- In May 1957, Horley Central Players performed a new play by Jonathan Field, Mrs McGinty’s Washing. The play was produced by Jonathan’s wife, Moira. A revolving stage – based on a railway turntable – was built by members for the play.
- The revolving stage was again used later that year for Henry IV Part 1, and in the following year for another premiere – Clock-a-jacks.
1960 was, in effect, Horley Central Players’ 21st birthday year, and the local paper said “the year began with a new bright star in the Archway’s firmament when Marjory Wright played Lady Pitts in Daphne Laureola – a part tailored to suit her immaculate style”.
- Later that year, David White produced his first play for Horley Central Players. The local paper wrote “… the quality of David White’s production revealed this to be his true metier”. The play was Mother Courage by Bertolt Brecht. Talking to Miles Beauchamp, he said it was intended to use the revolving stage to move Mother Courage’s cart, but after many attempts during rehearsals, this was found to be impossible.
- Therefore Mother Courage’s two sons, Eilif (Bryan Rhoades) and Swiss Cheese (Miles Beauchamp) had to manhandle the cart!
1961 saw the first trip of the Surrey Strollers to the Isle of Mull. Megan Etholen – a member of the acting companies at the Archway – was working in an East End youth club. During the day, the BBC used part of the premises as a rehearsal room.
- An actress – Delphi Lawrence – heard about the theatre from Megan and said “why don’t you take a play up to Mull?” (Delphi’s parents lived on the island). Following this chance remark, Megan “persuaded” 14 members, drawn from the Horley Central Players and Barts Players, that they would indeed like to go to Mull and put on a couple of plays! Thus the Surrey Strollers were born, and in August 1961 14 people found themselves en route for Mull, complete with scenery, props, camp beds, sleeping bags, etc etc.
- Three flew from Heathrow to Glasgow. The others went in a transit van, stopping at Glasgow to pick up the three from the airport, and a Hillman Minx car. The car was intended for four people, but it had to accommodate five; as one of them was our electrician Bryan Rhoades, we also had on board the lighting equipment and a tape recorder. In 1961 there were no car ferries from Oban to the Isle of Mull, so the 14 Strollers and their “luggage” made the crossing in an open boat!
- They made many more trips over the following 20 years, but for one trip in particular the transport for part of the journey was very different. The Strollers were invited to perform their play Hay Fever on an adjacent island – Coll, by Dr de Vries who lived on – and owned most of – the island. Dr de Vries arranged and paid for the Strollers and their equipment to be transported from Iona to Coll by plane and helicopter. He also arranged for the Strollers to stay overnight with various Coll residents. Afterwards Dr de Vries gave the Strollers a donation with which they purchased the lamps you still see in the theatre’s auditorium and foyer.Written by Bette Bunkell – 2002 Read more….