Ockley Dramatic Society started as an evening class in 1948 with the first producer being retired actress Mary O'Neill, whose stage name was Mary Grey. Back in 1948 comments were made about the unsuitable stage in Ockley Village Hall, but the same stage is the venue for most of the society's productions today. Although the stage imposes restrictions on the plays that can be performed, in terms of size of cast and complexity of the scenery, ODS has produced a wide variety of plays, from evenings of two one act plays with a very popular supper in the interval to three act whodunits. Despite the lack of space, the society has even managed a play with a split set.
A cast of eleven performed "After September" by Jimmie Chinn in November 1998 as part of the society's 50th anniversary celebrations. Past members of ODS were invited to attend the last performance and those who came enjoyed reminiscing about the early days of the society and seeing what the society is doing now.
ODS has been fortunate to have its home close to that of the TV scriptwriter and playwright Bob Larbey, who has written plays specially for the society which he also directed, writing in parts for anyone who wanted to be included in the cast. Bob Larbey allowed ODS to perform his play "Hiccups", which like many of his TV series was co-written with John Esmonde, at Dorking Halls in the 1988 Mole Valley Festival of Arts. As the stage at Dorking Halls is several times the size of the stage at Ockley, this production involved hiring larger scenery flats, painting them in Ockley Village Hall, moving them to Dorking and erecting the set in a limited amount of time.
Several of the one act plays performed on the supper evenings have previously been the society's entry in local play festivals. Festivals are hard work, involving transporting scenery and furniture and a very tight time slot in which to erect the set, but are also rewarding and instructive. ODS has won cups for best play and best actor.
Pantomime has not often appeared on the society's programme, due to the lack of musicians and singers. However, Jane Charman bravely volunteered to be musical director of Aladdin in January 1998 and Dick Whittington in December 1999. Both pantomimes were written by Norman Robbins and included the usual awful jokes, outrageous dames, love songs, chorus numbers and audience participation. The matinee performances are very popular with families and friends of the cast usually come to the evening performances and really enter into the spirit of pantomime.
Martin Pratt (Chairman)
Sheila Gray (Secretary)
Last updated 2nd October 2021.