WINSHAM DRAMA GROUP
True community theatre
In 1985 the whole of the West Country celebrated the three-hundredth anniversary of the Pitchfork Rebellion. It was a daunting task to tell the complete story of Monmouth's campaign, including the Battle of Sedgemoor, as a play in our Jubilee Hall, but we did it! I kept in mind the simplicity of Shakespeare's Globe Theatre, and a sense of local patriotism, and the audience loved it.
Several other plays were linked to Street Fair themes: for the Victorian one, it was a visit by Sherlock Holmes to solve a crime in Winsham; for the Twenties Street Fair the scene was a country-house party and an impending strike by the servants, as a nod (albeit humorously ) to
the class struggle of the time.
Other anniversaries prompted more locally-based plots. What would it have been like to be a Saxon peasant when the Normans came round to compile their Domesday Book? This was the basis of "The Winsham Conquest", in which the Saxons cleverly outwitted their overlords - of course!
Performing this in the pub led to a regular short Christmas performance. We revived the Mummers' Play, an ancient folk play, using the Dorset script. A version of Thomas Hardy's "The Three Strangers" also in the pub, was followed by a mediaeval mystery play "Mac the Sheep-stealer", which was staged in the Church, including Lottie the sheep!
Our beautiful countryside was the appropriate setting for "The Pilgrim's Progress" in the summer of 1994. Hills, streams, meadows, paths and buildings featured allegorically, as they do in Bunyan's book. It was a two-mile walk for cast and audience! Some chose to ride on a pony-cart or travel by tractor and trailer.
The lovely gardens of the village were the setting for "The Winsham Canterbury Tales": four plays, each in a different setting, with the audience walking between. Yes, providentially, we have had wonderful weather for our outdoor productions.
Our final production of the millennium was "A Ring of Time". Celebrating the Christian story through the festivals of the year, and taking place in the Church.
The plays have involved casts of over forty, and actors, musicians and dancers from seven to seventy.
That's true community drama!
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