"Riches take wings, comforts vanish, hope withers away, but love stays with us..."
Ben Hur is our big project, returning to theatrical "normality" after Covid. It is also our biggest/ most ambitious show to date, pushing our teams performance, technical, set, lighting and costuming ingenuity to new heights, bringing this beautiful tale to the stage.
Based on the famous novel by Lew Wallace, Ben Hur is set in the first century AD. Judah Ben Hur, a young nobleman of Jerusalem; a city under the occupation of the Roman Empire; is accused of attempting to murder the Roman governor, by his erstwhile closest boyhood friend, Massala, now a Roman commander. Sentenced to life as a galley slave; a sentence which usually led to death within months, Judah survives, and after a pirate attack on the Roman navy in the Agean sea, travels to Rome a hero, having saved the life of the Roman commander in his escape. He once more returns to Jerusalem, seeking his mother and sister, who were imprisoned for the same attack, and finds no trace of them. He does however, find Massala, and blinded by rage, challenges Massala at the annual arena "Games". Massala is killed in the games, with his dying breath, reveals to Judah that his mother and sister were in fact released and driven from the city as lepers. With all hope, and all desire for revenge, gone, Judah is lost, but fate is not finished with him. He eventually finds his mother and sister, who are miraculously healed by a preacher, who has recently come to the city........
A historical drama set in Biblical times, the tale of Ben Hur is interwoven with the life and death of Jesus Christ, who appears twice in the drama. This is ultimately a powerful tale of hope and love, set within the dramatic and often brutal times of the Roman Empire.
The script features a wide range of strong, memorable characters, both male and female, with a large age range, carefully crafted into a show which will not only explore ambitious creative and inclusive theatre-making, but also a show, that regardless of any religious or political belief of the part of the audience members, will remain a powerful, beautiful memory for years to come.
Subject to coming safely out of the pandemic, and as the UK government have stated, all adults in the UK having been offered their vaccinations by the end of July 2021, we expect to cast the show in August 2021, when we will also begin rehearsals, twice a week (Wednesdays and Sundays) in the room we rent in our local community centre. The show will be toured to local & regional venues, including theatres, churches, and other spaces, during the spring of 2022. We usually perform in at least 4 towns and cities, ranging from our home town of Brixham, up to Bristol, but we are also hoping to expand the tour this time for such an exciting show, actively seeking new venues! We will also be filming the show for online broadcast through our website.
Should the project need to be delayed due to Covid-19, it will only be delayed, with full news available , and will begin as soon as is safe for our actors and crew.
The show is written and directed by South Devon Players founder, Laura Jury.
Who we are
The South Devon Players Theatre & Film Company is an internationally awardwinning theatre company based in the beautiful fishing port of Brixham, in South Devon (hence the company name!) in the southwest peninsula of England. Founded in the winter of 2005-6, to create theatre opportunities for local actors in an area of high poverty and deprivation, the South Devon Players specialise in carefully researched historical dramas; often new writing based on new historical research, Shakespeare, and as in this case, staged adaptations of classical literature. Bringing these stories alive on the stage, brings historical research, and some of the great classical tales, to life in an accessible, colourful, experiential format - so much more different than the black and white of the pages of a book.
An inclusive, female led company, we welcome actors and crew at all levels of previous experience, regardless of gender, ethnicity, religion, education, or other kinds of identities/ demographics. We hold the belief that talent is everywhere, and needs only a chance to shine. All that we ask is that those who join us have the desire and drive to create groundbreaking top-quality theatre, work positively in a team enviroment, developing and sharing skills, and that good manners, positivity, reliability and kindness are paramount in the team.
Images from past rehearsals
(We take inclusion, equal opportunities and access etc, extremely seriously as this is at the core of our work. Please visit our policies page to read our Equal Opportunities, Diversity, and other policies at https://www.southdevonplayers.com/governance-documents.html )
We were formed primarily to create opportunities for people in the Devon area, but also attract actors from across the UK on occaision, to work with our team.
We are funded by a mixture of ticket sales to our shows, a small ebay shop selling donated items, a merchandise shop on Redbubble, a second-hand book stall in our local town market; and occiasionally when we are very very lucky, small grants. We would love to, and aim to one day find the support, through grants, sponsorship or merchandising, to be able to offer full regular NMW or higher level payments for our amazing actors and crew; however at this time, we usually end up working to profit-share agreements, where the proceeds of the ticket sales, however small or (hopefully large) are shared on an equal basis among all cast and crew.
We are a company Limited by Guarantee. Our company directors take no funds from the company for this role - being a company director with us, is a purely voluntary role, to help facilitate the growth of this organisation, which is a passion for all of us.
A look behind the scenes at some of our past shows
Enviromental aspects to our work
We take our enviromental footprint very seriously. Not only does it behove us all to care for the planet and generate as little wastage as possible, we also find it keeps production funds low.
We primarily use recycled/ second hand fabrics, wood, and other items to create our costumes and props, focussing on finding these whereever possible in charity shops and via resources like Freecyle. Sometimes this can even extend to equipment like some of our stage lights.
Wherever possible we create shows using items that we can use again in future, remade or in their original forms, for future shows.
When we have something that we have finished with, after a project is complete, we also either dismantle it to reuse the materials in the future, or offer the item to other theatre companies.
We car-share transport to different performance venues, or use public transport, carrying everything with us in holdalls or on our laps, again reducing pollution as much as is possible, as well as working in as cost-effective manner as possible.
Follow the project:
To follow the latest news on this project, we have a specific section of our news page - to find out the latest about Ben Hur at any time, please bookmark https://www.southdevonplayers.com/latest-news1/category/ben-hur
How funds help us
All contributions, large and small, directly help promote and facilitate involvement in the performing arts.
We are opting for a flexible funding model on this project, and whatever we make will be used as is most effective for the project, within what we have raised. Here are some ideas of what it will be used for. Any amounts left over from specific costume/ equipment purchases, would be used to pay actors and crew additionally to what they might make from ticket sales, if less than NMW will be included in their profit-shares. The script, sound effects, and designs, all belong to us, and need no fee, and we have annual insurance for the organisation as standard, so that is covered as well.
£5 buys teas and coffees and juice for the cast and crew in rehearsals (a well refreshed team is a happy one!)
£10 buys enough fabric (second hand) for one of our show costumes or pays for the rent for our rehearsal room for one rehearsal.
£40- £60 buys enough specialist wood for one of the major set-pieces which will need to be built to flat-pack, which we would not be able to build from pallets or discarded wood.
£100 buys us a new projection screen or backdrop
£200 would buy us a high definition projector for some of the video effects which will be needed for this show. (and would be integral to future shows as well)
£250 would buy us some additional LED lighting or sound equipment (great for this show, and which will be used for the future as well, as we urgently need to upgrade our company lighting and sound equipment on a long term basis)
£350 would pay for minibus hire to reach a more distant venue, taking the team and equipment in one vehicle instead of in separate cars and on the train.
If (no harm in reaching for the stars, we would like to reach this one day!) someone wished to sponsor higher payments directly for the actors or crew, the minimum day rate at Equity/ ITC rate is £100 per actor, per day of rehearsals and performances. (please note that we like to share equally between everyone until we reach the amount to pay everyone those rates equally, and that in our team, because we have to use rented rehearsal space in a community centre twice a week (there are other building users) we are not able to run to full weeks of rehearsals. Anything less than this, left from buying items needed for the production, will be used to share equally between the actors on our usual profitshare model.
You are likely to want to find out about us. Here are some links that you may find of interest.
You may also want to explore the following links:
Use the hashtag #benhur22 on social media to look us up.
I do hope that you have found this breakdown of the planned project of interest. We of course welcome any questions or requests for more information. You may contact us directly at any time on [email protected], or phone +447855 090589 in UK office hours