The origin of the Players, an Amateur Dramatic Society, can be traced back to 1927 when annual membership was 5 shillings (25p). There were fines of sixpence (2½ p) for being more than 15 minutes late for rehearsal and a swear box with a one penny fine for all – except the producer! The plays were well publicised and in 1930 and 1931 when a full page of photographs appeared on the back page of the Daily Sketch, a national newspaper, original copies of which are in our archive. Performances took place at the Electric Theatre in North Street, on the site now occupied by Tesco Stores.
By the mid- thirties, however, conditions became more difficult and the onset of the Second World War created obvious casting problems! Nevertheless, the demand for entertainment was strong and the need was met, notably by female groups such as the Women’s Institute.
After the war daily life returned to normal and the time came to revive the Society, so in November 1949 a small but determined group met in Midhurst to re-establish The Midhurst Players. Their first production was ‘The Bells Ring’ in the Spring of 1950. Initially light-hearted comedies were staged but in the succeeding years classical and more demanding plays were performed. Moving into the 1950s and beyond, villages and towns would stage grand events often including cycle races, athletics and a carnival. Much of the entertainment was a local homemade affair attracting an enthusiastic audience. The Players regularly competed at the Petersfield Drama Festival, with notable success. Pantomimes and musical shows were tackled and by the 1970’s and 1980’s the annual Music Hall was a regular feature, subsequently evolving into a series of Revues.
Events, including plays presented by the Players, were regularly reported in detail in several local newspapers. In fact in the not too distant past, the Society have provoked outrage and a heated debate after performing a play which featured a divorced woman!
As a Society, The Midhurst Players are proud to have been responsible for an unbroken run of over 150 productions, providing live theatre over a period of 65 years. Since 2003 we have staged a number of well-known musicals such as ‘Oliver’, ‘Guys & Dolls’, ‘Wizard of Oz’ and ‘Hello Dolly!’. Added to which we have presented popular plays such as ‘Calendar Girls’ and more recently, thought provoking plays such as ‘The Memory of Water’ and ‘Journey’s End’.
Then in December 2015 the ‘Sold Out’ notices went up as we revived the Midhurst Pantomime. For the first time in 44 years the sounds of ‘Oh no it’s not and Oh yes it is’ rang out. The Snow Queen, with a cast age ranging from 9 to 76, was received with thunderous applause from enthusiastic audiences.
Looking to the future, the objective is to continue to provide a variety of entertainment including classic plays, comedies and popular family shows; wherever possible involving lots of people of all ages.