Sunday, 6 March 2016

The Kay Players, Darlington

Note: The Kay Players was active until c. 1985. This blogpost is for the period up to 1965 and is not complete.

The Kay Players was an amateur drama group established in Darlington, Co. Durham in 1944 by Kay Barrow, at the time a professional producer and drama coach. The group adopted their founder's first name in order to demonstrate the high regard in which Mrs Barrow was held.

The President of the group was Eric Marsham (E.N. Marsham, Esq.) and numbered among the Vice-Presidents was Lady Starmer, O.B.E., J.P. 

From their home at the now defunct Little Theatre on Kendrew Street, Darlington, the group offered to the public a diverse repertoire of plays, which included:

Berkeley Square [pre-1954]
Candida [pre-1954]
The Glass Menagerie [pre-1954]
The Lady's Not For Burning [pre-1954]
The Heiress [January 1954]
Rope [circa March 1954]
Journey's End [circa June 1954]
The Wandering Jew [September 1954]
Under the Sycamore Tree [December 1954]
The Hollow [March 1955]
See How They Run [September 1955]
Ring Round The Moon [December 1955]
Harvey [October 1956]
Ghosts [February 1957]
Book of the Month [circa early/mid-1957]
The Happy Marriage [October 1957]
The Deep Blue Sea [April 1958]
Maiden Ladies [November 1958]
The Valiant [circa early/mid 1959]
The Constant Wife [November 1959]
Waters of the Moon [April 1960]
Look Back In Anger [January 1961]
Separate Tables [December 1961]
The Bride and The Bachelor [May 1962]
Variations on a Theme [November 1962]
The Gazebo [May 1963]
Hay Fever [No dates available but probably post-1963]
Gaslight [1965]

The group took a new production of Variations on a Theme to the Centenary Event of the Co-operative Arts Theatre Summer Festival, which was part of the centenary celebrations of the Nottingham Co-operative Society. The festival was held from July 6th to July 13th 1963, and seven plays were presented on consecutive nights. The Kay Players (called the Darlington Kay Players on the festival programme) were the last to perform. The performances were adjudicated by Mr. Philip Bromley, and trophies awarded to the winning production and the best performances by an actor and an actress. In addition, there were cash prizes of £35, £25 and £15. The awards were presented by Mr. George Sweet, J.P., Vice-President of the Nottingham Co-operative Society, though we do not know which productions were successful.

There were many dozens of members of the group during the period until 1965 (we know of at least fifty), and numbered among them were the following:


Leading roles in many of the group's productions - The Happy Marriage; Variation on a Theme [Little Theatre and Festival productions in which played different parts in each]; The Gazebo; Hay Fever.


Played the lead role of Jimmy Porter, the 'angry young man' in Osborne's Look Back In Anger, and also performed in Waters on the Moon, for which also designed the set. May only have stayed with the group for a short time in the very early 1960s. Remained active as an actor and in the summer of 2001 played the role of Egeus in Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream in an outdoor production by The Castle Players in the grounds of Bowes Museum in Barnard Castle, Co. Durham.


Performed in Separate Tables; The Gazebo; Hay Fever. Stage Manager in Little Theatre production of Variation on a Theme. Also served for a time as Chairman of the group. 


Acted in many of the group's productions, including: The Happy Marriage; Waters on the Moon; Look Back In Anger; Separate Tables; Variation on a Theme [both productions]; The Gazebo; Hay Fever. Also performed with Durham Arts Society Theatre Group in at least two productions - The Imperial Nightingale; Five Finger Exercise - under the direction of John Morton. [The venue of these productions is not known.] Also acted in a production of The Matchmaker with The John Morton Players, and a production of Captain Carvallo, both directed by John Morton and presented at the Georgian Theatre, Richmond, Yorkshire. Also in Magyar Melody with Ferryhill Amateur Operatic Society in the role of the Empress.

Enter the Empress in a scene from Magyar Melody
presented by Ferryhill Amateur Operatic Society


Chairman of the group in 1957 (and possibly earlier/later), and President during 1962-63. Producer of Waters of the Moon and Assistant Producer of Variation on a Theme [Little Theatre production]. Acted in Separate Tables. 


Possibly joined the group in 1960-61. In 1961-62 performed in Look Back In Anger; Separate Tables; Variation on a Theme [Little Theatre production].


Performed in Waters of the Moon; Look Back In Angers; Separate Tables.

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