In November 1998 the Little Gaddesden Drama Club emerged from a four year hibernation with a production of Peter Pan. The play’s director Penny Gregory was one of a small group of members who had got together to revive the club. Their aim was to reinvent it as a community organization putting on performances by local people for the village.
That is not to say that outsiders were discouraged and in the years that followed actors, directors and many regular audience members have come from outside the village. However, the nucleus of the members and our loyal audience is from Little Gaddesden and its environs. Another hope was that a family atmosphere could be fostered. This was certainly achieved in Peter Pan where several local families were represented by more than one member.
In all eight of the adult cast had one or more of their children alongside them, a trend which continued in a series of productions in the next ten years. Those children grew up in the club and introduced their friends which made it possible to put together large casts for plays, pantomimes and revues. When Cinderella was performed in January 2007 the youngest cast member was seven, the oldest eighty-two.
Many of the cast of Peter Pan were seasoned amateur actors but the productions also provided an opportunity for newcomers. Patrick Isherwood who played Captain Hook had not acted for over thirty years while John Chapman who played Hook’s sidekick Smee was more used to fronting a pop band. Jemma Tompkins who played the title role engaged in a sword fight with Hook, a performance which was echoed in the 2000 production of Aladdin where she clashed again with a villain, this time Abanazar.
Heather Read who was the youngest member of the cast in 1998 went on to appear in several productions, notably as a precocious twelve year old in the 2003 play Touching The Bottom in which she appeared alongside Caroline Abraham, a mermaid in Peter Pan who, drunk on champagne, pretended that she was Lois Lane in order to pursue the hapless vicar who had turned up at a silver wedding party dressed as Superman having mistakenly thought it was fancy dress. Many of the people involved in the 1998 show have moved on but several remain and will be seen again on stage in January.
Next Month – Productions Re-visited –The club 2000-2005