The Taunton Thespians

by John Wilkins (writing as Chairman, 1966)
Part 1

The Founding Fathers – and Mothers – of the Taunton Thespians would have claimed no far-sighted plans when, in 1927, finding an amateur dramatic vacuum in Taunton, they got together and said, "Let's do a play." Fortunately among them was Mr. Neville Bradshaw, a master at Taunton School, a born organiser and veritable theatrical Pooh Bah, being producer, business manager and even billposter. And so the posters went up for three performances of "Tilly of Bloomsbury" at the Lyceum Theatre, now the Odeon, with the name, The Taunton Thespians, added at the last minute to give a little class.
The production was a success; none of the trusting guarantors had to pay up, and a successor next year became inevitable. And so, with its annual productions during the next ten years, the Society became established, though "Society" is hardly the right word, since there was no formal membership, and plays were chosen and cast in what might now be regarded as a horrifyingly autocratic manner. There had to be caution in the choice of play, for a theatre with 700 seats took some filling, and comedy remained the general rule. Yet it was possible, without bankruptcy, to slip in such plays as "Berkeley Square" or "A Hundred Years Old" among the usual diet of Barrie, Ian Hay or Coward. The proverbial shoestring was always in evidence; a bill for ten pounds for a broken "prop" which had been borrowed meant a treasure hunt or whist drive to avoid depleting slender reserves. A tremendous debt is owed to two of the schools in Taunton which provided facilities at a peppercorn rent, Weirfield School with rooms for rehearsals, and Taunton School with facilities for scenery construction, and later, with the use of the School Hall for productions.
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