GADS – drama at the heart of the village 1968 – 1978

In 1968 Harold Wilson was backing Britain, the Prague Spring shifted the European balance of power, America was embroiled in the Vietnam War, Civil Rights leader Martin Luther King was murdered and the musical ‘Hair’ opened on Broadway.

In Geddington, after a gap in productions due to illness, GADS got creative to raise the profile of the society across different organisations in the village. A 1-Act Easter play performed to the members of the WI proved particularly successful and alleviated the disappointment of having to cancel the spring production.

But the show must go on….and soon plans for a farce, ‘Double Wedding’, were underway and a date for the Play Reading was settled on. The production proved a great success with lead parts being taken by Margaret Stafford, Keith Tomlinson  and Jack Miller, seen below checking that their whiskey bottle really is empty! Particular praise was given to Mona Jones in her role as the coy, chapel-going maiden aunt. Producer Mary Rowles had worked her magic again.

The production of Two in the Bush that followed in March 1969 got generous praise from the press:

‘the entertainment value was enormous’

The cast of Two in the Bush 1969

‘they are certainly living up to their reputation’ 

                        ‘a very attractive and practical set’

‘Two In the Bush’ had the audience rocking with laughter’

As this was Sylvia Cook’s debut production, she and the cast must have been delighted; Michael Pell revealed his talent as a comic alongside Margaret Stafford and Dorothy Carver as two strong minded women, David Hawthorn as a convincing Brigadier and Joan Elliott of Newton ‘suitably vigorous’ as a former Major.

The next few years were uncertain as the society struggled to find a permanent producer and members willing and able to commit to the rehearsal time required. In the interim, play readings in members’ homes, social events and performances of 1 Act dramas to other village groups kept the thespian flame alive. Eventually in 1971, Maurice Holmes stepped in as an experienced producer and the casting for ‘The Bride and the Bachelor’ began. Though audience numbers were inevitably low after such a long gap between productions, the cast delivered the complex and witty storyline with some skill and those who had paid their 10p for a seat were well rewarded.   Do current readers remember the days of ‘Geddington Cross’ as the telephone code?!

By 1974 GADS was back on a firmer footing but decided to reintroduce membership subscriptions to reinforce the sense of ‘corporate identity’. The princely sum of 30p was duly asked of members! While those in the cast gained recognition on the stage and in the press, we must not forget the backstage team; Jackie Harker, ticket sales, Prompter Maureen Rushby, electricians Chris Stephenson, Bert Stafford, and Chris Kiernan and Wardrobe Loris Calver amongst others. The team work was very evident and the offer from Joan Elliott to do a ‘Buffet Supper at her home was ‘received with acclamation’!

Audience numbers were back up, membership was growing, finances were healthy and the Village Hall stage had been decorated by members. It was time for another production…’Not now Darling’ was a witty, sexy comedy involving ‘a blundering idiot and a stripper’. It was a huge success. Marlyn Davis carried off the striptease without scandalising the village residents. Well done to the producer, Sylvia Cook, and the supporting cast of Len Butlin, Eric Johnson, Lynette Bachnet, Stephen Exley, Jackie Kemp and Eric Saunders. Fur coats and the delights of seventies fashion featured strongly in the storyline … a great time was had by all and the after show party at The Star was also a great success.

Times were changing and Geddington and GADS were changing with them. The mixture of youth and experience and a great deal of talent in the cast, bound together with hard work meant the future looked bright for the village productions to come.

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