The present Middle Barton Drama Group was formed in 1985. A group of people raising money for the children’s charity Action Research staged a very successful Old Time Music Hall, which showed that there were some very talented people in The Bartons, certainly enough to form a drama group. A message in the June 1985 Barton Bulletin said: “We are hoping to start a drama group in the village if enough people are interested. If you would like to take part in any aspect of this, we would love to hear from you.”
Fortunately enough people were interested and, after sorting out a bank account so we were solvent, and a constitution so we were legal, we were able to forge ahead with the real business of rehearsing and performing plays and entertainments for our audience.
It wasn’t until we had been in existence for a little while that we learnt that there had already been a drama group, since disbanded, in the Bartons. We have little information about this previous group - if anyone knows any more, we would love to hear about it.
Our very first production, then, was Brush with a Body by Maurice McLoughlin which we presented at the Alice Marshall Hall (the venue for practically all our productions) in April 1986. It was a comedy, and was appreciated as such by the audience.
We aspire to a mixture of comedies, thrillers, murder-mysteries, classics and revues. Our audiences have been kind enough to say that they have found some of the things that we have done deeply moving (which is good - they were meant to be).
We have particularly enjoyed performing what might loosely be termed “the classics”; for instance, The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde, When we are Married and An Inspector Calls by J.B. Priestley, Gaslight by Patrick Hamilton and Hobson’s Choice by Harold Brighouse. Wonderful lines and rather nice frocks!
Probably our most popular productions have been our pantomimes, which we have performed every other year since Beauty and the Beast in 1989. Our pantomimes are a bit special. Oh yes they are! All of them (11 to date in 2009), have been written by our very own Martin Roberts; all good family entertainment, with proper dames, villains, principal boys, dreadful jokes and audience participation (even when we didn’t ask for it!). They have been a feast for the senses with the wonderful scenery and memorable music created by members of the group.
We are very lucky to have talented writers within the group. As well as Martin’s pantomimes, we have performed plays by our own Mike Herbert and Ken Lusted. Not only have these been very enjoyable and successful, they have saved us a bundle in performing rights and script purchase!
The business of doing productions, even on a relatively small scale such as ours, is an expensive one. There is an occasional misconception amongst the community that we make huge profits. Not true unfortunately. Hall charges, performing rights, script purchases, costume hire, lighting equipment etc., mean that some of our productions run at a loss. Nevertheless, we have made significant donations to various charities, both local and national, over the years. A modest annual subscription from our members helps to keep us afloat.
As well as performing in the Alice Marshall Hall, we have taken a few things to the village Sports and Social Club - a performance of one of our short murder-mysteries, a celebration for the 60th anniversary of the end of the war, and our own version of “Little Red Riding-Hood” during “Barton’s Got Talent” for the pre-school children. However the A.M. Hall remains our main centre for rehearsal and performance, and we thank the hall committee and other user-groups for their support and tolerance.
In her Dorn Free Press review for our production of Rebecca, Zandra Houston wrote, “The great thing about an amateur dramatic group is the fun and friendship it creates… it is an enormous credit to the group that they have gone from strength to strength over the years, and have found the time in their busy lives to to meet together regularly and to actually make things happen. They have created an institution in the village which has become one of the main-stays of this community.”
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