How I became a Member of ‘The Best Kept Secret in the Theatrical World’

Last seen on The Mill’s stage in our 2018 production of The Crucible, Tim Jackson-Waite is here to tell us of his journey into Sharnbrook Mill Theatre.

Tucked away behind nature’s very own proscenium curtain, Sharnbrook Mill Theatre reminds me of that delicious moment of anticipation just before the lights dim and you shuffle, expectantly, from one buttock to the other in your snug velvet seat.

This magnificent now-converted Victorian Water Mill nestles unobtrusively at the end of a distant driveway in perfect harmony with the gentle whispering of The River Great Ouse.

Most of us have been to the theatre at least once in our lives and remember that moment of nervous excitement as we enter those magical confines for a brief moment and suspend our disbelief away from the reality of the world. The Sharnbrook Mill Theatre is even more enticing than most. Having picked up your ticket at the box office and purchased your programme, you wind your way upstairs, glancing at posters of past shows, reaching the bar for a glass of whatever takes your fancy and that unmistakable hubbub of nervous arousal. As the bell is sounded to take your seats, you head towards the beckoning usher, dressed resplendently in immaculate dinner suit, along a darkened corridor and up a small flight of steps. It is only then that it truly hits you.

“Since we cannot change reality, let us change the eyes which see reality” – Nikos Kazantzakis

Your senses are thrust into the magnificent 200-seat, tiered auditorium and the most enticing proscenium stage. The air is filled with that intangible sense of wonderment that only live theatre can muster.

Six years ago, heart palpitating and a quivering mess of insecurity, I summoned the courage to knock on the door of Sharnbrook Mill Theatre. Thankfully, no one answered and so I sped away, proud of my attempt and convinced that it wasn’t meant to be. Self doubt can be the most effective extinguisher of progress. A few days passed and I happened to be driving through Sharnbrook and that annoying Jiminy Cricket tapped me on my shoulder and suggested I grew a pair and knocked harder this time. The iconic Mr Barry Thompson foolishly answered the door and, without knowing it, gave me an opportunity for which I will be forever grateful. I was handed the part of fourth spear carrier in Barry’s excellent production of Macbeth. It was the encouragement and stepping stone I had been too afraid to take for almost 20 years, the last time I dared tread the boards.

From that moment, I became part of the Sharnbrook Mill Theatre Family. It’s honestly the best drug out there.

I went onto audition for Abigail’s Party playing Beverley’s husband; Cheshire Cats, where I got to fulfil a lifelong ambition and dress up in a pink tutu; and finally every actors dream, Arthur Miller’s The Crucible, taking on Miller’s protagonist, John Proctor.

Sharnbrook Mill Theatre surrounds you with individuals who collectively bring together some of the finest talent and theatrical works you will witness. We are rightly proud of our amateur dramatic status but that is where the word ‘amateur’ ends.

The expression ‘amdram’ conjures up images of cold village halls, wobbly scenery and the remnants of last year’s nativity tucked away, yet still visible during this summer’s version of Chekhov’s Three Sisters. Sharnbrook Mill Theatre couldn’t be further away from that stereotypical viewpoint. From the front-of-house to the bar staff, raffle ticket sellers, backstage crew, lighting and sound technicians, props, wigs, costumes, make-up, stage managers, directors, set designers, set builders, singers, musicians, actors, volunteers, prompts, Board members and the Chairman of the Trust – Sharnbrook Mill Theatre’s amateur status belies its professional approach to every single detail. We are part of this family because we love it. We are not paid, but we give our heart and soul to this wonderful thing we call entertainment.

It is a family that encourages and welcomes new faces. Everyone has a unique talent whether it be behind the scenes or prancing about on the stage. Take that next, brave step and do as I did – knock on that metaphorical door and banish that imposter called self-doubt.

Thank you SMT to one and all who may have to suffer me for just a little longer. Come and join us, be part of the family; because now even more so than ever – life’s way too short for ‘what ifs’.