From recently acquired programmes we have ascertained that the Society had been active from 1927 performing plays at the rate of four, five and even six times a year initially in the Benfleet Hall and then in Tarpots Hall.
Starting as the Benfleet Glee and Madrigal Society some years earlier, the Benfleet Musical and Dramatic Society saw the first light of day in 1926. The first performance was a Miscellaneous Concert, which included dramatic sketches, in the spring of 1927. The next year they staged a musical fantasy which included Benfleet’s own troupe of dancers – The Trixie Girls.
The Society progressed to performing its first full length play and others followed at frequent intervals. In 1930 Tarpots Hall became available so the Society moved there until it was unable to achieve the requirements of the Council’s Licence for the performance of stage plays.
My father was the electrician and he told me of the crude lighting dimmers that achieved the right effect but not without some considerable risk!
The Society moved its performances to St Mary’s Hall in School Lane, Benfleet until the early 50s when it transferred its affections to the new Shipwrights School (later called King John School) in Shipwrights Drive. This move gave the Society considerably more scope for its productions.
Many of the plays at this time were produced by Lodge Percy who had a background in the theatre as an impresario in London. He was married to Dorothy (Dot) Clare and her father, T Mortley Clare, also had acting skills and, as I remember, did a ‘turn’ as a ventriloquist. The Society was Affiliated to the British Drama League
The programmes that are still extant carefully avoided any mention of the year of production but by taking account of those that were forthcoming the following is a record of, at least, some of the plays together with the dates.
- Distinguished Gathering by James Parish – 1936
- Indoor Fireworks by Arthur Macrae – 1936
- April Clouds by Peggy Barwell and Miles Malleson – 1938
- Forced Landing by Wilfred Massey – 1939
- The Rose without a Thorn by Clifford Bax – 1945
- Blithe Spirit by Noel Coward – 1946
- Worm’s Eye View by R F Delderfield – 1953
- The Hollow by Agatha Christie – 1953
- Relations Are Best Apart by Edwin Lewis – February 1954
- Is Your Honeymoon Really Necessary by E V Tidmarsh – 1954
- Rookery Nook by Ben Travers – March 1956
- On Monday Next by Philip King – 1956
- The Rape of the Belt by Ben W Levy – Probably 1957
The contents of the above programmes can be viewed by opening the files in the Downloads section at the bottom of this page.
It will be interesting for the Archive to receive comments about the Dramatic Society and to receive memories of the group as a whole.