In 1941 Mannie Levy, who was in charge of the Northern Command Volunteers Entertainment Services (Sheffield Area) set up a group to entertain the troops stationed in Sheffield. He enlisted the help of Denys Edwards, a well known amateur actor and persuaded him to undertake the project. This group gave themselves the rather cumbersome title of the “Sheffield Wartime Entertainments Committee layers” and their first production was a one-act play called “Amazons on Broadway” about American girl gangsters In New York. Their next was a full length comedy and then it snowballed. They performed in a huge variety of venues, travelling in their own Sheffield Corporation bus and once being carried to their destination piggyback by soldiers, when their bus couldn’t get there. By the end of the war in 1945, after 200 performances at military sites within a wide radius of Sheffield, they mounted a play which ran for 40 performances!
At the end of the war they had become a great team and wanted to continue performing together, so they finally named themselves the Denys Edwards Players after their leader. And so began a 75 year long story, during which they have mounted hundreds of plays. The first five performance were given at the Croft House Settlement, but then they moved to the Library Theatre in the city centre where they have performed ever since. In recent years they have also given some very popular performances in the Crucible Studio.
Every group needs a proper base and in 1984 the Denys Edwards Players acquired an old chapel off Norton Lees Road. A loan had to be taken out to buy it and John Eaton, the then chairman nobly guaranteed it, while he, his wife Hazel and the members organised endless fund-raising events to pay it off. It was converted into an excellent large rehearsal studio, green room, props store, costume store and kitchen, which even the producers found convenient to use when making a recent production, now showing on BBC2.
To mark the 50th anniversary of the Players Jo Scarborough painted a picture in his own unique style for them showing a production of “When we Are Married” surrounded by the streets of Sheffield. Prints of this painting will be available for purchase during the current production.
Denys Edwards Players are celebrating their 75th anniversary with a production of “When We Are Married” by J.B. Priestley. This is not only a classic of British theatre, it is also very, very funny and provides an excellent evening’s entertainment. It will run at the Library Theatre from Wednesday 25th Feb. to Friday 27th Feb. at 7.30 p.m. and on Saturday 28th Feb. at 2.30 p.m., as matinees have proved to be very popular. Tickets can be booked by phoning 07948 905048 or just turn up at the door on the day. We will be delighted to see you. We are always ready to welcome new members too, whether your interests lie on the stage, behind the scenes or front of house.