La Troupe was started in 2002 by two couples who had been in the same acting group in England and got together with a few other interested people in the Montaigu area with a view to starting a group.
A pantomime was suggested as being a good idea as it was felt the Troupe could introduce this as a way of integrating with the French and felt that it would attract English families as well. First, however, the main concern was to raise some money for costumes, scenery, etc.
The founder members all agreed to put up 20 Euros a couple. One of the members offered to write a murder mystery to attract an English audience. Touffailles village hall was the venue for this first and only performance of “The Murder Racquet”. Rehearsals took place over only two weeks and costumes were borrowed from friends’ wardrobes – no scenery was required as the setting was a dinner party.
A curry supper was provided, which was such a success that the Troupe have continued, on the whole, to provide a supper with one of the performances ever since. A picnic evening has also been offered over the last few productions which have also been well received.
From this highly successful evening, the Troupe made enough money to be able to put on the first pantomime, Cinderella, which was again written by one of the members and translated so that the show could be delivered in French and English.
At this stage, the Troupe was still rehearsing in people’s houses to save money. However, the Mairie at Montaigu eventually offered the Troupe the use of the Salle des Fêtes at Montaigu, currently free of charge which the Troupe are very grateful for. This has been a great boost as it saves money which can be used for enhancing the productions.
In Cinderella, the vast majority of the roles were played by people who had never acted before. The poor Director was very long suffering. The music and songs were written by one of the members and she has continued to write music for the Troupe to this day.
The Troupe were incredibly lucky to have a very talented dress maker in the group who, single handedly, dressed all the actors until her sad death. The Troupe was very lucky to find another able and willing volunteer, but this role is now spread over many members’ sewing tables.
The scenery was constructed and painted by members for the pantomime in a garage. Not the best scenery admittedly, but with the very late arrival of a professional set designer, the Troupe did have houses that looked more like houses and geraniums in window boxes that were miraculously made to look real. Luckily for the Troupe, the set designer brought her husband to the group who was, and is, a professional lighting expert. Both these members continue to give us their expert knowledge and experience.
Pantomime had hit Montaigu and it was incredibly well received for a first effort and it continues to get more and more popular. The cow was taken round the market by Buttons advertising the show and there were lots of jokes about mad English cows! The cow is alive and kicking and still used in most of the pantomimes.
As the Troupe has been running for a number of years, a list of the shows that have been performed are listed here:
Murder on the Plate – in-house
There Goes the Bride, by Ray Cooney & John Chapman
Aladdin – in-house
Buck the Trend – in-house
Business Affairs, by John Chapman & Jeremy Lloyd
Sleeping Beauty – in-house
Murder Most Legal – in-house
Out of Focus, by Peter Gordon
Robin Hood – in-house
Musical – French Letters – in-house
Mother Goose – in-house
Bedroom Farce, by Alan Ayckbourn
Snow White & The Seven Dwarves – in-house
Four Plays for Coarse Actors, written by Michael Green
“Something Different” – a Review Show
Jack & The Beanstalk – in-house
Confusions, by Alan Ayckbourn
Death at the Shangri-La – in-house
Cinderella, by Graham Barraclough
“Let us Entertain You” – a Review Show
Beauty and the Beast – in-house
Old Actors Never Die, They Simply Lose the Plot, by Lynn Brittney
3 One Act Plays – The Friday Night Radio Play, by Daman Trasler; The Chinese Whisper, by Harry Williams and A Chip in the Sugar, by Alan Bennett
Alice in Wonderland, by Johanna Gibbs
Play On, by Rick Abbot
Gaslight, by Patrick Hamilton
Red Riding Hood – in-house
Beyond a Joke, by Derek Benfield
Aladdin – in-house
The Farndale Avenue Housing Estate Townswomen’s Guild Dramatic Society Murder Mystery, by David McGillivray & Walter Zerlin Jnr.
3 One Act Plays – A Decent Exposure, by Harry Allstock; Temptation Sordid or Virtue Rewarded, by Winifred Phelps and Last Panto in Little Grimley, by David Tristram
Pinocchio – in-house
Seasons Greetings, Alan Ayckbourn
3 One Act Plays - Over my Dead Body , by Pat Baker; The Proposal by Anton Chekhov; Little Grimley Presents Sex Factor on Ice , by David Tristram
Puss in Boots– bi-lingual pantomime (in-house)
Rich Ruby (in house)
The Mystery of Talbot Manor (Gary Simpson)
Sleeping Beauty (in house)
The Reunion (Peter Gordon)
The Return to Talbot Manor (Gary Simpson)
Babes in the Wood (in house)
Cash on Delivery (Michael Cooney)
A Cut in the Rates (Alan Ayckbourn)
Black Comedy (Peter Shaffer)
Snow White and the 7 dwarfs (in-house)
Over the years the Troupe have been joined by several French people, including children. A number of English children have also been involved.
The pantomimes have proven to be so successful that the Troupe felt the local schools should be invited to attend, free of charge, on the Friday afternoon. A member of the Troupe visits the schools in advance to explain the story of the pantomime for that year which helps greatly with the audience participation on the day.
The usual pattern of productions starts with a play or quiz in the autumn, the pantomime in January and a play in the spring. A few social events are also held during the year, one being the summer social where good food and company can be found.
The Troupe have a Mission Statement which reads: “The principal objectives of La Troupe are to provide high quality and good value amateur entertainment for our audiences whilst enjoying ourselves and to strive for increasingly high standards”.
If you are interested in acting, backstage, directing, front of house, lighting, make-up, painting, props or sound the Troupe would love to hear from you – please contact us.