Show still goes on for Shrewsbury theatre group 10 years after launch
It started off with a one-off show for charity. Ten years later Mad Cow Productions has become one of the most successful amateur theatrical groups in Shropshire, gathering quite a herd of performers along the way.
Shrewsbury-based Mad Cow Productions was founded by friends Alex Hinton and Lisa Lowarch.
The theatrical pair joined forces after both were touched by the help two charities gave to their families and they both wanted to say thank you.
"That was why we decided to do what was going to be the one and only thing we ever did, a production of A Funny Thing Happened on the way to the Forum," says Alex, who is a qualified drama teacher.
"It was purely a fundraiser and was just about getting all our friends together.
"People said we were a pair of 'mad cows' for putting on a full scale musical, so we called it Mad Cow Productions and it stuck."
It was to be another two years before Alex and Lisa teamed up as Mad Cow Productions again.
"We did do other things for other companies but we were nagged for two years," says Lisa. "Then it grew. Right from day one it grew into this beast. It just snowballed.
"Everyone felt we should be paddling our own canoe. And we discovered we shared the same ethos when we did Forum together. And that was it," adds Lisa.
Michael Frayne's Noises Off was the next production for Alex and Lisa, and it was their first official Mad Cow debut.
"With Noises Off we thought we will see whether we can make it work and, if we can, we will continue. We thought no one would come.
"When we were rehearsing it we thought it was good but it wasn't until it hit the audience that we thought, this is actually really good," says Lisa.
"They were literally crying with laughter," adds Alex. "That was what really put us on the arts radar of people in the town.
"The Music Hall staff told us that people were going in and asking if they had anything coming up from those two girls," said Alex.
The Cows were gaining momentum in Shrewsbury and their next production was 'Allo 'Allo.
"We thought we would spread the net a bit to people who might not have thought of going to the theatre," said Alex.
It was also new territory for Alex and Lisa as this was the first year that they also started to build their own sets.
Next they revived their hugely successful Forum and they hired a proper set for their first production at the Walker Theatre in the newly-built Theatre Severn. They also launched their first ever open auditions.
"And we sold out before we opened," says Alex.
"We then started looking at what other farce plays were about so we could do one play a year and one funny musical. Move Over Mrs Markham was the first one."
It was followed by a hugely successful run of The Producers.
"We were absolutely exhausted but the audiences loved it and we literally had a standing ovation every night and we were stunned. People still talk to us about it," says Lisa.
Mad Cows has also staged Not Now Darling, Drowsy Chaperone, In the Club, Kiss Me Kate and Lend me a Tenor.
Next year for their 10th anniversary they will be staging the Gershwin musical Crazy for You, complete with full Broadway choreography.
All the productions share the same ethos – to make people laugh.
"There is enough angst in everyday life without bringing it into your hobby," says Lisa.
Mad Cow Production is now made up of 42 volunteer actors aged between 16 and 73 as well as countless others backstage.
Lisa says: "These people do hundreds of voluntary hours to be part of it.
"There is something for everyone in it. Everyone says there is a lovely atmosphere," she added.
"And they all have busy lives, we have got CEOs of companies, financial directors, nurses, investment bankers, plumbers, managers of shops, every job you can think of. It is lovely.
"I can't think of a hobby where you actually have that. It is just everyone getting stuck in."
Alex adds they have no plan for the future – they just take each production at a time.
"I think we will be exhausted if we are still doing it in another 10 years," she laughs.
"We can't believe it has been 10 years since we said "let's put on a show." And it would be lovely if everyone came out to celebrate the 10th with us."
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