This year marks the 30th Anniversary of Splinters Theatre Group. It all began in 1989....
The Birth of Splinters
In 1989, "Splinters" Theatre Group was formed as part of Woodseats Operatic Society with the aim to be a group run "by young people for young people".
Our founding members searched for a name for the new youth group which was an offshoot from Woodseats. As a group that "splintered" from another, the name Splinters Theatre Group seemed apt.
The group was, and still is, open to anyone between the ages of 14 - 30 interested in getting involved in musical theatre. Splinters provided many opportunities to explore and discover all aspects of theatre production whether it be on stage or behind the scenes.
The aim of Splinters was to be self-sufficient and financially independent yet still associated with W.O.S. However, because of initial costs incurred, such as deposits for show licence and theatre hire and insurance it was necessary for W.O.S to make a loan of £400 to fund Splinters first production.
The show in October was produced by Don Semmens, with Paul Wright as Musical Director. The choreographers were Mandy Holt, Julia Newton and Vanessa Robinson. Rehearsals for Godspell began in June 1989 on Monday evenings at The University Drama Studio, on Glossop Road, Sheffield.
The group's first show was a huge success with audiences as enthusiastic as the energetic young people on stage. Chris Middlebrook played the principal part of Jesus with great flair, with Alex Robinson giving admirable support as both John and Judas. All members of the well-drilled cast played their parts with great dedication and distinction and there were "floods of tears" when the curtain came down on the last night.The loan from W.O.S was repaid in full long before the curtain went up, and the first show, Godspell, made enough profit to stage the second show, Grease.
After eight years, the group had a respectable bank balance and was financially independent.
In October of 1990, Splinters presented Grease.This rock musical was an ideal choice for a young people's group with the boundless energy and enthusiasm of the 50-cast members of the University Drama Studio Stage.
Produced by Don Semmens and musically directed by Paul Wright, there was great enjoyment for everyone in the singing, dancing, acting and splendid team work. The choreography was the worthy joint effort of Sallianne Foster, Denise Wagstaff, Mandy Holt, Lynne-Marie Hardy, Julie Flemming, Julia Newton, Joanne Cotterill and Amanda Holland.
The Nineties & Noughties
Over the next two decade Splinters Theatre Group produced one show a year, each production more spectacular than the last. Shows became more adventurous with bigger casts and budgets. Splinters was growing.
1991= West Side Story
1992 = The Wiz
1993 = Jesus Christ Superstar
1994 = Barnum
1995 = Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat
1996 = Dracula Spectacular
1997 = Return to the Forbidden Planet
1997 = At The Hop
1998 = Godspell
1999 = Robin; Prince of Sherwood
2000 = Guys & Dolls
2001 = From Hollywood to Broadway
2002 = West Side Story
2003 = Cabaret
2004 = Little Shop of Horrors
2005 = Summer Holiday
2006 = Copacabana
2007 = We Will Rock You
2008 = Boogie Nights
2009 = 42nd Street
Robin; Prince of Sherwood 1999
Joseph & the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat 1995
Dracula Spectacular 1996
We Will Rock You 2007
Boogie Nights 2008
In recent years Splinters has continued to grow, producing new and upcoming musicals.
Our House 2010
2010 = Our House
2011 = The Wedding Singer
2012 = Eurobeat
2013 = Happy Days
2014 = South Pacific
Happy Days 2013
South Pacific 2014
A Silver Anniversary Celebration
In 2014, the committee decided to put on a 25th Anniversary show, under the name of Splinters25. This special production was open to anyone who had been a member of Splinters in the past 25 years as a celebration of how far Splinters had come.
In January 2015, led by Ian Walker (Director), Steve Myers (MD) and Aggie Gryszel (Choreographer), Splinters25 went to The Crucible Studio with a cast of 19 all past or present Splinters members. Rent was once again a huge success and a fitting tribute to 25 years of Splinters.
A New Chapter
Having been financially independent for a considerable time, in 2015 it was agreed that Splinters Theatre Group should strike out on its own. Splinters became a fully fledged theatre company in it's own right.
But this was not the only thing that would be different this year. Having out grown the Drama Studio, the 2015 production of Fame was the first Splinters production to be performed at the Montgomery in Sheffield. The Montgomery is a considerably bigger venue, housing 420 members of the audience. To this day, Splinters performs there every September and we and our audiences benefit from the gradual refurbishment of this historic building.
2015 = Fame
2016 = Loserville
2017 = West Side Story
2018 = Copacobana
2019 = Sister Act
With the new performance space and new capabilities, Splinters also revived previous shows with past members taking up the Director's mantle and putting their own spin on previously performed musicals.
In 2017, Adam Walker, re-vitalised West Side Story to nearly sell-out audiences and then in 2018 Daniel Storey directed Copacabana, making full use of the technical capabilities of the Montgomery. Both have been members of Splinters for many years and it is always great to see members exploring other roles with the musical theatre community.
West Side Story
1991 2002 2017
In the press
Three Decades Centre Stage for Theatre Group
By Jodie Tayor
Sheffield’s leading musical theatre youth group is celebrating thirty years at the heart of the city’s amateur dramatic scene.
Known for its mantra “by young people for young people”, the group has spotted, coached and developed young talent, both on and off stage, for three decades and is where some of Sheffield’s most seasoned performers cut their theatrical teeth.
Formed in 1989, the society began life as a branch (or ‘splinter’) of an adult group, Woodseats MTC, and was formed to give the young members more opportunities.
Pete Miles is Splinters’ Stage Manager to this day, and was one of those who helped set up the society. He remembers how the idea came about:
“Woodseats had a few younger members who had expressed a desire to do shows aimed at their age group and where they were more likely to get principle roles. A few of the committee thought this would be a good idea and may also act as a way of getting more younger people into the main society.”
Since then, Splinters has become a society in its own right, putting on at least one big-scale production every year.
“Splinters can proudly say that a number of now established professional performers and technical staff have passed though its ranks,” says Pete.
“Whilst technical aspects of Splinters shows have developed with technology , giving a more professional feel to the shows, this has always been secondary to the main objective of giving young people the chance to either perform or learn/experience the backstage aspects of theatre.”
Now earning part of his living working backstage in theatre, Pete learned his craft with Splinters. And it’s the challenging productions which stick out in his memory:
“For our second show Grease we used an old Citroen 2CV with its engine removed. It was quite light and easy to push around but it had no brakes!
“To stop it rolling off the rostra the back of the car was secured to the back wall of the stage area by a rope, which was also used to pull the car back upstage for storage when not in use.
“The car couldn’t be collected until the morning after the last show. However, the theatre insisted it be taken out of the building on the Saturday night, so the rope had to be used again to tie it to a lamppost to stop it rolling away down the street!”
Current Splinters chairman Mark Holmes joined the society in 1995 at 15 years old and has performed onstage dozens of times.
He has since gone on to play leading roles for other societies in Sheffield, including at the Lyceum.
“My years with Splinters have been some of the most important of my life. I’d even go so far as to say it’s been life-changing,” he explains.
“I’ve made lifelong friends and will be forever grateful to my predecessors for all the help and encouragement along the way. Knowing how the society has progressed over the years, it makes me immensely proud to now be leading the group into its 30th year”
With members from ages 14 to 30, Splinters has stayed true to its roots as a youth group, with many members moving on to other societies when they reach the maximum age or helping out backstage.
But for the group’s 25th anniversary in 2015, a new project was launched called Splinters 25 which brought members from years gone by back to share the stage with younger performers.
The first Splinters 25 production, Rent, was performed in the Crucible Studio and two years later the group put on Rock of Ages at the University of Sheffield’s Octagon Centre.
Now, to mark the 30th anniversary, Splinters 25 will bring the rock opera Jesus Christ Superstar to the same venue next month.
Featuring such famous songs as Gethsemane, I Don’t Know How To Love Him, and Superstar, this gritty retelling of the last seven days of Jesus’s life will be reimagined in the present day.
“We wanted to choose a show that would really highlight the strength of our entire company and showcase the talent we’ve had through the doors at Splinters in our relatively short history,” says Mark.
“This production lends itself perfectly to the magnificent venue. With a 40-strong cast filling the purpose-made stage being complimented by a face-melting 6-piece rock band and additional choir, we can’t wait to bring this production to life”, he says.