Ware Dramatic Society
30 years ago
By Alan Thomson
Ware Dramatic Society 30 years ago
30 years ago Ware had a flourishing dramatic society. It put on plays in Ware, entered the annual Hertford Theatre Week and the Welwyn Youth Drama Festival, held play readings and had club nights and workshops on aspects of theatrical productions. It even published its own in-house magazine Rhubarb-Rhubarb. These were made possible by the hard work and dedication of a range of members, some of whom had been active in the Society for more than three decades. It also put on a float in Ware Week Carnival if appropriate transport could be found. When Marie Butcher managed to get Jon Pertwee as Worzel Gummidge, total membership was 79 and an anthology of poetry called A Lovesome Thing was read on two consecutive nights in Place House. Alas three decades on from 1981 the Society is no more, but its records can be viewed in HALS in the deposited files HALS Acc 3680/11
Some of the plays that were read in members’ homes each month included, The Chalk Garden by Enid Bagnold, Lady Windermere’s Fan, by Oscar Wilde, The Bells of Hell by John Mortimer, and Slueth by Anthony Shaffer. We also read a stage version of Pride and Prejudice, when Mike David read Mr Bennett and June Newbould, Mrs Bennett, with Belinda Wills reading their eldest daughter Jane. A highlight was the Christmas Pantomime and in 1981 it was Toad of Toad Hall. On other occasions The Little Foxes by William Hellman was read, as was A Day in the Death of Joe Egg by Peter Nichols. A nostalgic look back at the ‘60s was heard in His, Hers and Theirs by Hugh and Margaret Williams as was a look back at the ‘40s in Denzil Barr’s Dying Days. It certainly was an eclectic mix.
Club nights included a pub outing to the Sword in Hand at Westmill and a parlour games night jointly with Thundridge Players as well as do-it yourself evenings when members read their favouite pieces of prose or poetry or created Christmas anthologies. Another ingeneous club night was Putting, Pub and Picnic in the Priory. Workshops for the youth group, included make-up, improvisation, and sound.
A number of plays were produced each year, and the Society tried to get a play entered for the Hertford Theatre Week. Though Clouds by Michael Frayn was entered into Theatre Week, it did not win but in 1981 we were already in rehearsal for Alan Ayckbourn’s Mixed Doubles, a series of sketches in which I had to play tennis, partnered by Pam Smith, against a couple somewhere in the audience, as well as bickering in a tent with Hillary Barratt. When it was put on in Place House, Cyril Heath commented in The Mercury that Pop David was one of the few 87 year olds regularly performing on the amateur stage. In Hertford Theatre Week we were runners up to HDOS.
Venues, in which to put on productions, were already a problem, as the cost of hiring county council halls in schools was increased and occasional theatre licences went up fom £1.05 to £9 over night. However membership fees were still only £2.50. Hertford Heath Hall was considered and rejected, but the Garden Room at the Priory was used for workshops, and a joint pantomime with Thundridge Players called The Incredible Vanishing was put on in Thundridge Village Hall. Place House was also used, both for coffee mornings and club nights. Perhaps today, if Ware people stop watching television, playing computer games and tweeting on the web, they might find more active fun in amatuer dramatics.