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Begun in 1952, the Group's founder members included Freda Selley, Dorothy Weaver, Toz Gibson, Betty Way, Marion Tarbox, Charlotte Henrich, Tom Tout, Les Bourne, and Betty Bourne. Their first production was "A Lady Mislaid" in the Angel Room. The stage managers were Frank Sellars and Fred Bryant, the lighting was by Bill Knight, the prompt was Hilary Powell and the music was provided by John Churchill. The Gazette reported that "the first production of the new drama group delighted audiences at Witheridge".

From then on until 1964 the Group presented an annual play in November. There was no stage, so each time one had to be constructed from beer crates and anything else that came to hand. Audiences were enthusiastic, led by the cheerful figure of the Vicar, the Rev. J A S Castlehow, in the front row. Press reports by the Gazette's "Argus" were largely favourable, any criticism offered was always constructive. Stalwarts of this period were; Raymond Body, Freda Knight (Polly Prompt), Freda Tout (producer), Denzil Ayre (stage manager), Frank and Winston Stoneman (electrics), Mary Malseed and Margaret Cox (make-up), Fred Woollacott (stage sets). Among others who helped were; Betty Way, Sylvia Boundy, Margaret Rutland, Marion and David Crane, Mr Holmes, Sir Douglas McNair, Peter Smyth, Kit James, Mrs Jordan, and Geoffrey Cox.

The last play at The Angel was "The Fish" in 1963. It was the last for two reasons; one, because the room was at last refused a fire licence and, two, because the new Parish Hall opened in 1964, with greatly improved facilities and flexibility. The first play there was a costume drama "The Noble Spaniard". Annual plays continued into the eighties, and after that came a range of shows such as pantomimes, plays, concerts, variety shows, etc.

For plays rehearsals were held in a range of venues, including The Mitre, Vine Cottage, and, memorably, in The Angel attic, where a space of ten square feet was made more hazardous by the bowls on the floor, set to catch the drips from the leaky roof. After Christmas play-readings took place in members houses.

A final note; there used to be last night parties in Vine Cottage, followed by unsteady moonlight walks down the road towards Labour in Vain.

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Last Edited 03/07/2006    Copyright © 2000-2006 Witheridge

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