I first became involved in 1974. Before we moved to Ockley from Essex I asked in the School House (the pub at the south end of the village – now Bryce’s, I think), whether there was a dramatic society in the village. It was not long after we moved in that Stuart Thompson – one of the ODS leading lights at the time – knocked on the front door, in the snow, to ask me if I’d like a part in what turned out to be a pretty awful one act play called Strawberry Jam. Of course, I said yes.
It’s surprising how little I remember of individual productions so these are just random collections.
I think it was in Big Bad Mouse when I played Bloom opposite David Rea (Bloom was played by Eric Sykes in the West End production). Anyway, for some reason, I had to throw Smarties in the air and catch them in my mouth. Some nights it worked, some it didn’t. One night when it would not go right and the audience was thoroughly enjoying it, I threw a handful into the audience, with the comment "You open your mouths and try it".
ODS used to perform for the harvest supper, back in the days when Maurice Collins was rector and liked to get involved in all the village activities, especially those with some female company and a glass of beer was involved. He did a good job as a village vicar as it was two way traffic – he got people involved in the local church activities.
Our harvest suppers were reviews – people were asked to put together an item, rehearse it and then we’d see what we had when it got nearer to the date. An incident that sticks in my mind happened during that old number "If I could do a different job, something else I’d like to be. If I could do a different job, a ………. I would be, etc."
We had a Scotsman in the society at the time and his chosen occupation for the purpose of this song was to be a shot-putter. He wasn’t very good at coming to rehearsals, not that there were many anyway and turned up for the performance wearing a kilt. He had a plastic sphere on the end of one of those expanding telephone cords and when it came to his chorus, he through the sphere out – shot putting style – over the audience, after spinning round several times as shot-putters do. The first time he did it, I knew from the faces of the audience that he had nothing on under his kilt.
The harvest suppers were fairly rowdy affairs. Ray Figg, who was the landlord of the Cricketers, used to turn up very merry, sometimes accompanied by Oliver Reed, armed with missiles to throw at the cast.
The late Ron Earl and his wife Joan were very keen members of ODS. One of Ron’s odd ambitions was to conduct the last night of the Proms. So we concluded one harvest supper with some community singing, finishing with Land of Hope and Glory, with a recording of the real thing, with Ron conducting.
In the early productions of the society, interval music was provided by someone poking a cassette player under the curtain. I suppose the first two rows heard it. I urged the committee to buy some modest sound equipment and the father of a young lady who had recently joined, donated a new Sony Amp and tape deck. Lighting was controlled from the side of the stage, with two old style dimmers (are they still there?).
Chris Jones did a lot of the work in clearing out what is now the lighting loft but the timber frame and shelves that the equipment stands on, came from the house we lived in in Ockley, left over bits after I made some serious structural changes. Before I acquired the CCTV camera from a security company insurance client of mine, we had one of those large convex mirrors fitted stage left, so that you could peer across to see what was happening on stage. A bit hit and miss. (The mirror was also donated by another security company client.)
Post play parties were long alcoholic affairs. It was before tough drink drive laws, of course. I recall that some transferred from the village hall to the Rea’s previous house, which had an outdoor pool. Great fun! I recall walking home round about dawn after some of these post show parties.
Originally the route outside from the dressing rooms to the stage was not covered. A play or was it a sketch, set on a tropical island, presented problems when the cast arrived to go on stage covered in snow.
Not all that long ago, that we provided some entertainment for a do at Capel and I was MC. I’d built myself a rostrum, which worked fine on the concrete at home. On the uneven grass behind Capel Village Hall however, during my opening announcements, the rostrum very slowly toppled forwards with me on top of it, still talking into the hand held mike.
Last updated 28th August 2001.