HIGH HURSTWOOD

ITS HISTORY from the STONE AGE to the 21st CENTURY

 

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HIGH HURSTWOOD

DRAMA CLUB

 

 

HISTORY

 

With the end of the Second World War in 1945 many of the wartime organisations that the people of High Hurstwood had been members of ceased to exist or were drastically reduced in size. This left the villagers feeling that the community spirit that these organisations had fostered should be continued with new village based peacetime activities and organisations. One of the organisations this feeling produced was the High Hurstwood Drama Club that was also known at times as The High Hurstwood Amateur Dramatic Society or The High Hurstwood Players. It put on its first production in early 1946 and existed for 15 years, putting on at least one play each year in the main class room of the village school. The last production was in 1959, and at least one thing that seems to have helped the club's demise was the stricter regulations coming in regarding audience safety at the venue used.

The following are details of the plays produced each year, with, where available, newspaper reports, programs and photos. Though there is at the moment a lack of information for the period 1953-55.

 

1946

Their first programme consisting of two plays was presented on Friday & Saturday 26 & 27 April 1946, and like all their plays was in the main schoolroom at High Hurstwood School where a stage was erected at one end of the room. At this time they were calling themselves ‘The High Hurstwood Amateur Dramatic Society’ and the two plays were Members of the Jury and The Man about the Place. This was reported in the 3 May 1946 edition of the Kent & Sussex Courier:

HIGH HURSTWOOD

AMATEUR DRAMATISTS scored an outstanding success with the presentation of two plays at Hurstwood School on Friday and Saturday to crowded audiences. In “Members of the Jury.” by Stuart Ready, the cast, who all sustained their difficult parts most commendably, were Phyllis Marley, Victoria Cox, Alice Watson, Ellen Ruffle, Wenda Phillips and Irene Watson. A talented and enthusiastic performance was also given of Harold Brighouse’s “The Man About the Place.” Alfred Cox, James Brown and Cyril Watson were in the principal roles, and the other players were Phyllis Marley, Wenda Phillips, Irene Watson, Eveline Muddle, Nancy Holmes and Victoria Cox. Mr. and Mrs. Musgrove were stage manager and producer respectively and Mrs. Gourlay assisted.

 

 

1947

Their second programme consisting of two plays was presented on Friday & Saturday 10 & 11 January 1947. The plays were The Bishop’s Candlesticks and Pearly Pearls. They were now calling themselves ‘The High Hurstwood Drama Club’. This was reported in a local paper as:

High Hurstwood School was filled both on Friday and Saturday when the local Drama Club presented two short plays. They were produced by Mrs. Gourlay and Mrs. Musgrove, and it was tribute to them that from beginning to end every part was played without a hitch. The acting was of a high standard, and far above what one would associate with an average village club. The first half of the programme was occupied with “The Bishop’s Candlesticks,” Norman McKinnell's well-known one-act drama. It was particularly well cast, and full marks went to James Brown as the Bishop, who gives all his worldly treasures, including his valuable candlesticks to help an escaped convict. Phyllis Marley, as the Bishop's widowed sister. Gave a convincing portrayal of her part, and Alfred Cox maintained the high standard as the convict. Nancy Holmes as “Marie,” and Ronald Oldham, the Sergeant of Gendarmes, also did well.

In contrast the second was a comedy in two acts entitled “Pearly Pearls,” by John J. Melluish. This told the story of a young man, just out of college who wanted to become a private detective. A string of pearls was alleged to have been stolen from his home, and there were many amusing incidents as he found himself on one wrong track after another. Stanley Smalley gave a convincing portrayal as the would-be detective, and he was ably supported by Ronald Oldham and Victoria Cox as his parent. His Fiancée was well acted by Sheila Savage, and Ellen Ruffle, and William Tidy as a parson, were responsible for the many amusing incidents. Alfred Cox, Jessie Pearce and Irene Watson also pleased, and praise was also due to Mr. Musgrove, the stage manager. The profits were for the fund to acquire a new village hall.

 

In 1947 the High Hurstwood Women’s Institute entered the High Hurstwood Drama Club’s play The Bishop’s Candlesticks in the East Sussex Federation of Women’s Institutes Drama Festival. Three heats were held to select the six plays to be presented at Lewes on 17 May. The second of these heats was held at Ditchling Village Hall on Saturday 3 May 1947 when six groups presented their plays, these were:

Ditchling W.I. with ‘The Six Wives of Calais’.

Sayers Common W.I. with ‘Novelette’.

Southover W.I. with ‘The Spinsters of Lushe’.

Worth W.I. with ‘A Room in the Tower’.

High Hurstwood W.I. with ‘The Bishop’s Candlesticks’.

Hassocks Townswomen’s Guild with ‘Her Affairs in Order’.

The local paper reporting on the event stated that the cast and the adjudicator’s remarks on the High Hurstwood play were: Phyllis Marley, Nancy Holmes, James Brown, Alfred Cox and Ronald Oldham. An interesting and well constructed classic, with the cast admirably suited to their parts. The setting was good; costumes and make-up excellent. The whole well produced.

The adjudicator was Miss Lenora Davies from the London Academy of Dramatic Art and she would only be announcing the placings after she had seen all the plays. High Hurstwood’s entry was not selected as one of the six to go on to Lewes on 17 May.

 

1948

Their third programme consisting of three plays was presented on Friday & Saturday 9 & 10 January 1948. The plays were Acid Drops, A Room in the Tower and The Bathroom Door. This was reported in the local paper as:

THREE SHORT PLAYS

HIGH HURSTWOOD DRAMA GROUP’S 1948 DEBUT

Simple and effective scenery, good stage management and confident acting ensured the success of High Hurstwood Drama Group's first 1948 production on Friday and Saturday, when they presented three one-act plays at the village-school.

Outstanding among the three was Hugh Stewart's “A room in the Tower,” a scene from the short and tragic life of Lady Jane Grey. Jill Gourlay; as Lady Jane, played her part with considerable insight and feeling, giving what was in many ways the best performance of the evening. Phyllis Marley was icily regal as her cousin, Queen Mary. Lady Jane's attendants, Tilney and Mrs. Eller, were played by Emma Waters and Ellery Smallwood.

Special scenery used in this play, designed and constructed by Mr. Leslie Boss and Mr. H. A, Musgrove, added greatly to its realism.

In lighter vein were two plays by Gertrude Jenning, “Acid Drops,” and “The Bathroom Door.” The first play is set in a ward of a county institution and the inevitable romance develops against this cheer­less background. The young lovers, Flora Cavan and the Rev. Noel Cuthbertson, were played, by Nancy Holmes and James Brown. Mr. Brown, perhaps, could have been a shade less like the usual stage cleric. The parts of inmates of the institution were taken by Victoria Cox, Alice Watson, Ellen Ruffle and Jessie Pearce, and that of Alice, the maid, by Irene Watson.

The last of the three plays, “The Bathroom Door,” was pure farce, and the company treated it as such. They gave a delightfully spon­taneous performance, never failing to draw the laughs. Stanley Smalley, as the ardent young man; Elinor Yates, as a prima donna, and Ronald Oldham as an old gentleman, were mainly responsible for the mirth. They were ably supported by Janet Shaylor (Young Lady - glamorous), Alice Watson (Old Lady) and Alfred Cox (Boots).

The plays were produced by Mrs. Gourlay and Mrs. E. Yates.

 

1949

Their fourth programme consisting of three plays was presented on Monday 3 January 1949. The plays were Sea Shell, Thread o’ Scarlet and Full House. They were now calling themselves ‘The High Hurstwood Players’. This was reported in the 7 January 1949 editions of two local papers as:

FIRST OF THE YEAR

High Hurstwood plays

First of local village dramatic societies to produce a 1949 show, High Hurstwood Players began the New Year well with their presentation on   Monday of three one-act plays.

Best of the three was "Thread o’ Scarlet,” J. J. Bell's powerful little study in the macabre, its effectiveness heightened by realistic sound effects. After such thunder, wind and rain it was faintly surprising to walk out afterwards into starlight and frost. Notable in this play were Alfred Cox as Butters and Stanley Smalley, in the short but dramatic part of Breen.

“House Full” (Vera Beringer) provided a complete contrast with the tension of “Thread o' Scarlet.” Helping to provide the laughs were Ronald Oldham, the harassed box-office manager, Irene Watson (theatre cleaner), and Alice Watson (Miss Meakin).

But the opening play, “Sea Shell,” was a dubious choice.

“The subject,” said the programme, “is everything important that happened to Daisy Spriggs.”

Spread over a prologue, five short scenes and an epilogue, the story of forty-odd years became a little disjointed. Intervals between scenes were unavoidably of the same length, in some cases, as the scenes - and from a personal view, interest in the doings of Daisy began to wilt before the epilogue. Yet, the three players who acted her through courtship, marriage, bereavement and finally to “charring” - Nancy Holmes, Phyllis Marley and Alice Watson - were able enough and the same could be said of “Mr. Spriggs” - Stanley Smalley and Alfred Cox.

Producers were Mrs. Musgrove and Mrs. Gourlay, and stage managers -Messrs. Musgrove and Wigley. Other players taking part were - Thread o' Scarlet, Dennis Muddle, Reginald Marley, Ronald Oldham, Jim Brown; House Full, Ellerie Smallwood, Ellen Ruffle, Jessie Pearce, Phyllis Marley, Jim Brown, Nancy Holmes; Sea Shell, Victoria, Cox, Ellerie Smallwood, Alice Watson,

Hurstwood Dramatics

To raise funds to pay for a village hall at High Hurstwood, a local drama group, the High Hurstwood Players produced: a series of plays during the past few months, and through their efforts they have collected a total of approximately £300.

The climax at their work was staged at the schoolroom, High Hurstwood, on Monday, when the drama group presented three short plays before a large audience of local residents. The stage manager was Mr. H A. Musgrove.

The first and slightly longer of the three,, called “Sea Shell” and written by Patricia Chown proved Nancy Holmes to be a versatile actress, and she was ably supported by Phyllis Marley and Alfred Cox.

“Thread o’ Gold,” by J. J. Bell, and “House Full,” by Vera Beringer, brought out the qualities of Ronald Oldham and Ellen Ruffle.

 

Their fifth programme consisting of one play of three acts was presented on a Thursday and Friday during June 1949. The play was Quiet Week-End. This was reported in a June 1949 edition of a local paper as:

SHOULD BE SEEN MORE OFTEN

Talented amateurs

The appearances of the High Hurstwood Players in the past have been few, compared with those of other amateur dramatic societies in the district. But they have shown a high standard of acting ability - and on Thursday and Friday, when they presented their first three-act play, Esther  McCracken's   comedy “Quiet Week-Bad,” they showed it once again.

Here is a group of players which deserves to been seen more often.

Particularly pleasing actresses and actors were Elleie Smallwood - an attractive Miranda Bute – Phyllis Marley (Mildred Royd) and Ronald Oldham (Arthur Royd). Stanley Smallwood (Denys Royd) and Sheila Savage (Rowena Marriott) played their parts well, and James Brown obviously enjoyed the character of golf-struck Jim Brent - an enjoyment which the audience shared. His unfortunate wife Marcia was nicely played by Nancy Holmes.

Good performances were given by Reginald Marley (Adrian Barasford) and Hilda Muddle (Mary Jarrow), and other parts were played by Alfred Cox, Irene Watson, Victoria Cox and Ellen Ruffle.

Producers were Mrs. H. Musgrove and Mrs. E. Gourlay, and Mr. H. Musgrove was stage manager.

1950

Their sixth programme consisting of one play of four acts was presented on Friday & Saturday 29 & 30 December 1950. The play was The Chinese Puzzle. This was reported in the 5 January 1951 editions of two local papers as:

High Hurstwood Players Score Big Success

“THE Chinese Puzzle,” by Marian Bower and Leon M. Lion, is an  exacting  play,  but High Hurstwood Players stood up to the test well when they presented  it before sizeable audiences  at High Hurstwood school on Friday and Saturday.

Ronald Oldham gave a first-rate performance as the Marquis Chi Lung, a Chinese diplomat. Better known  as Rear-Admiral  R. W. Oldham -  a  member  of Uckfield Rural Council  and Buxted Parish Council - he appeared to enjoy the part which  kept him  on the stage for the best part of three hours.

His make-up was most convincing and appropriate intonation added humour to a play which blatantly overlooks the fact that the Chinese scrupulously avoid contradictions and offensive expressions in their conversations.

First produced in 1918, “The Chinese Puzzle” was one of the plays made famous by Lilian Braithwaite, Ethel Irving and Leon M. Lion. It portrays a diplomatic episode of 50 years ago and in so doing illustrates a diplomacy of a past era.

Perhaps it also suggests that a more leisurely way of life maintained values and standards which compare favourably with any that modern progress has produced.

John Rix gave a polished performance as Roger De La Haye, around whose plight the story revolves, and Nancy Holmes who played opposite him as Naomi Melksham, did justice to the part.

Phyllis Marley as Lady De La Haye also impressed, particularly during the moments of stress, and James Brown lent the essential humour to the role of the Hon. William Hurst.

The part of Armand De Rochecorbon - a difficult one - was ably filled by Stanley Smalley, while Reginald Marley as Paul Markatel, an international financier, and. Irene Watson as Victoria Cresswell, acted with force and sincerity.

Although Hilda Muddle's appearance on the stage was but brief, she portrayed Mrs. Melksham with undoubted earnestness.

Among others taking part and deserving of praise were Brian Oldham as Sir Aylmer Brent of the Foreign Office; Pamela Muddle as Lady De La Haye’s ward, and Fee Sing, a Chinese servant; Charles Wickens as Littleport, the butler; and Lily Dale as Dr. Fu Yang.

The play was produced by Ella Baines. Stage managers were M. W. White. Peter and Brian Phillips and R. W. Garwood, who was also responsible for the scenery.

The proceeds of the two performances will be divided between High Hurstwood Church and High Hurstwood Village Hall Building Fund.

‘Chinese Puzzle’ was still good

HIGH HURSTWOOD Players went back to 1918 for their latest production - a revival of “The Chinese Puzzle,” by Marian Bower and Leon M. Lion, which they presented at the village school on Friday and Saturday.

Their choice was a little unusual, but there should be no complaints on that score. For “The Chinese Puzzle” has stood the test of time, and, even if its characters some-times speak in phrases which belong to past decades, it is still good entertainment. And in spite of the obvious limitations of the “theatre,” the production was satisfying in. every way, with no hitches and no unduly long intervals - a point which matters a great deal in a four-act play.

PRINCIPAL CHARACTERS.

Outstanding from the large cast (there are 14 characters) was Ronald Oldham, who played the inscrutable Chinese diplomat, the Marquis Chi Lung, with dignity and subtlety. Good performances were given by the other leading players, John Rix and Nancy Holmes, as Roger De La Haye and Naomi Mel-sham, and Stanley Smalley did well in the extremely difficult character part of Armand De Rochecorbon.

Other parts were played by Phyllis Marley, Pamela and Hilda Muddle, Irene Watson, Reginald Marley, Brian Oldham, James Brown, Charles Wickens and Lily Dale.

Ella Baines was the producer, and stage managers were Messrs. R. W. Garwood, M. W. White and P. and B. Phillips.

 

1952

Their seventh programme consisting of one play of three acts was presented on Friday & Saturday 4 & 5 January 1952. The play was Poison Pen. This was reported in the 11 January 1952 editions of two local papers as:

‘Poison Pen’ Play At High Hurstwood

ANONYMOUS letter writers may be a social menace but they are uncommonly good theatre, as Richard Llewellyn has shown in his drama, “Poison Pen,” presented at High Hurstwood School on Friday and Saturday evenings by High Hurstwood Players.

The company are still in the throes of “that awkward age,” which all amateur dramatic societies must overcome and in a commendable endeavour to avoid the ranting of “barnstormers” they went to the opposite extreme, playing all too frequently with a wholly unnatural “naturalness.”

For instance, the announcement by Gerald Wickens, as Badham, the sexton, that the village seamstress had committed suicide in the belfry was so casual that it very nearly got a laugh in the wrong place;

On the other hand, Ronald Oldham, as the Rev. John Rainrider, was very good. The stage convention that a parson is always feeble or funny has long been supplanted by an interpretation truer to life and in “Poison Pen” he is the hero.

CREDIBLE POLICEMAN

Phyllis Marley was also very good as Phyllis Rainrider, his sister, playing the part in a pleasantly level key. Alfred Cox made his stage policeman's role credible and William Ruffle, as a handwriting expert, revealed a real talent for putting over dry humour. Pamela Muddle, as Rose Rainrider, and John Dollan, as her fiancé, whose endangered romance provides the main motif for the play, were convincing. Brian Oldham did justice to the role of Colonel Cashelton, J.P., and Hilda Muddle, as Mrs. Cashelton, acted with sincerity. Also deserving of praise among the long cast were Ellen Ruffle and Victoria Cox as village gossips, Nancy Holmes, who made a brief but effective appearance as the tragic little seamstress, Irene Watson, who provided humour as the Inspector's wife, Reginald Marley as a village grocer, Charles Wickens as a labourer, and Alice Watson - clergyman's house-keeper.

Although the performance was somewhat jerky, it was sufficiently encouraging.

The Play was produced by Ella Barnes. Mr. M. W. White was stage manager and Mr. J. Greening was responsible for scenery. Music was supplied by Messrs. W. C. Winter and Son.

High Hurstwood Players’ triumph

‘Poison Pen’ justified their efforts

IN the last year there was a marked and wholly-desirable tendency among less-experienced local drama groups to attempt plays of a more difficult type. As might be expected results were not as good as with previous plays of lesser stature.

But what is lost in effect gained in the valuable experience which the companies have thus acquired. And only by such effort can production standards in rural areas, which rely almost entirely for “theatre” on amateur groups, be raised.

AMBITIOUS - AND   CREDITABLE

All this is true of High Hurstwood Players, who attempted their most ambitious play since their formation when last week they presented “Poison pen,” Richard Llewellyn’s drama of the distrust and suspicion created in a West-country village by a series of anonymous letters.

But the Players, handicapped as they were by a small stage and by the slightly depressing effect of a small first-night audience, produced a. very creditable piece of entertainment.

There was quick applause for the fine acting of Phyllis Marley, as Phryne Rainrider, and Ronald Oldham, who played the rector, and here were other good performances by Ellen Ruffle and Victoria Cox, as Mrs. Reynolds and Mrs. Scaife (villagers), and Nancy Holmes in the part of Connie Fately, the tragic little seamstress.

Alfred Cox was stolidly convincing as Inspector Colclough, and Irene Watson obviously enjoyed the cheerful part of Mrs. Colclough. So did the audience. John Dollan was well cast as Malcolm McLeod, and William Ruffle’s portrayal of the handwriting expert was a good piece of character acting which would have been even batter if he had either maintained a Welsh accent or left it completely alone.

Pamela Muddle gave a refreshingly natural performance as Rose Rainrider, and other parts were played by Alice Watson, Gerald Wickens, Brian Oldham, Hilda Muddle, Charles Wickens and Reginald Marley. Ella Baines was the producer.

 

Then on Wednesday 16 January 1952 the Drama Club put on a performance of Poison Pen in aid of the charity ‘Save the Children’ at the Parish Room in Ringmer, Sussex. This was reported in the Friday 25 January 1952 edition of the Sussex Express & County Herald:

Ringmer Audience Enjoy Thriller

The famous thriller ‘Poison Pen’ was presented at Ringmer Parish Room on Wednesday last week, by High Hurstwood Players in aid of the ‘Save the Children’ fund, and thanks to the support of Ringmer people £9 was raised.

The story of anonymous letters circulating in a village and culminating in tragedy was brilliantly acted by a capable cast. Well merited applause greeted the company at the final curtain.

During the evening the Vicar of Ringmer (the Rev. J. Victor) thanked the performers and those who had made the production possible.

Mr. C. E. Tritton appealed for support for the fund, and described its work. The arrangements were made by Miss E. Edmonds, Mr. and Mrs. C. E. Tritton and helpers.

1953 – 1955

The High Hurstwood Players almost certainly presented several plays during this period; there are photos of one of unknown title that was performed in about 1955. Also it’s known that they performed the following five plays Playgoers, It’s All One, Pyjamas, A Cuckoo in the Nest and Quiet Week-End for which there’s no date information but were probably performed during this period.

 

 

1956

Their eighth known programme consisting of one play was presented during January 1956. The play was We Please or we Perish. This was mentioned in the March 1957 issue of High Hurstwood Parish Review.

 

1957

Their ninth known programme consisting of one play was presented on Friday 22 February 1957. The play was Great Day. This was reported in the 1 March 1957 editions of two local papers, The Sussex Express & The Courier as:

 ‘Great Day’ Was Happy Play Choice

THE High Hurstwood Drama Group did well to choose “Great Day,” by Lesley Storm, for their presentation at the Primary School on Friday. It is a play which has almost perfect material for a village drama group.

Set in the little village of Croxley, in war-time England, the story opens in a mood of expectancy. The scene is the village hall, and the women’s committee - who have made their little community self-sufficient while their husbands are away at the war - are awaiting important news from the Ministry of Information. The lady from the Ministry arrives, and in awed silence they hear that Croxley has been chosen to represent the villages of England for a visit by a V.I.P. For reasons of security the name of the personage must be kept from the public, for she is no less than Mrs. Eleanor Roosevelt.

Naturally, the secret is soon out. But together, the ladies of Croxley - which boasts a pig reared upon the swill of the whole village - set to work to live up to the honour which has been bestowed upon it.

Every village has its Mrs. Mumford (Joyce Bullock). The local organiser, who is president of the committee, and will be found at the focal point of most of the village’s other organisations as well.

Then there is the delightfully satirical Mrs. Mott (Phyllis Marley), known locally as “the Clara Butt of this war,” for her notorious delusions about her singing voice.

There is the Ellis family. Mrs. Ellis (Joan Hinder), hardworking and disillusioned, and her daughter Edna (Nancy Holmes) - with romantic problems of her own. Together they do their best to bolster the weak Major Ellis (Reginald Marley), who lives in a make-believe world, unaware of the events taking place around him.

Each with a story of their own are Victoria Calder (Doreen Killick), seeking any way out of her obligations to her country; Geoffrey (Adrian Robinson), home on leave; Miss Fisher (Gwenda Phillips), the neurotic spinster; the well-meaning Mrs. Beale (Irene Watson); and Miss Tomlinson (Gwen Chilton), who is the last of many generations of Tomlinsons in the village, and who gets in everybody’s way.

Also taking part were Rosina Robinson, Lily Dale, Lucy Read, Charles Wickens, and the children, Jennifer Marley and Jennifer Dolfe.

Production was by Gwenda Phillips, assisted by Cecil Lowe.

DAMA CLUB’S AMBITIOUS CHOICE WAS JUSTIFIED

HIGH HURSTWOOD Drama Club may have been ambitious in its choice of Lesley Storm's play “Great Day,” for presentation on a stage as small as that of the village school; but its ambition was justified by the merit of Friday’s performance.

It was not a perfect performance, but the worried, bustling atmosphere of a village Women's Institute preparing for a short-notice visit by a Very Important Lady in the midst of personal and wartime problems was convincingly created and the standard of acting was good.

Production by Gwenda Phillips, who was assisted by Mr. A, C. Lowe, was competent and imaginative; and the problems, by no means insignificant, of handling a large cast on a small stage were overcome successfully.

Notable performances were given by Phyllis Marley as the outspoken Mrs. Mott; Joyce Bullock, as the harassed president of the W.I., Mrs. Mumford; and by Adrian Robinson and Nancy Holmes as the young lovers, Geoffrey and Edna.

Joan Hinder played Mrs. Ellis with sensitive understanding; and Reginald Marley, as Major Ellis, skilfully established the character of a weak waster. Light relief was provided by the capable performances of Doreen Killick (Victoria Calder), Irene Watson (Mrs. Beale), and Gwen Chilton, who played the eccentric Miss Tomlinson with zest. Able support was given by Charles Wickens (Sam), Lucy Read (Mrs. Tracy), Lily Dale (Mrs. Walsh), Gwenda Phillips (Miss Fisher), Rosina Robinson (Miss Allen) and Jennifer Marley and Jennifer Dolfe, the two children.

Scene shifter was Bob Douglas, and the property mistress, K. Eastwood.

 

1958

Their tenth known programme consisting of one play of three acts was presented on Friday & Saturday 11 & 12 April 1958. The play was Pools Paradise. They were now calling themselves ‘The High Hurstwood Drama Club’. This was reported in the 18 April 1958 editions of two local papers, The Sussex Express & The Courier as:

 Performed “Pools Paradise”

IT’S not all beer and skittles, this business of winning the football pools. The art of living is the ability to be satisfied with what you have got - something money can’t buy.

That is the moral behind Armitage Owens’s mundane little comedy, “Pools   Paradise,” presented by High Hurstwood Drama Club at the Village School on Friday.

Miss Owen takes a 'full 2½ hours to tell that there is more than just money between a small tobacconist’s shop in Lancashire and a luxury mansion in North Wales. The message could have been told in a one-act play.

Everything about the play is predictable. As soon as .the audience knows what sort of people the Sykes family are and see their expected reactions to their new-found wealth, they can guess the outcome.

Father has always believed that money talks, and is not averse to being on the receiving end, while the homely mother wants to tread softly and keep the human touch.

Granny - comedy style - is a dyed-in-the-wool proletarian, and takes a pretty dim view of pennies from heaven - unless they fall into her apron. Only the daughter is young enough to be able to take the change in her stride, and she finds that her new equals are loath to accept her.

The materialistic view is taken by: the mousy little Welsh servant girl, who is unshakeable in her belief that happiness can’t buy money!

High Hurstwood Drama Club played this obscure little piece for what it was worth - a few honest-to-goodness laughs. But one felt that some more rehearsals would have been well spent.

Alfred Cox gave a likeable performance as the down-to-earth pipe-smoking father, and Phyllis Marley was natural and in character as his wife.

Nancy Holmes, who played the draughtier, looked attractive, but was perhaps a little subdued. Adrian Robinson gave a pleasant portrayal, but did not take a strong enough line as the young man who, inevitably, loves the daughter for herself and not her money.

Granny was played in hell-bent fashion by Irene Watson, and Joyce Bullock made a convincing character of the housekeeper. Diane Singh, the servant girl, was suitably simple-minded, and Reg Marley and Gwen Chilton supported them well in minor roles.

Production was by Gwenda Phillips.

From The Courier

ARMITAGE OWEN’S comedy, “Pools Paradise,” was presented by High Hurstwood Drama Club at the School on Friday and. Saturday. Those taking part were Alfred Cox, who played the head of the football pool-winning Sykes family; Phyllis Marley (Hilda Sykes); Nancy Holmes (Dorothy Sykes); Adrian Robinson (Aubrey Stanton); Irene Watson (Granny); Diane Singh (Megan); Joyce Bullock (Miss Higson); Reg. Marley (Joshua Cranberry); and Gwen Chilton (Mrs. Winton).

The producer was Gwenda Phillips, and Bob Douglas was stage manager. Others who helped with the successful production were Kathleen Eastwood (properties), Olive Walker (prompt), E. Phillips (scenery) and A. Robinson (backcloth). Music was provided by Mr. Winter, and lights were loaned by the Sussex Rural Community Council.

 

1959

Their eleventh known programme consisting of one play was presented on Thursday & Friday 9 & 10 April 1959. The play was Off the Deep End. This was reported in the 17 April 1959 editions of two local papers as:

 No Apologies Were Necessary

HIGH HURSTWOOD Drama Club were wrong in thinking that they needed to apologise in advance for their shortcoming in their repeat performance of Dennis Driscoll’s three-act comedy, “Off the Deep End,” at High Hurstwood School on Friday.

What really mattered was that they tried to do better than they did on the first evening, and although they did require prompting, their choice of play - a good one with plenty of humorous situations - helped them a lot.

More important still, the audience enjoyed themselves and were prepared to overlook any faults.

The action of the play did not call for a change of scenery. Everything happened in Lily Dewsnap’s living-room - talk was about the centenary celebrations of Mossop Vale, Elsie’s pending marriage to local lad Edgar, and her decision to break off her engagement after her meeting with Monsieur Maurice Aubert, a French mayor.

Alfred Cox proved himself to be quite a comedian as Fred Dewsnap, especially when he got into his evening clothes in readiness for a dance.

There was not a flicker of a smile on his face, despite a good deal of provocation from the back of the hall.

Equally humorous was Reg. Marley as Albert Hogarth, who seemed to pop in at all the ticklish moments. Phyllis Marley played the role of Lily Dewsnap convincingly, and the tiffs which she had with her husband went over especially well.

Irene Watson also got her share of laughs as Elsie Hogarth. Robert Douglas had a difficult, not to say unpopular, part to pay as Edgar Jenkins, who loses his fiancée to the Frenchman; however, he tackled it with courage.

Nancy Holmes, as Maureen Dewsnap, the central figure of this family story, gave a pleasing study of the girl who sees the red light in time.

Adrian Robinson, as Monsieur Maurice Aubert, appeared on stage wearing an eye patch. Some people were under the impression that it was part of his make-up, but this was not so.

The patch merely concealed a very painful boil! Despite this handicap, he succeeded in conveying the charm of a Frenchman with quite a passable accent.

Completing the cast, Gwen Chilton played Mrs. Ackworth with a good deal of zest. Mrs. E. Phillips was the producer.

Flu did not stop their performance

THEY had been delayed by flu for three weeks, and the village school had to be cleared for lessons between each performance - yet the show went on.

The difficulties were overcome by the High Hurstwood Drama Club when they presented last Thursday and Friday, Dennis Driscoll’ comedy “Off The Deep End.”

Set in the small Midland town of Mossop Vale, it reflected the anxiety of a family before the centenary week celebrations, the daughter’s wedding, the silver wedding of the parents, a presentation holiday to France and the running of a band, to mention only a few of the situations.

The pace of this comedy was unfortunately slowed by some of the actors forgetting their lines.

LIVELY PERFORMANCE

Yet Mr A. Cox gave a lively interpretation of the father, Fred Dewsnap.

Was he the little husband frightened of telling his wife they were going abroad? Or was he the dare-devil who was always jibing at the staid civil servant, his prospective son-in-law?

Mrs. P. Marley, however, was well cast as his wife Lily Dewsnap. She gave a bustling, flustering performance which can be seen so often in any village before a big event.

Their daughter Maureen (N. Holmes), with her fiancé, Edgar Jenkins (R. Douglas), had a difficult part. The pomposity and seriousness of the civil servant was bound to be heavy, but it had its advantages in setting off the frivolity of the others.

The comedy was strengthened by the neighbours, Elsie and Albert Hogarth (I. Watson and R. Marley) and Mrs. Ackworth (G. Chilton), whose advice and inquisitiveness produced amusing reactions on the Dewsnap family.

And finally there was M. Maurice Aubert, the French mayor (A. Robinson), who gave a small, but complete performance.

 

Copyright © Derek Miller 2014

Last updated 7 June 2014

 

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