Starting to use the Theatre
Once the Theatre opened, 1972 was a busy year. After Hansel & Gretel, there were three plays (The Man In The Bowler Hat/Spartan Girl and Haul For The Shore) . In complete contrast, Doug Beeley produced HMS Pinafore, which was very well received. These were quickly followed by rehearsals for the January 1973 production of the Wizard of Oz - one of Mary Kelley's favourite shows, undoubtedly in the top ten of HATS's productions.
Shows with Other Groups
Between 1973 and 1983 there were various productions - HATS and Clawton Young Farmers joined force under the leadership of Mary & Geoff Tucker with two musical shows.
We were invited to do a cabaret for Holsworthy's twinning with Aunay, repeated for the opening of the Plough at Torrington.
Bill once again sat in the producer's chair with the play Dry Rot in 1997 and Pinocchio in 1979.
HATS has established a reputation over the years for the quality of our productions, particularly our Pantomimes, which appeal to the whole family. Mind you, they run for twelve days with fourteen performances, so by the final curtain, the cast and crew are completely exhausted. Those performances mostly play to full houses, so pantos are the bedrock of HATS, keeping the Theatre financially afloat.
In the 70s we saw, among others, Jack and the Beanstalk in 1974, in which Robert Painter tore his trousers. In Red Riding Hood, January 1977, where we opened in a blizzard. Dick Whittington in 1978 marked the zenith of Annette Dennis's career as our Principal Boy. Finally, the party after Aladdin in 1982, saw some of the cast sample home-made brew, with interesting results! A notable production, in 1973, was The Wizard of Oz - another candidate for the top ten of HATS's productions. As much happened off-stage as on.
Babes in the Wood 1983 was Mary Kelley's last pantomime, in which Crispin King was outstanding as Baron Hardup and Alan Bewes' 'performance' created a black market for tickets.
A vital element of the pantomime is the Dame and the 1980's saw Brian Soby, surely one of the greatest pantomime dames ever to grace the amateur stage, at the height of his powers.
Another contender for this accolade is Phil Barfett. Now Phil not only has a wonderful dame's instinct for comedy and for working the audience, he is 'Mr. Reliable'. He is one of these people to whom learning lines is as easy as falling off a log. So much so he also learns everyone else's lines!
With Mary Kelley standing down, there was a huge gap to fill. But with great good luck, Mary Littlechild came along to take up the reins - allowing quality productions to continue.
Mary came to live in Shebbear with her husband Bill. They threw themselves into the life of HATS - Mary produced our pantomimes throughout the 1980's, whilst Bill made an excellent stage manager (as demonstrated by the gypsy caravan he built for Wind in the Willows.)
A decade we dedicate to her memory for she sadly died in 1991. She had a sure touch in terms of her choice of songs, a reflection of her background at The London Guildhall School of Music.
If we were to give an award for 'patience of a saint', we would have two candidates - Sheila Ford and Myrtle Rooke. They have spent hours down in the orchestra pit, tickling the ivories playing the same old tune over and over until the conductor says "by George I think they've got it" only to find that by the next rehearsal "we've lost it".
Bob Davies, on drums, has also kept them company for many years now, he comes complete with the packet of Werthers Originals. For the last few shows the young and talented James Parker has joined the group.
Another of the many 'saints' was Aubrey Woollard (alas no longer with us), who dedicated endless hours to the society as Assistant Treasurer, Licensee and caretaker, in many ways this became his second home.