Past Productions

Click on the production images to see the show galleries

10th - 12th July

Not About Heroes
by Stephen McDonald
Directed by Dan Gaisford & Tina Gaisford-Waller

Not About Heroes In this year when the centenary of the end of the Great War is marked all over Europe and beyond, Frome Drama Club entered the list of concerts, art installations, talks, films, plays and more to mourn the lives of the millions who died and to celebrate their sacrifice with  Stephen MacDonald’s 1982 Edinburgh Fringe play Not about Heroes.

Performed as part of the Frome Festival at the Assembly Rooms, you won’t see a finer or more heart-rending glimpse back to the reality of the WW1 years than this.

It is the story of the friendship between the aristocratic Siegfried Sassoon (named for his mother’s love of Wagner) and the shy, provincial Wilfred Owen, who died just seven days before the Armistice was signed. Sassoon lived on and his body is buried in Mells churchyard, three miles from Frome. They met in the Craiglockhart Hospital for Nervous Disorders, Sassoon already a patient in the officers’ wing, keener on his daily round of golf than fraternising.  Owen, fighting his dreams and insecurities, was given the hospital magazine to edit. When he realised that his hero, Sassoon, was also a patient, he diffidently approached the established poet for inscriptions to his books.

So began a friendship that became central to their lives, and the inspiration that Owen needed to give him confidence in his own writing. Dan Gaisford directs the play for FDC, using a simple set that intensifies the attention on the two men.  Giles de Rivaz is the perfect Sassoon, suave, erudite, entitled and modest. Robert Billen’s capture of Owen’s initially stammering man who grows in assurance before our eyes is masterful. I can’t imagine our greatest actors in our most famed theatres doing this indelible play better. 

Gay Pirie-Weir 10th July 2018

This review courtesy of the Fine Times Recorder

26th - 28th April

The Lady in the Van
by Alan Bennett
Directed by Philip de Glanville

The Lady in the Van Miss Shepherd is (possibly) the best-known inadvertent lodger in English literature, thanks to National Treasure, playwright and actor Alan Bennett’s story, play and film The Lady in the Van.

The then-young star of Beyond the Fringe moved into the then-affordable Camden in the 1970s, and soon afterwards allowed an eccentric woman who lived in a clapped-out yellow van to park in his unoccupied driveway. So began an often tetchy but tacitly affectionate relationship that lasted more than 15 years.

The story of their co-habitation was first told in an essay published in 1989, and a year later as a book. It was a hit play, with Maggie Smith creating the role of Miss Shepherd, and she also starred in the 2015 film, bringing the character to a worldwide audience. The stage play has been a popular choice for professional and amateur companies for many years, and now it comes to Frome’s Merlin Theatre in the deft directorial hands of Philip de Glanville for Frome Drama.

Bennett presents the autobiographical aspect of the play by introducing the audience to two versions of himself, appearing together most of the time.  Early on in the Frome Drama process, the director made two unusual decisions – to dress the two Alan Bennetts differently, and to make heavy use of piano music as a background. And both give a new dimension for the audience.

As the story unfolds it become apparent that Miss Shepherd has been “gently” and formally brought up, and may or may not have had a career as a concert pianist.

The two Bennetts – the one he thinks his public sees and the one he wishes he could be – are much more easily delineated by having one in black and the other in the familiar battered tweeds.

What is essential in a successful production of the play is a magnetic performance in the title role, and two convincing Bennetts. The director also has to be bold.  The two most telling Shepherdian phrases are “possibly” and “the soul in question” and too many directors cut some of their frequent repetitions.

Thankfully Bozsi Davis doesn’t cut or swallow a single example. Her Lady in the Van is no Dame Maggie copy, but a carefully thought-out depiction of a remarkable, witty, smelly, grumpy, gleeful and oddly stately old woman eking out an existence in a state of constant fear and the guilt imbued by a Catholic upbringing.

Alan Burgess and Richard Thomas are the two Bennetts, often spikily warring for ascendancy.

In this strong cast David Gatliffe is a particularly weaselly blackmailer, and Laurie Parnell and Sue Ross are the ghastly yuppies from over the road.  The magic-realist ending was subtly done.

This review courtesy of the Fine Times Recorder

23rd - 25th November

One Man Two Guvnors
by Richard Bean
Directed by Calum Grant

One Man Two Guvnors SATURDAY Night Live? This week you could choose between Strictly Come Dancing, The X Factor and I’m A Celebrity: Get Me Out Of Here … or you could go for the real thing – that’s real life not “reality” television – and have a thundering good night out at Frome’s Merlin Theatre.
Frome Drama Club, one of the most talented and versatile amateur groups in the region, is staging an exuberant production of the Richard Bean play which made an international star of James Corden.

One Man Two Guvnors, directed at the National Theatre by Nick Hytner, blew away the cobwebs around the centuries-old tradition of commedia dell’arte and reinvented the genre for the 21st century as a rollicking roller-coaster of mistaken identity, innuendo, pratfalls and improvisation. The show has so much energy it literally blows the audience into gales of laughter – and the hapless people in the front row who are drawn into the action get a well-deserved round of applause.

Bean took Goldoni’s The Servant of Two Masters, kept the basic commedia outline but reinvented the setting and the characters in a seedy 1963 Brighton of gangsters and girls, shady lawyers and hapless lovers. Into the mix he stirs Francis Henshall, a Harlequin for our times, a poverty stricken, starving ex-skiffle band musician who takes on two jobs to get enough money to buy food.

Of course, the show stands or falls on the performance of the actor playing Francis Henshall – he has to be a master farceur, always ready for repartee with the audience, a physical clown and an engaging mischief maker – and Andrew Morrison has it in spades. You alternately want to cuddle him and run a mile from the vortex of mayhem that surrounds him!

He is well-supported by Tracey Ashford as the twins Rachel and Roscoe; Giles de Rivaz as Rachel’s ex-public school lover Stanley; Laurie Parnell as the Cockney gangster, Charlie Clench; Anna Vowles as his dippy daughter Pauline; Luke Stuart as her ham actor fiancé Alan; Ellen Kirkman as his Latin-spouting bent lawyer mother, Harriet Dangle; Ange Davis as Dolly, the brains of Charlie’s outfit; and Neil Godwin as Charlie’s old jail-bait mate Lloyd.

A special mention for Aaron Hooper who must be covered in bruises with all his tumbles as the aged shaky waiter Alfie and Simon Joyce as the head waiter, a taxi driver and everybody else.

If you’ve heard of One Man Two Guvnors and wondered if it is as good as they say – go and see Calum Grant’s production of this great farce. If you’ve seen it before, go and see it again. It’s utterly preposterous, inspired, fast moving and hilarious – and unlike all those celluloid performances, this one’s real!

This review courtesy of the Fine Times Recorder

10th - 12th July

The Regina Monologues
by Rebecca Russell & Jenny Wafer
Directed by Keely Beresford

The Regina Monologues I hope most of our members had the opportunity to see our Festival play. I went on the 12th of July when the house was only slightly short of full. I'll start at the end. The applause went on so long that it demanded the return of the cast to the stage. On it went after they had left the scene until the director, Keely Beresford, realised that they could scarcely hear it upstairs in the dressing room, so she went to get them. Back they came and on it went for a while longer. I think we might conclude that the audience thought it was pretty good!

The play began with a scene devised by Keely with Maggie Riuz who played a Spanish maid charged with trying to keep the ‘women’, their clothing, shoes and paraphernalia in some sort of order. She wasn’t too pleased about it, but she was charming and humorous. I wasn’t quite sure that this role had a direct bearing on the play unless it served in part to excuse a somewhat rudimentary set. But then there’s nothing wrong with a rudimentary set provided it doesn’t interfere with the essence of the play. It didn’t. Its other effect was to start us off on a note of relative levity in stark contrast to the concluding state of things. As every performance evolved we were only too aware of how disturbing the play is in its development, just as the writers intend.

We all recognised society today in Bethany Heath’s visceral portrayal of Kathy, dashing about exchanging texts with her friends, talking about her sex life, but finally having to tell the boyfriend she loves to get lost. Many in the audience were close to tears at the end when, having been forced into marriage by the misfortunes of her father, she related with horrifying frankness how she has been raped and physically ruined by that fat horrible, florid old man on their wedding night.

Sue Ross as Cathy was wonderfully sympathetic as the honest and devoted first wife who, unable to conceive, is discarded for the scornful Annie. Jude Claybourne’s Annie gloated over her gin and basked in the power she held over Cathy. Her complete transformation from scornful mistress into a drunken abandoned woman made us pity her as she too was shrugged off.

Tina Gaisford-Waller as Jane started off as the credulous ingénue, simpering and giggly, basking in the knowledge that her man had had two wives already, but that he knew as soon as he saw her that she was the one he'd really been looking for. Gradually he loses interest in her of course and leaves her to her agonising labour alone and abandons her after the loss of her son.

Tina Scudder was very good as the lonely Anna who finds the ogre on an internet dating site. I wasn't quite ready for the possibility of her being born a boy! Juanita Chedzoy was exactly right as the smug older Katherine who knows how to manipulate things to her advantage. (She's already planning to marry another old man with a view to another legacy at the end). The actors used the levels to vary the action, walking about when their turn came as the other characters remained still. The play depends entirely on the quality and balance of each performance. When they talked about each other they looked across at the target of their comment. Jude was very good at looking sideways at Sue and exulting in the fact that she knows nothing about her affair with her husband (though actually, sadly, of course she does).

In the final scene (after Beth had shown us the anguish of the rape victim with tremendous poignancy), they all walked off in turn, dropping their wedding ring into a wine glass before leaving the stage. It was an excellent festival play. To see seven women on stage was brilliant. Keely was faithful to the script. Her tight, judicious direction was slowed somewhat for me by the length of the musical interludes, but as they are part of the script that is hardly a criticism. The performers won the acoustic challenge of The Silk Mill. Though we lost a few words we understood every detail of the bruised lives of these modern women who each in turn had the misfortune to encounter a serial abuser of womankind. Whether the historical resonance seems relevant or not this was a triumph for FDC.
David Riley

6th -8th April

The Ghost Train
by Arnold Ridley
Directed by Gillie Richardson

The Ghost Train Review by Crysse Morrison
The only play with a fairground ride named after it, this comedy-thriller The Ghost Train also launched a dramatic genre: the group of stranded strangers in jeopardy. He’s better known now as dear old Private Godfrey in Dad’s Army (ironically, he did join the Home Guard during the war) but Arnold Ridley was previously a prolific playwright for forty years and this was one of his first plays, and his most successful. It’s a cleverly constructed drama – so cleverly in fact that it’s impossible to give any outline of the plot without spoilers, other than to say that tension builds at every turn for the six passengers who find themselves forced to spend the night in a dingy waiting-room apparently haunted by a deadly supernatural presence.

Philip de Glanville is splendidly convincing as the local stationmaster who reveals the awful legend before shockingly leaving the travellers alone... The passengers, of course, have little in common. There’s the newly-weds deep in love, well played by Django Lewis-Clark with Isabel Brewster, while the middle-aged couple are on the brink of separation. Neil Goodwin is particularly strong in the role of Mr Winthrop, with Annie Ward convincing as the wife who has had enough of her husband’s bad temper. Lesley Swinburn is marvellously irritated and irritating as Miss Bourne the elderly spinster who despite being teetotal manages to down an entire hip flask of brandy. The most annoying of all is Teddie Deakin who caused this crisis and simply giggles about it, a fatuous man who behaves as though he's arrived direct from PG Wodehouse’s Drones club. David North stays superbly in character though every nuance of this demanding role.

And then there are the mysterious arrivals: wild-eyed Julia (Bethany Heath) apparently crazed by the ghastly tale of the ghost train, swiftly followed by two other strangers, David Gatliffe as her worried uncle Herbert and Richard Moore as her smooth-talking doctor. Crisis approaches and denouement unravels with a final-scene reveal as fine as any Agatha Christie. It’s a gripping story and highly entertaining, with both subtle humour and quite a few laugh out loud moments, mostly courtesy of Mr Winthrop and Miss Bourne. Director Gillie Richardson allowed interactions to speak for themselves without much body-language, in keeping with the writer’s request that the parts should be played straight and not as an overt comedy. But this is a thriller as well, and for that aspect huge credit goes to Philip de Glanville's special effects with sound from Simon Bowman, and the superb set built by Bill Jacques, Jim Boyd and Frank Stephenson with dressing and props by Marcia Scott and lighting design by Matt Tipper. This behind-the-scenes team created a fantastically atmospheric experience that had the audience tingling and shivering with apprehension in between laughing. Costumes by Gillie Richardson and Isabel Brewster were excellent too, evoking 1920s era and suggesting personalities from the opening moments. A well-chosen piece for team production and a very enjoyable ensemble performance.

24th - 26th November

The Tempest
by William Shakespeare
Directed by Stephen Scammell

The Tempest An extract from the review by Gay Pirie-Weir
FROME Drama Club’s radical reinterpretation of Shakespeare’s The Tempest – one of the Bard’s “entry-level” plays – might have been just what the board of The Globe had in mind when they unceremoniously and controversially ousted Emma Rice in the early stages of her directorship. Director Stephen Scammell set his Tempest in modern costume on an indeterminate island, against a backdrop of blood smeared broken pilings, a couple of useful rocks and a snow-storm of pages from books. Stunning lighting, which he and Mat Tipper designed, made for memorable visual images. The director’s other big idea was switching genders, so that Prospero’s duplicitous sibling became a sister in a slinky dress, loyal courtier Gonzalo was a woman and Ariel was also female. It all made perfect sense.

The Tempest is a play that can run from around two hours to more than three, and the Frome production was on the longer side. There were scenes of beautiful slowness and of frantic activity. Especially memorable was when Prospero called his former court back to him on the island where they were shipwrecked, when motion, light and sound conspired in a moment of stunned shock.

And Pete White’s Ted was an all-too-recognisable wide boy, a flag carrier for the rise of the “Me” generation whose apotheosis is exemplified by It would be impossible to bring off this challenging production without fine acting. Led by the calmly powerful Alan Burgess as Prospero – totally audible from the entire auditorium with no raising of voice – they did a wonderful ensemble job.
Polly Lamb’s Ariel, with her early friendship with Miranda, was a delight, singing as well as she moved and acted. Tom Davies as Ferdinand and Lauren David as Miranda were a convincing pair of first-sight lovers, and Calum Grant put in another memorable FDC performance as the drunken Stephano. Richard Thomas’s Caliban avoided the sometimes caricature nature of the slave and Sue Ross was a coldly scheming Antonia. I will not forget this Tempest in a hurry.

6th - 9th July

The Private Ear
by Peter Shaffer
Directed by David Riley

The Private Ear An extract from the review by Gay Pirie-Weir
PETER Shaffer’s double bill of The Private Ear and The Public Eye was first performed in 1962, and starred Maggie Smith and Kenneth Williams. Set in a time of innocence before the discovery of sexual intercourse (according to Philip Larkin that came a year later) they are both dated and timeless.

David Riley chose The Private Ear for Frome Drama Club’s contribution to the 2016 Frome Festival, and cast three young actors whose performances could not have been bettered on the professional stage.

Bob (known as Tchaik) is a shy, gentle, music and art loving northerner living alone in London after the death of his father. He has met a girl at a Promenade Concert, and plucked up the courage to ask her out. Knowing he has neither social nor culinary skills, he has invited his assured Cockney colleague Ted to help out.

The girl, a goddess in Tchaik’s eyes, had only been at the Prom because there was a free ticket, and had been bored by classical music. Predictably, she was more at home with Ted’s easy banter than Bob’s fey intensity.

The inevitable outcome, performed in dumbshow over the sounds of Madame Butterfly, can seem stagey and contrived.

But in David Riley’s sensitive and multi-faceted production, Ed Henderson and Bethany Heath bring off this painful encounter with almost unbearable poignancy.

And Pete White’s Ted was an all-too-recognisable wide boy, a flag carrier for the rise of the “Me” generation whose apotheosis is exemplified by the selfie and the current political class.

Many of those in the audience at the Steiner Academy’s intimate studio remembered their own experiences of the joys and fears of first dates in the early 60s, sparely evoked with posters, a stereogram and Wharfedale speakers. Life might be very different in the 21st century, but the pain of rejection remains the same.

28th – 30th April

Our Town
by Thornton Wilder
Directed by Cheryl St. George

Our Town An extract from the review by Crysse Morrison…..
Thornton Wilder's 1938 classic Pulitzer-prize-winning play Our Town is set in a small town in New Hampshire just over a hundred years ago. No Trump-style politics then, just small town folks living their daily lives of births, marriages and deaths, the minutiae of trivial detail all woven together by the playwright to show not only the transience of life but also how "there's something way down deep that's eternal about every human being."

Deceptively innocent at first, this poignantly thought-provoking play makes big demands on all the actors, not only in terms of mastering the flat drawl and slow delivery a North-Eastern province at that time but also because Wilder wanted the action to be created through mime. Director, Cheryl St. George, is faithful to this specification, with help from Joan Calder, so it's up to the audience to imagine the coffee cups, milk pails, newspapers, schoolbooks and balls bouncing awry.

It's a difficult task to make the ordinary seem extraordinary, particularly when it's mostly not there, and all the cast should be massively commended, especially Django Lewis-Clark and Georgina Littlewood for their key roles of youngsters who face life, marriage, and death together. Laurie Parnell takes the central role of ‘Stage Manager' with the same superbly engaging manner as he did in the - not dissimilar - narrative voice in Under Milk Wood, also the story of everyday life in a tiny community. His role here is to constantly break the theatrical ‘fourth wall', interrupting the action, summoning other contributors, asking for questions, and generally reminding us we are in a theatre and out of real time. And what is that thing we call real time anyway? 'You know how it is, you're 21 or 22 and whoosh, you're 70'.

19th – 21st November

Ring around the Moon
by Jean Anouilh
translated by Christopher Fry

Directed by Philip de Glanville

Ring around the MoonIt was always going to be risky, doing a play from the early 50's which very few Frome people had heard of or knew much about. To be fair, a couple of people told me they had been around for the original Peter Brook production and said they still remembered it with great affection, but then someone else unkindly pointed out that the author's name was “just another word for ‘boring' in English”, which rather took the wind out of my sails!

However we had read it with great enthusiasm at one of our play readings a year or so before and, as a result, auditions were certainly very well attended. We had too few roles to match the numbers of those auditioning which is, of course, bittersweet – offering a part to one but turning down several others.

But what about the play? Well, it was everything it promised to be; light and frothy and very charming, but with quite a satisfying amount of satirical bite, adding up to make “a deliciously wise romantic comedy”, as one newspaper reviewer notwithstanding a rather clunky opening night. Fortunately it picked up nicely for our second performance and was flying along for the final one on Saturday night. It looked gorgeous, because Matt Tipper's lighting of the very simple set was enchanting, and because Carol Lewis's costumes were exceptionally good. The soundscape of music which Simon Bowman had created was utterly delightful, and the cast were splendid. They worked extremely well together and the acting was of a very high standard across the board. Our audiences certainly seemed to have enjoyed it, judging by the happy faces in the foyer afterwards, and there was lots of laughter during the performances. So, I think we can chalk it up as another success for the Club! Onwards and upwards...

Philip de Glanville

Frome Festival
2nd - 4th July


Mrs Shakespeare
by Robert Nye

adapted for the stage & directed by Cheryl St. George

Mrs shakespeareWhat Will and Anne got up to in the Bard's Best Bed: a novel that was turned into a radio play, then adapted for the stage with a few bits from the Bard's plays thrown in for good measure…easy!

Well, the three actors (Juanita Chedzoy, Stephen Scammell and Tina Waller) did make the production process easy and great fun, even if the preceding months of negotiation with agents and re-writing weren't quite so straightforward.

A lavish four-poster bed provided the set for the main action of the play which was staged at the Silk Mill as part of the 2015 Frome Festival. Rehearsals were a bit of a challenge…Tina and Stephen frequently ended up on the floor as the blow-up bed slowly lost air with all the energetic shenanigans testing its inflation to the max. But the ensemble rose to the challenges and relished a script they could really sink their teeth into!

It was rewarding when the reviews came in to hear that the audiences had enjoyed watching the performances as much as we did putting the show on.

Cheryl St. George and the production team involved in Mrs. Shakespeare did a wonderful job in a difficult venue. This is just the sort of brave project the Festival needs and it is to be hoped that FDC will build on this seminal experience.

It was original, witty and utterly absorbing.

Tina Waller's young Anne is a glitter-bomb of sexiness, and Stephen Scammell's Will leaps to the challenge in these entertaining sections. Although the script betrays too much of its radio origins, for lively effrontery alone FDC deserves the praise this show is receiving. The bed is amazing too, and mandolin playing & roundels to greet the audience are a charming touch.

This is a great piece of FDC ensemble work, perfectly cast and with lines beautifully delivered. So good to be able to hear every word in a great Silk Mill setting. Steve Scammell relishes all the opportunities for playful fun in schoolboy fashion, Tina Waller's frustrations with him are palpable and exceedingly amusing at times and you feel Juanita Chedzoy's despair of her man as she muses so engagingly over their past. I was impressed with the beautifully dressed bed but marvelled even more at its strong construction which enabled it to withstand pulsating activity... This is a well written and well directed play. The time flew by.

23rd - 25th April

Tom Jones
by Henry Fielding
adapted for the stage by Joan Macalpine
Directed by Christine Dunn

Tom JonesOur production lived up to all expectations – a rich, ripe, rowdy and faithful re-creation of the story and spirit of Fielding's great picaresque novel while, at the same time, offering risqué fun to a modern audience. Director, cast and crew pulled out all the stops to maximise the enjoyment of this unashamedly bawdy 18th century comedy romp with set and costumes to match. This production received a host of nominations for awards in the Somerset Fellowship of Drama's Phoebe Rees competition and it was most fitting that ‘our Tom', Ben Hardy-Phillips, received the award for Best Actor under 21. As one reviewer concluded: "This was a production with great confidence in itself, peppered with wonderful characterisation and individual flair."

20th - 22nd November

Witness for the Prosecution
by Agatha Christie
Directed by Philip de Glanville

Witness for the ProsecutionThe Club's first Agatha Christie for a good many years, and we all thought ‘Witness' was one of her best. It works particularly well on stage because it employs the natural theatre of the courtroom, and though it has its fair share of her famous red-herrings and misdirections, the plot is actually entirely fair and plausible, and the ending very satisfyingly unexpected. And since the success of the piece depends so much on the final twists and turns, the denouement was rehearsed ‘in camera' very late on in the process and the actors involved were sworn to secrecy.

As the Committee had hoped, the audiences flocked in. In the end we had three virtually full houses, but the play also proved very popular with the large cast. There were 21 in all with speaking parts, and in addition quite a number of FDC members took part in the production by sitting in ‘the jury', in the front two rows of the auditorium. Some entered fully into the spirit of it and dressed in period costume; they said afterwards that they got a great sense of being at the Old Bailey in the early 50's and felt really involved!

Frome Festival July

Jump to Cow Heaven
Directed by Tina Waller

Jump to Cow HeavenJohn - Richard J Thomas
Lisa - Rowena Allsopp
Frank - Kevin Withers

Production Team: Mike Witt, Simon Bowman, Dan Gaisford, Sandra Gaisford,
Bill and Migs Jacques.

Set in December 1966, Jump to Cow Heaven is a gripping triumph of tension and suspense, the winner of the Fringe First Award for best new play at the 1997 Edinburgh Festival. In a small basement flat in London's East End, Frankie ‘The Mad Axe Man' Mitchell is in hiding, having just been sprung from Dartmoor prison by the Kray Twins. With only his minder John for company and Lisa, a prostitute provided by the Twins to see to his needs, Frank awaits the car that will take him to a new life in the country. But as the days go by and Christmas approaches, Frank's frustration leads him close to the breaking point. On the night before Christmas he disappears and the lips of everyone are sealed.........

Entered into the All England One Act Play Festival

Me and My Friend
by Gillian Plowman (Act One)
Directed by Christine Dunn

Me and My FriendOz – Aynsley Minty
Bunny – Alan Burgess

Production Team: Mike Witt, Denise Gibbons, Simon Bowman,
Bill and Migs Jacques.

Hilarious and heart-breaking at once, this black comedy explores the relationships between two men Oz and Bunny who have been thrown together after being released from psychiatric hospital into the 'care in the community' early release program for mental health patients.

Oz the ex postman who has never recovered from his mother's death and Bunny, whose workaholism finally led to estrangement from his wife. The men conduct hilarious fantasy interviews for jobs they will never get.

The first round of the festival was in The Warehouse Theatre, Ilminster and much to our surprise and delight we won through to the second round held at the Merlin Theatre, Frome. We were delighted to win there too on 'home ground'.

The third round was at Teignmouth – what a day! We won, taking us through to the Final at Evesham, which alas we didn't win but Alan and Aynsley were given best actor awards. Overall an incredible, nerve racking experience.

Christine Dunn

30th April - 3rd May

Abigail's Party
by Mike Leigh
Directed by Geoff Hunt

Abigail's PartyPerformed by Tracey Ashford, Calum Grant, Helen Hodgson, Ross Scott and Edwige Wilson.

This play remains in the consciousness of British audiences due to the iconic performance of Alison Steadman as Beverley. This is a benefit and a burden when electing to recreate the piece. It is commonly remembered as a comedy farce. However, this is a misplaced expectation as it is often forgotten the original has equal measures of comedy and darkness. When producing this play I wanted to meet the audience's expectations and chose to heighten the comedic elements to give a light touch. To do this I created a slightly abstract set to remind the audience they were watching absurd situations, raised the profile of Ange and Laurence, supposed that Tony had had "an adventure" when visiting next door and that Sue was French. This spread the comedic load across the characters to give leverage to the numerous cringing social etiquette faux pas committed in the play. The final scene was cut down and devised to become more farcical. Beverly was expertly played by Tracey Ashford who created a fresh take on the character as she took the audience on a journey with an alcohol driven obsessive host crashing with bitter venom (or should that 'lemon'?!) into the showdown scene. The audiences loved the show and many were convinced it was the show they remembered from the television version. They went home happy but a little deceived.

Geoff Hunt

20th – 23rd November

A Chorus of Disapproval
by Alan Ayckbourn
Directed by Philip de Glanville

A Chorus of DisapprovalThis was Ayckbourn's 50thanniversary as a playwright and we chose to perform one of his most admired, though horrendously difficult, plays in order to celebrate his remarkable achievements.

It is difficult for two reasons; firstly because the action switches constantly from the rehearsal room, where ‘Pendon Amateur Light Opera Society' are struggling with their version of The Beggar's Opera, complete with singing and dancing (not skills which come naturally to FDC!), to various locations around the town (a pub, three different front rooms, a café and a garden) where our shy hero Guy is caught up in all the off-stage infidelities and intrigues commonly thought to be associated with amateur theatre; and secondly because, though hilarious at times, the play is essentially quite dark. In it Guy discovers that his good nature and willingness to try to please everyone are no guarantees of popularity, and that he is defenceless against the weight of general disapproval when the members of PALOS turn against him at the end of the play.

13th – 14th July

Under Milk Wood
by Dylan Thomas
Directed by Philip de Glanville

Under Milk WoodWe hope we did full justice to Dylan Thomas's masterwork with a 'community-style' outdoor production in the ECOS amphitheatre as part of the Frome Festival. Casting every character in the village of Llareggub, with very little recourse to doubling, involved almost every actor in the Club and quite a few more besides, which boosted our membership considerably. We had 44 adults and 10 children on stage in the end, not to mention two goats!

Laurie Parnell played First Voice – not only demonstrating extraordinary feats of memory, but giving a spell-binding performance as the author himself - and Second Voice was performed by the rest of the cast, moving in unison and speaking in groups like a Greek Chorus. This involved an enormous amount of rehearsal, but the teamwork it engendered was heart-warming and has given us all lasting memories.

The weekend of the two performances, which sold extraordinarily well, was undoubtedly the hottest of the year. Pressures of the Festival meant we had to perform in the mid-afternoon, and having had two of the cast collapsing in the heat, and with a packed audience desperate for shade, we moved the production into the relative coolness of the Merlin for the second half, in working light and with all the doors open. It was a bit of a squeeze for everyone, but the audience roared its approval at the end, and our Phoebe Rees adjudication described the production as "a courageous and exciting choice, with a company that showed real dedication".

24th - 27th April

The Farndale Avenue Housing Estate Townswomen's Guild Dramatic Society Murder Mystery
by David McGillivray & Walter Zerlin Jr
Directed by Geoff Hunt

The Farndale Avenue Housing Estate Townswomen's Guild Dramatic Society Murder MysteryAn all women cast performed this spoof "play within a play" murder mystery. The play follows a group of townswomen's guild ladies performing a murder mystery (including quiz and fashion show) with all the stereotypical am dram bloopers. The team worked on group comedy delivery as this play has no central character. The main aim was to portray the ladies trying to act in their own way and not to simply produce spoof characters.

The production is heavy on props and designed with slips and trips which can easily disorientate the cast. We adjusted the parts to revert to an all female cast and split the Mrs Reese part to develop a second character. It is a great play to perform but much care is needed to push the pace in the right places and to signal the visual gags very clearly. Good facial expressions can make the comedy very subtle. The opening speech and film show can hold the opening pace back and is very difficult for the actor.

The cast had great fun with the fashion show and song routine and the production generated great camaraderie and a wonderful showcase for our female actors. A much enjoyed show by our audience too.

22nd – 24th November

by William Shakespeare
Directed by Calum Grant

MacbethThis production of 'The Scottish Play' transferred the action of Shakespeare's classic tale to 1918 and the end of The Great War. The setting was simple but effective with costume and projection being used to give the time setting. The stark white set allowed for the lighting to set the mood for this dark and bloody tale.

The director, Calum Grant, says 'The setting needs to fit with the story and the themes you want to pull out of the text. The main thing I wanted to bring out of the play was the humanity of Macbeth and Lady Macbeth in contrast to the evil spirits that are the witches. This was done by making the witches much larger parts. The witches became Macbeth's servants and were a vital part in all murders. This allowed the lead actors (Andrew Morrison & Ellen Kirkman) and myself to work on the humanity of the Macbeths. By making the witches the driving force behind the crimes allowed us to concentrate on the effect the crimes have upon Lady Macbeth and Macbeth.'

9th – 13th July

Brenton v Brenton
by David Tristram
Directed by Stephen Scammell

Brenton v BrentonThe director, Stephen Scammell, writes: "Bonkers, conkers, and mad as a bag of badgers - this one act play had audiences queuing by the last night to get a seat. Set in the hedonistic 1980's, this spoof take on Chicago's largest advertising agency followed the roller coaster lives of the Brentons. A divorced couple each determined to ruin the other in their bid to run the agency. the direction pulled no punches in this fast paced, chaotic, gag a second production. From drug taking execs to inept hitmen, this was not a regular FDC production. Very suited for the festival it left audiences crying with laughter and many returned to see the show a second and third time. What did happen to mousey wousey ? ... Stay tuned to this station for further information ... Boing !!!"

25th - 28th April

The Graduate
Directed by Geoff Hunt

The GraduateThis production of the play about a naïve college graduate adrift in the shifting social and sexual mores of the 1960s captured with hilarity and insight the alienation of youth and the disillusionment of an era. A cult novel and iconic film the tale of Benjamin Braddock's disastrous sexual odyssey following his seduction by Mrs Robinson was brought to life on the stage, providing great drama, humour and pathos. Geoff Hunt, the director, says "The production was designed to copy the style of the film with bright European costumes, centre piece set dressing and classic music from the 60's including Simon and Garfunkel. The purpose was to wrap ‘upbeat' production over the sometimes ‘downbeat' plot. The effect is a great dramatic roller-coaster for the audience with a feel good factor created. The layers of the set mimicked the architecture of the day being in progressively larger section sizes and rounded features with cantilever steps holding the spaces together. To change sets we merely changed the bed covers, cushion colours, lamps and occasional tables."

The production was extremely well received...
"Superbly directed by Geoff Hunt, staging The Graduate was a bold step for Frome Drama Club and one they will be pleased they took. FDC consistently behaves like a professional theatre company. They are a credit to the town."
Steve Mynard

"The Graduate was a terrific production in every way, with a strong cast who have made every character completely believable as real people with warts, charms, confusions, hopes and despairs that are portrayed with conviction. We just think it was a brilliant production and gave us a fabulous evening. We hope our deeply felt praises can be passed to everyone involved. Two words, THANK YOU!"
Val & Tony Atkinson

8th – 12th November

The Revengers' Comedies
by Alan Ayckbourn
Directed by Philip de Glanville

The Revengers' ComediesThe Revengers' Comedies, by Alan Ayckbourn, is understandably very rarely performed. It is a two-part play (in four acts) which takes just under 5 hours in total to stage and was altogether a massive undertaking, involving a large proportion of the Club in one way or another.  We had 21 in the cast, and another ten or so in the Production Team.

Rehearsals started at the end of June and continued all summer, so that we were ready to launch into the main rehearsal period at the beginning of September with the majority of the 43 scenes blocked and the major characters well ahead of schedule with line-learning.  To their enormous credit everyone was ‘off-book' 4 weeks before we opened, and in the end the show went remarkably smoothly.

We performed both parts twice in the week leading up to a performance of the whole play on Saturday 12th November, with Part One in the afternoon and Part Two in the evening, to packed houses – an extraordinary and uplifting experience for us all to have been a part of, and evidence of what we can achieve when we all work together!

12th – 15th July

The Zoo Story
by Edward Albee
Directed by Geoff Hunt

The Zoo StoryThe Zoo Story was produced as part of the 2011 Frome Festival and was performed by Aynsley Minty and Dan Gaisford. The play was directed by Geoff Hunt assisted by Michael Hoskinson and stage managed by Mike Witt. The production focusses on the relationship between two strangers who happen to meet in Central Park, New York.

This cult play by Edward Albee is only available to amateurs and the site specific performance in the park was the highlight of the mini tour which took in Rook Lane Chapel, The Merlin Theatre and Victoria Park.

The show featured a technical first when the sound effects of Central Park were broadcast live from the park itself to the Rook Lane venue via an internet connection and for this our thanks go to Paula D'Alessandris from Mind the Gap Theater, New York.

6th – 9th April

One Flew over the
Cuckoo's Nest

Book by Ken Kesey adapted by Dale Wasserman
Directed by Calum Grant

One Flew over the Cuckoo's NestRandle P. McMurphy settles quickly into his new life at "the cuckoo's nest"- a high security wing in a psychiatric hospital. His time is a lot easier than it ever was in jail! He has a soft bed, plenty of friends who are only too happy when he takes their money every time at poker, and no work detail. Life is good, or at least it would be without the tyrannical Nurse Ratched. Still, McMurphy won't let that stop him having fun. In fact, he has a bet on with his fellow patients that he can break the 'big nurse' but he doesn't know the power she has to break him.

This production was resounding success with excellent reviews.
It's a play that needs a strong male lead, and Frome Drama Club found one in Stephen Scammell whose charisma electrified the entire action. The crazies were all terrific, each actor inhabiting his role totally at every moment, and the scene when they defy their tormenter to watch the World Series on a switched-off television is fantastic. A full house at the Merlin gasped, laughed, cried, and gave this brilliant production prolonged and well-deserved applause.
Crysse Morrison

Kevin Withers was a powerful Chief Bromden, and Simon Joyce an affecting Billy, but this was an ensemble effort, and no detail was missed by neither director nor actor to create the chilling effect. Another memorable show for the members of Frome Drama Club.
Gay Pirie- Weir Fosseway News

November 18th - 20th

The Picture of Dorian Gray
By Oscar Wilde
Directed by Geoff Hunt

Dorian GrayThe novel tells of a young man named Dorian Gray, the subject of a painting by artist Basil Hallward. Basil is greatly impressed by Dorian's physical beauty and becomes strongly infatuated with him, believing that his beauty is responsible for a new mode in his art. Talking in Basil's garden, Dorian meets Lord Henry Wotton, a friend of Basil's, and becomes enthralled by Lord Henry's world view. Espousing a new kind of hedonism, Lord Henry suggests that the only thing worth pursuing in life is beauty, and the fulfillment of the senses. Realising that one day his beauty will fade, Dorian cries out, wishing that the portrait Basil has painted of him would age rather than himself. Dorian's wish is fulfilled, subsequently plunging him into a series of debauched acts. The portrait serves as a reminder of the effect each act has upon his soul, with each sin being displayed as a disfigurement of his form, or through a sign of aging but Dorian pays the ultimate price for such a pact.

The Picture of Dorian Gray is considered one of the last works of classic gothic horror fiction with a strong Faustian theme. It deals with the artistic movement of the decadents, and homosexuality, both of which caused some controversy when the book was first published. The first editions of the play were used in evidence against Oscar Wilde.

14th & 15th July

By Peter Schaffer
Directed by Calum Grant

EquusDr. Dysart is confronted with Alan Strang, a boy who has committed terrible violence in a fit of passion. Dysart attempts to understand what has driven Alan to such an act and, in doing so, opens an extraordinary Pandora's Box which leads both doctor and patient to a complex and disturbingly dramatic confrontation. This production was very well received.

21st – 24th April

Habeas Corpus
By Alan Bennett
Directed by Philip de Glanvile

Habeas CorpusIf Alan Bennett is a National Treasure, then surely Habeas Corpus is one of its most precious gems… a glorious satire on the Permissive Society, written as a sort of surreal farce, complete with pratfalls, trouser-dropping, mistaken identities and fleeting sexual liaisons.

Oh - and lots and lots of doors. This wonderfully funny smorgasbord of middle-aged, middle-class naughtiness was nominated for 9 awards by Somerset Fellowship of Drama

12th – 14th November

Three Sisters
By Anton Chekhov
Directed by Robert O'Farrell

Three SistersThe Prozorov sisters – Olga, Masha and Irina - dream of escaping from their provincial exile to a more fulfilling life in Moscow, but events frustrate them. Unhappily married Masha embarks on a doomed love affair with Vershinin, while their brother Andrei, burdened by gambling debts, allows his grasping wife Natasha to drive his sisters out from the family home. Set in Russia at the turn of the Twentieth Century, Three Sisters is a tale of hope, work, love and frustrated dreams.

This production by Frome Drama Club featured beautiful period sets and costumes as well as their usual high standard of acting and direction.

3rd - 9th July

Charlie's Aunt
By Brandon Thomas
Directed by Bob Gooding
For Frome Festival

Charlie's AuntThe world famous millionairess, Donna Lucia d'Avadorez from Brazil ("where the nuts come from"!), is still going strong after a hundred years of hilarious farce and was be the guest of Frome Drama Club during the Frome Festival. Val Atkinson took on the role of the real celebrity aunt but it was stalwart veteran Alan Burgess who had to impersonate her. Dressed like a taller version of Queen Victoria, he has to chaperone two girls when they visit their student boyfriends, Jack and Charley, at their Oxford college.

Slippery solicitor, Stephen Spettigue, and retired impecunious colonel, Sir Francis Chesney propose to the imposter. Both men, of course, just wanted to get their hands on the money of Charley's aunt who, with his trousers firmly buttoned beneath his black skirts, reminded them that he is no ordinary woman! When the real Donna Lucia appears the pace got fast, furious, frantic and funnier by the minute but all was revealed by the end!

22nd - 25th April

Noises Off
By Michael Frayn
Directed by Philip de Glanville

Noises OffNOISES OFF - said to be one of the funniest plays ever written - is Michael Frayn's famously wry look at that great British tradition, the bedroom farce, complete with trouser-dropping males, eye-popping females, doors, pratfalls and plates of sardines...

We met the hopelessly dysfunctional cast of ‘Nothing On' at their disastrous dress rehearsal, and then followed them backstage as their tour of run-down provincial theatres progressively unfolds, and finally collapses, in utterly hilarious chaos. No-one who saw the play will forget the magnificent set revolving to the sound of the Blue Danube!