After a long hiatus, Sawston Theatre Company reformed in 2019 to launch the 50th Anniversary of SYD. Janet Macleod came out of retirement to steer the music in a concert full of songs from the last 50 years of SYD. After 2 performances for the public, a third night was put on for invited guests - former leaders and members, dignitaries and those who have supported us through the years. At this first night we screened the premiere of our 50th Anniversary film.
A twist retelling of the classic tale of a puppet who became a real boy, following Gepetto and the Blue Fairy on their own journeys. Eloise returned to SYD, having last choreographed for Beauty and the Beast in 2014. The group also bid a sad farewell to Katie, who stepped aside as a 'front line' leader.
The Juniors team had a bit of a shakeup this year as Sam Roberts joined as Assistant Director and Seniors pianist Valerie Catton stepped up to help out with the latter half of rehearsals. The splurge used was similar to shaving foam, which luckily nobody slipped on - other than the finale on the last night! This marked the last production with the current Juniors team, leading into the 50th Anniversary.
This much loved classic saw the end of an era at SYD Seniors ahead of the 50th Anniversary. Adam, Paul and Karen worked together one last time to celebrate the 'Hard Knock Life', auditioning large numbers of 'Little Girls' before finding their cast. Sandy the Dog was played by Ozzy, a particular treat as Ozzy's mother played Sandy the last time SYD performed Annie.
Having successfully put on a Bourne/Davis show two years prior with Out There, the Juniors team went back to the future for the nerdiest show ever written. Alan left the group to go to University after the show. Thanks to Budgens for the loan of a shopping trolley which became a Starship of the Future!
The Seniors team continued to grow from strength to strength and celebrated a phenomenally strong female cast with a new musical in Sister Act. With costumes hired in from Hills Road and a band hidden in the church, the show looked and sounded amazing.
A magic carpet that flew across the stage, a genie appearing from thin air, a magical cast that kept going when the sound gave out, and sell-out audiences at every performance all contributed to making this one to remember. Three wishes did run out this year though, as Chris, Esther and Oli all departed from the group, but new MD Pippa joined the team to elevate the singing.
With Alan joining the team, Juniors returned to the show they did a decade ago, High School Musical. The show was a huge success, in part thanks to Chris coming onboard as Assistant Director. A huge set of steps were built in the alcove to accomodate the largest SYD cast in history, and even a lighting desk failure couldn't stop the show from being amazing.
The Seniors team returned to a triumphant masterpiece in Barnum, and welcomed both Esther and Mairwen to the team. Being Mark Long's 20th show since taking over the group, he co-directed and received a special presentation at the end of the final performance. Once the show was done there were a great number of tears from all involved, but mostly tears of pride as leading man Alan Wilson was named the newest SYD leader once the curtain fell.
Despite 2 fantastic concerts and several musicals, the group found it increasingly challenging to make time to rehearse and plan things. With SYD growing ever larger, the Committee passed the decision to fold the group, at least temporarily. The door was left open for the future, with a promise of group activities to keep everyone going in the interim.
Jackie led a slightly revitalised team with new leaders Oli Newnham and Esther Wyse involved through a magnificent production of The Lion King. The wardrobe team took on extra help, but Ashley and Clara spent every waking hour during production to make masks and costumes for every character in the show - for some people that was up to 4 whole outfits and masks!
New team, new challenges. Steve Williams built a rocket on stage, we rigged a raised barn, and Alan Phoenix Holland implemented surround sound for the effects. A few extra cheers with messages from the authors - James Bourne and Elliot Davis - being sent to the cast on opening night. After this show Ellis and Megan stepped aside to head to University, but the Juniors award for hard work was named the Ellis Northrop award in his honour.
Following the success of the 'A Night at the Musicals' concert in October of 2015, it was decided that a 2-night encore performance would take place, with new songs added in to the mix, and a few extra singers on stage. The concert encore was another huge success raising several thousand pounds for the young people at SYD.
With new production team in place, they opted for a new and vibrant show to test the young cast. Nic Marchant and team built the car from scratch, Paul put his band up on stage with some clever raised platforming, and the show became the fastest sell-out in SYD history, to the point where additional performances were considered over a month in advance.
Following the departure of Gary Bonner and Janet Macleod the previous year, 2016 marked a reshuffle in SYD. Adam Bonner became director of Seniors, and restructured his production team, appointing Paul Garner musical director with support from Valerie Catton, bringing Max Reader up from Juniors, and adding Kirsty Lilley to the production team too.
Gareth Furbank was appointed director of Juniors, and brought Ellis Northrop up from 7s to act as assistant director, while also adding Megan Carlton to the production team.
Jackie Green became sole director of 7s, and bolstered her group with the addition of Oli Newnham and Esther Wyse. This marks the biggest change to the SYD line up since the groups formation over 40 years ago.
The stage extension from Bring it On was reused in a different way, and coupled with a rising bar of 'water' created the submerged scenes. This marked Gareth's last show with the group before his departure for Juniors. Maria Dean joined as choreographer, and Ellis Northrop came on board as a rehearsal assistant.
Juniors welcomed Katie McArthur to the production team as choreographer for this dance and gym-heavy show, and also said a farewell to Adam who left for Seniors. We also constructed a large stage extension to fit everything on stage, including the high lifts and flips!
The last show for Gary and Janet, who both opted to retire at the same time. At 6:15pm on opening night we lost all power in the Marven Centre, and began emergency plans to relocate to the Henry Morris Hall in SVC. Luckily, Steve got the power working at 6:55pm, just as we were about to cancel the opening night.
Chris stepped up to production for the first time, and builder Mike Johnson took up post as Stage Manager, running things behind the curtain. They say never work with children or animals, but we opted to do both, bringing in Lulu to play Sandy. On the final performance the dog nearly took a leap from the stage but was saved at the last second by a sprinting stage manager...
Les Mis was the final show for MD Becky Haworth, so to end her SYD career she opted for the biggest singing show she could think of! Unable to build a full revolving stage as in the West End, the technical team built a barricade that would split in half and rotate on a smaller scale, allowing for use in other scenes too.
For their first show, STC recruited a production team made of friends and former members of the group. Les Ford directed, Bobby Ford was musical director, and the mother/daughter combo of Helen and Bryony Garner choreographed.
Grace Furbank joined the team as choreographer, while James and Sam made it their last show before moving on to theatre school and university respectively. To add authenticity to the Chinese origins of the show, a Tai Chi instructor was brought in to coach the cast.
Due to huge cast numbers the whole show was split into A and B teams, each with a leader responsible for them. Alternate teams performed alternate nights, and when not on stage they sang as a choir to support.
Sawston Village College bought the building from Spicers and renamed it the Marven Centre, in honour of former principal John Marven.
New choreographer Karen Revill stepped in to craft the dances for Fiddler, following the departure of Helen the year before. This was also the first show officially put under the banner of SYD Seniors.
Following a concert from former SYD members the previous year, the SYD Committee formed a new group to cater to those too old to be in SYD any more.
MTI Broadway JR provide shows with backing tracks specifically designed for younger voices, and so without a musical director the team turned to these. Sam Tovey joined the team as wardrobe mistress to bring a modern edge to the classic show.
A huge cast flooded Juniors this year, meaning we could do a proper split of the black and white characters, giving us two large dance teams to meet the requirements.
2010 marked the 40th anniversary of SYD, so we held a huge party and even had a special invite-only performance for sponsors and past members. Helen Garner completed her only show as choreographer for the group.
Gareth and Mark were joined by new leaders James Camp, Jackie Green, and Philippa Herrick to put on a show with the 7s group, in the SVC Henry Morris Hall. This marked the first on-stage appearance of future leaders Megan Carlton and Kirsty Lilley.
This marked Carol's last show with the group since the very origins back in the 60s. To celebrate and say farewell we threw a big party!
Too many young people and aspirational leaders led to the birth of SYD 7s in September 2009.
A big year for future leaders, as Ellis Northrop, Max Reader, and Sian Redgewell all joined the cast. In a rare show of energy, we also took part in the Sawston Fun Run that year with costumes and banners to promote the show.
Due to the choral nature of the show, Juniors were drafted in to add their voices to the ensemble, resulting in technically the biggest cast to date on the Marven Centre stage. Chris Baker joined a cast full of disaster - Ryan Slater performed with a broken leg, and Ben Kelk dislocated his shoulder during a performance but kept going...
Esther Wyse joined the cast, Gareth stepped up to production for the first time, and techie Tom Curran was dragged on stage for a dare and landed the leading role! One piece of staging was constructed to fill many scenes - a gym, a recording studio, a garden, and a hallway.
Much like in the days of Roy Reader, the SYD group undertook large renovations of the Marven Centre, having raise £27,000 thanks to our friends, supporters, and sponsors. The money paid for blue theatre seats, new stage drapes, a replacement lighting bar and lanterns, new toilets, and a coating of paint throughout the building.
Given the success of The Young Ones, and now feeling more confident in the young casts and themselves, the Juniors team bid farewell to older members and cast the show purely using younger Juniors members.
Following recent successes, and largely thanks to Juniors, SYD had a huge cast for Guys and Dolls. More lottery funding kept coming our way, enabling us to make huge investments in staging and costumes.
In launching a new group, the leaders turned to the show we actually owned the rights to. Oli Newnham stepped on stage for the first time, and a few older SYD members were drafted in to support the new young cast.
The group were lucky enough to receive £5000 in lottery funding to help support productions, which came in extra handy given that Juniors were launching their first major musical in just a few months.
With SYD now getting pretty huge, cast members Adam and Sam set up a new group to cater to even young people - those from 11 upwards. Early sessions involved drama games and basic skills, similar to our 7s Autumn workshops.
James Camp joined the cast, we visited Burwell House for the first time, and we began hiring out costumes to cover the ever-increasing running costs of the group.
Supporting group Sawston Light Opera Group were putting on Oklahoma later in 2003, and recruited a lot of the cast from SYD to fill their numbers. This also marked Gareth Furbank's first show with the group.
This was Gary's first show he directed alone, and he invited back former members to play the adult roles in the show.
SYD took to Cambridge, and performed the special musical General Mickey at the Corn Exchange. To mark the occasion and fill in the choir, over 300 young people were recruited from neighbouring schools: Sawston Village College, Sacred Heart School, Crosshall School, Coleridge School, Edwinstree Middle School, and St. Joseph's Church in St. Neots.
Geoff was promoted to stage manager, the Sawston Fun Run first donated money to the group, and SYD began performing at the Shelford Feast.
What better way to start a new millenium than with the one that started it all - Oklahoma! SYD celebrated 30 years, while Meghan Bonner joined the cast.
Geoff Barnes joined the stage crew team this year, and the Committee launched the catchphrase "The flagship of entertainment" which became the first group slogan.
Cast member Leo Coney formed a committee of young people to drive and influence the group. Their first action was to rebrand "Sawston Youth Centre Drama Group" as "Sawston Youth Drama".
Mark stepped into post as director and producer, and with Janet at his side decided to put on a brand new show the group had never tackled before.
This was a big year, and following the departure of Dave in '96, Derek announced this would be his final show. Janet also moved into the Dave-shaped-void and took up post as Musical Director.
There's a beautiful parallel in doing both The Young Ones and Follies in the same year. The Young Ones is the story of young people fighting to save their youth centre, whereas Follies is performers awaiting the destruction of their theatre and reflecting on their lives. This was Dave Adams' final performance with the group - a fitting farewell. Former SYD leads were invited to play the older characters, while SYD members were put in as their younger counterparts.
1996 marked the first time that The Young Ones had been a lead February production, and saw the script updated to reflect the scale. Adam Bonner joined the cast, and Sally Whyte began working in the wardrobe department.
To celebrate the 25th anniversary of SYD, the group wanted to replay an older show, but didn't fancy Oklahoma. They opted for the second ever show, West Side Story. Dave retired from SVC this year, but resolved to keep working with SYD for a few more years.
Two leaders joined the group again this year as Sam Billing stepped onto the stage for the first time, and Neil Watson stepped behind the stage!
Following the USA trips in previous years, pupils from Montrose High School in Pennsylvania came to visit and see what SYD were all about. A special event was put on, and the Montrose pupils performed their own musical showcase.
To raise money for Children in Need, SYD set out to rehearse and perform a musical in 26 hours (24 plus performance). Mark stepped up to direct and produce the show, and put it on without spending a penny. Sadly, we have no record of how much was raised!
Having just repeated a show, SYD then found a new one to perform. Dave lamented the lack of orchestra parts though, and opted to turn aside all of his season pro players in favour of a new young band recruited solely from SVC and the surrounding sixth forms.
Another repeated show, though you'll note there's always a decent gap - the ruling is that a cast may never have performed a show before... an exception being special performances like encores or those in other venues. Derek made a note of thanking the cast for keeping not only the group going, but him as well.
20 years after the origin of the group, Derek decided it must be time to put Oklahoma on again. He reminisced in the programme about the first show, and how he had taken a whim and pulled together young people from all walks of life to put on a show - the same ethos we use today with everyone welcome, no matter who you are.
Mark put on a special production of General Mickey, a musical he had been involved in the world premiere of two years previous. Mark played the same role he originated, and acted as producer for the show, calling upon past members and current alike to fill the cast.
Another early STC effort, as past members of the group reformed under guidance from Derek, and put on a show by themselves over the summer holidays.
Roy Reader retired from the group and his post as senior youth leader at Sawston Village College, finally earning his rest after renovating effectively the entire building over the previous years, and supporting the SYD team as front of house manager since the group's inception.
Draclua was a spin off show directed by Gary, with Mark as stage manager and Steve running the lights, with cameos by returning cast members from earlier in the groups history.
Following an audience uproar for a more modern, rock musical, the team put on Bye Bye Birdie. Work continued on the building, as Front of House was renovated with new toilets and bar, and the stage ceiling was raised to give greater lighting angles.
Some years we lose a lot of people all at once, and SYD undergoes a bit of a change. 1987 saw only 2 people remaining in the cast from previous years, and so all the lead roles were doubled up, taking some of the pressure off new performers.
When in doubt, put on The Young Ones! The Marven Centre turned 21 and the youth group hosted a series of events - a disco, football tournament, fashion show, and of course SYD.
Dave commented on the young age of his band that year, with an average age of 15, while Derek noted the opposite on stage where the cast were on average older than in previous years.
Building renovations continued in '85, with the cinema curtains being replaced by stage drapes, and a new lighting bar being installed with lanterns. Mark moved up to the production team as a production assistant as well, slowly moving the group to the shape we see today.
Jackie Green joined the cast this year, while Paul and Roy Reader undertook serious work on the stage - the green rooms behind the stage were built, new backcloths were fitted, and the space beneath the stage was converted into costume storage.
The group was far too popular for its own good in 83, Dave had to turn people away from the orchestra, and shifted to keeping the same set playing all week. Derek had to make similar decisions, and put a ban on new girls joining the group until more had left!
It was mentioned in the programme that 1983's production would be Grease, but it wasn't until 2016 that SYD finally tackled the show.
A change was made in the running of the group, as the age limit was moved from 16+ to 14+, the first steps toward our current system. Paul also built sliding flats on stage - similar to the ones we've used for the last decade or so.
SYD announced they had already had over 500 people on stage, and entertained over 15000 people. Steve Williams joined the team as Assistant Stage Manager.
The first repeated show outside of the USA tour of The Young Ones, Derek made a decision that he didn't mind if shows repeated, so long as the casts were happy with what they were doing. Also interesting as Gary became Assistant Producer, and Janet Macleod joind the orchestra.
Budget cuts ran through the County Council, but the SYD team soldiered on despite adversity. The group began to grow in numbers too, as Paul Curtis, stage manager, had to extend the stage to fit everyone on it!
Mark Long joined the cast, while the first ideas of STC popped up - the 'Sawston Young Adult Group' performed a play - The Diary of Anne Frank - at a local drama festival, arranged through SYD.
SYD crossed the oceans to Montrose, New York State, and Ottowa in a youth exchange programme in 1976 and performed their previous production of The Young Ones once again. It turns out US audiences didn't quite understand the idea of a youth club though, as it had to be explained in great detail in the programme...
On a reduced rehearsal time following the October show, SYD dived straight into Fiddler, and recruited choreographer Carol to play Grandmother Tzeitel.
Sawston Youth Centre turned 10 years old, and to celebrate, SYD put on an extra show - an adaptation of the Cliff Richard film written especially for us! What this means is we can perform the show whenever we like, and if anyone else wants to do the show they need our permission!
SYD performed Monday-Saturday on their run in '75, which makes us look lazy by comparison! Apparently the wigs for the show were all donated by a local hairdresser as well - lucky them!
With far more time in their calendar than we have today, SYD toured the local area entertaining people, heading through Melbourn, Cottenham, and Shelford as well as performing in the Marven Centre.
Dave Adams had constructed quite the band back in the day, with an age range of 11-70 playing in the pit. Different people played each performance due to a huge uptake on players.
Costumes at this time were a part of the production; that is the cast themselves made their costumes under guidance of the school textiles teacher.
Choreographer Carol Wratten joined the production team, and Gary Bonner joined the cast.
Joined by music teacher Dave Adams, Derek launched the first ever SYD production. The group were known as Sawston Youth Centre Drama Group at the time, but the ethos of the group was very much in place with young people being given the opportunity to perform outside of school.
Sometime in the school year of 1968, Derek Cupit began running drama sessions whilst working for Sawston Village College. While nothing formal, and not leading towards any production, these sessions set in motion the fantastic organisation we know and love today.