HELP ! - it was a perfectly reasonable request - 'to recall the productions by the Dramatic Society and my views of what happened ' - - but the inevitable happened.
As the title of each play came to mind it brought with it a host of images in full colour, with sound and vision, plus all the feelings which went with them. All the people and events concerned crowded into my mind and I wanted to include everyone and everything, but the need for selectivity had to prevail.
"ESCAPADE". - our first production, was chosen because school and particularly two schoolboys were central to the action.
It needed two settings, including a headmaster's study, a French Horn and a performance of 'Land of Hope and Glory' …
"THE UNEXPECTED GUEST" - an Agatha Christie thriller , opened with a dark stage and a gunshot. We had to have a firearms licence, and pistol and bullets must be locked in Mrs. Sykes' filing cabinet until immediately before use and returned immediately after.
The Physics Department created the sound and lights of a car arrival off-stage - the headlight picked out a character holding a gun centre stage….
"ROCKETS IN URSA MAJOR" - a spectacular - The writer, Fred Hoyle, a professor at Cambridge, gave us special permission to perform it free from performing fees - if all those involved would write reports on the production for him…
"MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM" - had three directors to lighten my load….
"MIDWINTER" - a blanket title for a sequence of one-act plays, 'Christmas in the market place' - 'Begin and never cease' , which was set on a railway station platform - props department acquired a milk - churn to add realism - ( I never dared to ask where it came from) and the light from a brilliant star, which perversely didn't appear in one performance (who forgot to plug it in?)….
"JUKE BOX SATURDAY NUGHT" - a one-act pop piece which won the inter schools drama competition….and my final production..
"THE MIRACLE WORKER", the story of Helen Keller and Annie Sullivan which included a ten minute fight sequence between Anne Miller and Sue Robinson. This had been carefully choreographed - every move plotted and rehearsed - with extra rehearsal during several lunchtimes. During the second performance the fight played as rehearsed until the last minute, when Annie grabs a jug of water to throw over the now violent Helen - the unforeseen happened and the jug caught the side of Helen's head. The scene ended in a blackout and Tom Hill, stage manager, appeared behind me, having raced to the upper hall with the news that " We might not be able to begin the second half - Sue is badly stunned."
However, Sue, real trouper, carried on with the performance to the end. I'm sure that Sue still remembers this - she told the story when she was guest of honour at Speech Day some years later.
Some things in live drama you just can't prepare for.
Who caught tonsillitis the day of the last performance of "Rockets in Ursa Major" and spent his off-stage time in the medical room ? ? - another real trouper.
Most of the preparation for a production was done in out of school time. Rehearsals were after school - sometimes during Christmas holidays, performances were usually in March/April just before the Easter holiday.
Members of staff from all departments gave their time in many capacities. Sets were designed and painted by the Art Department - Joe Wilcock and later George Entwistle, constructed by Woodwork and Metalwork, Stan Firth and Norman Collister, Stage Management by George Garside and Tom Hill, props by Ron Jackson, music by Keith Lamb, wardrobe by Joan Hobson and Diane Simons, box office/business management by Bert Fielding and Ron Healey, who also did the sound, lighting by the Physics department, Ben Vaughan, front of house by Mrs. Sykes and Mrs. Parkey, make-up was by Wilf Miller, all involving teams of staff and students in so many of the multitude of tasks leading to public performance.
Direction of lights and sound was from the upper hall by intercom with stage management and crew.
Jessie Moorhouse praised the way in which all ages and all departments and all forms were involved in one project. A complete cross-section of staff and pupils was created and the usual boundaries of age and Form division were put aside towards a unified goal.
Some of us have continued to use Drama in either a professional capacity in Television and Film - what a treat it is to see the name of someone we know scrolling up in the screen credits of a TV drama - as Director, Storyliner, Studio Manager or presenter - or perhaps some of us have enjoyed playing and working in amateur productions, for the sheer joy of being in Drama.
It is impossible for me, because of gradually failing memory, to include all the wonderful things that happened in preparation, rehearsal and presentation of the HTHS productions, so please, contact Keith and add your memories experiences and comments.
Drama is, after all, the greatest of the Arts - - the one in which it is possible for one human being to talk to another human being about what it is like to be a human being.
Drama at Hathershaw
by Peter Halliwell
The Unexpected Guest
Rockets in Ursa Major
Thanks to Mike for this ticket
Thanks to Jean for this program
Magazine extracts courtesy of Nigel