Catching up with Jeni Konko and Philip Barrass of the Victoria Park Players

What was the inspiration for starting Victoria Park Players and when did it begin?
P: A dinner party, a confession misunderstood, and a pressing need to wear an over-tight slashed-up-the-back frock in public. When was that? When I still had the legs, and Tony Blair was prime minister (but not for much longer). Ultimately it was Jeni’s fault.

J: The Victoria Park players was formed over a drunken dinner with neighbours when we thought it a good idea to put on a Panto at the local pub.  We oversold the one performance we gave and we decided then and there to make it an annual thing!

What sort of shows do you put on?
P: Not too offensive, but we do try. To the onlooker, they appear as an almost-annual pantomime (each uniquely hand-crafted), a rare bit of reduced Shakespeare in the Glade, an occasional homage to an homage to 1940s radio, and variety shows when we’re desperate. We wrap around a gloss of professional lighting, outstanding live music, proper costumes and a very reasonable bar.

J: We put on a pantomime most Christmases and have been know to pull off the odd summer performance. We performed Noel Coward’s Hay Fever at a side studio of the Hackney Empire a few years ago.

When and where do you rehearse?
P: It might be worth asking the cast this question. From their sporadic attendance, it would be far from evident. When we do get together, which should be once or twice a week once panic has set in, it is in the Lauriston School music shed (or Peter Sanders’ Art Shed, as the nostalgic would have it).

J: As soon as we have a script, written by Philip, we meet once a week at the Art Shed at Lauriston School

Do you put on regular performances?
P We like to think of ourselves as somewhat irregular in outlook, but we are in fact creatures of old habit. There are two performances of pantomime each Christmas, and something else not at Christmas when there is the mutual urge. Lauriston School is our physical and spiritual home for (nearly) all our performances.

Can anyone join?
P: Come and see a show and you’ll be able to answer that question very easily. We welcome new members, have never done an audition, and have vengefully sacked only two directors.

J: Yes please.

Tell us about one of your most exciting performances.
P: I like the implication that there have been multiple such events. I’m not certain that excitement is a common response, although confused stirrings might have been felt by the less life-hardened members of the audience who witnessed the slashed-up-the-back frock. On second thoughts, there is no contest – it was the year we set off a small explosion and the school fire-alarm burst into life, calling the Fire Brigade and leading to a mass evacuation (it was a little frightening for some). We did not correct those who congratulated us on such a convincing performance.

J: We have managed to put on A Midsummer Night’s Dream twice in the open in Victoria Park. Using the shrubs for the actors to appear from. It was magical.

What’s in store for the future?
P: Increasing joint-pain and loss of hearing for most of us. I hope that there is enough enthusiasm in the troupe at least to carry on doing more of what we have done so far, and that others with the glow of youth will join us and offer greater longevity. Jeni has a periodic burst of ambition about taking us to finer things (beyond E9, even), and one day we just might.

J: ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE!

To see some of their past productions check out the Victoria Park Players website.

Be sure and catch a performance of Little Red Robin Hood on the 4th & 5th of January at Lauriston School.