking towards him. Timothy just said to my son ‘You must be Gerald’s son’.

“He had recognised my son as looking like my husband! Apparently he was terrified of me when he was younger! But it shows he did remember us.”

Belper Players is a registered charity and aims to tackle all types of play. Members range from 18 to 84. New members, actors, directors or backstage helpers are welcome at rehearsals on Mondays at the Strutts Centre, or on Thursdays, at the Lion Hotel, both starting at 7.30pm.