The Taunton Thespians

by John Wilkins (writing as Chairman, 1966)
Part 2: The War and After
The Society met in September, 1939, with resolution and determined to "carry on." Indeed, as the war progressed, it increased its productions to three a year. For players, the drama formed a valuable relaxation, and audiences, unable to travel far afield, were glad of the opportunity to see more plays. Thus, in addition to the annual Odeon production, usually comedy, we were able to present elsewhere such plays as "Robert's Wife," "Candida," or "They Came to a City." Somehow the difficulties were overcome; players walked to rehearsals through the black-out, or got on their bicycles to ride off to give a performance in a neighbouring village hall; if "Laburnum Grove" demanded the unobtainable bananas, the props department got to work with sponge cake and chamois leather; when male members went to the war, their places were often taken by men from the Services stationed in Taunton, among them some professional actors; and when our own producers were too busy, we were fortunate in finding in Taunton a distinguished theatrical evacuee in Miss Esmé Beringer. Her brilliant instruction in interpretation and her own performance with the Society as "Gran" in "Whiteoaks" will never be forgotten by members of that period.
After the war, the halcyon days of the amateur theatre, before the little box invaded every sitting-room, days when we were able to increase our runs at the Odeon to a week and still turn people away. Perhaps, in retrospect, it was all too easy, and the fiercer competition of today makes greater demands. But they were great days, not only for the lavish productions of "The First Gentleman" or "Lady Windermere's Fan," but also for the other productions, often five annually, of such plays as "The Cocktail Party" or "The Lady's not for Burning," not to mention original plays.
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