A Tale of Two Theatres
Farnham's Castle and Redgrave Theatres – told by those who knew
compiled by Anne Cooper with the Farnham Theatre Association

Cover of Shottermill part 1

UK RRP: 15.99

Availability: From the publisher and outlets local to Farnham

 

Front cover: Greetings Telegram from Sir Noel Coward

Paperback - 130 pages, illustrated in colour
Farnham Theatre Association, 27 Alfred Road, Farnham GU9 8ND
Email: sales 'at' farnhamtheatre.co.uk
ISBN 979-8619269512
March 2020


Foreword . Contents . Illustrations . Author's Note


Foreword – by Stephen Mangan

The Redgrave Theatre holds a very special place in my heart. It was here, in 1994, that I began my career as a professional actor. My Frank Gardner in Mrs Warren's Profession by George Bernard Shaw was warmly received and we followed it with a production of Moliere's fairly obscure George Dandin. We played to great houses of enthusiastic local people and I was actually getting paid to be an actor! I couldn't believe my luck. The only blot on the landscape that I can remember was when our great family friends, Joe and Anita Wood, came down from London to witness my opening night as a pro, got out of the station at Faversham and asked the taxi driver to take them to the Redgrave Theatre. Only when told that there wasn't a theatre at all in Faversham, let alone a Redgrave one, did they realise their mistake. Well now there is no theatre in either Faversham or Farnham.

The financial case for the Arts has been made time and time again and I'm not going to go into it here - the Arts create jobs and bring in money. They are, financially speaking, an incredibly sound investment. But the real worth of the Arts can be measured in other ways. We are, sadly, becoming an increasingly divided and polarised nation and it feels that we find it harder and harder to trust our politicians and to trust each other. As we disappear into our respective media echo chambers, civilised, reasonable, respectful debate on difference of opinion seems to be becoming more and more difficult. We witness abuse and antagonism that leads, in the very worst example, to an MP murdered in the street for having a different opinion to someone else.

What the Arts do, what theatre does, is ask the audience to put themselves into someone else's shoes, to imagine lives and stories other than their own. It is, at its heart, an exercise in empathy. And without empathy a civilised, tolerant society just isn't possible. To sit in a theatre, with a few hundred of your neighbours, to mix, to mingle, to be part of the community, to breathe the same air, is to foster a sense of community, a sense of belonging, to engender a sense that we all have a stake in our local area and in each other. A nation sitting isolated in their homes, walled off from each other, without that sense of interdependence, is to encourage feelings of separateness and disconnect that are the root cause of so many of our society's problems.

We need that connection with each other and the theatre is one of the few places in which you can get it. Pubs are closing, church attendance is down, those places where the community can come together, mix and debate are dwindling. We must do all in our power to resist. We must keep in contact with each other. And where better to do it than in a local theatre? Where we can explore what it is to be human, examine who we are as a people, how we came to be where we are and to glimpse where we might be headed. To stimulate our heads and our hearts. To laugh together, to think together, to cry together.

Thank you, Redgrave Theatre in Farnham (not Faversham), I owe you a lot.


Table of contents

Foreword - Stephen Mangan
Introduction: 'Found Spaces'

The Castle Theatre

1. The Farnham Playhouse: the first year 1939-40
2. The Castle Theatre: the early years
3. Getting established
4. Good foundations
5. Moving on
6. What The Castle Theatre gave to Farnham
7. Actors' Anecdotes

The Redgrave Theatre

8. The Redgrave Theatre: the building
9. The Opening
10. Community, Cavalcade and Success
11. What The Redgrave gave to Farnham
12. Troubles
13. Reminiscences, Recollections and Names

14. Afterwards
15. Postscript

Sources
Illustrations & Acknowledgements
Author's note
Farnham Theatre Association


Illustrations

Stephen Mangan in his role as Sean Lincoln, BBC series Episodes (photo bbc.co.uk)
Farnham Castle (photo nationaltrailbreaks.com)
Castle Street Farnham guide book Southern Railway art print (Museum of Farnham)
Farnham Playhouse programme cover 1939 (Surrey History Centre)
You Never Can Tell programme 1939 (Museum of Farnham)
Castle Street photo by Colin Smith
The Castle Theatre sketch by Marshall Barnes 1953 (Museum of Farnham)
Farnham Repertory Theatre Company (FRTC) See How They Run by Philip King, cast: Annette Kerr, Rosemary Rogers, Hilda Louis, Wilson Featherston, Graham Crowden, Neil Landor and AN Other, February 1948 photo The Farnham Herald (FTA)
Edward Woodward
Castle Theatre foyer and Self-Portrait by Marshall Barnes 1953 (Museum of Farnham). The article by Chris Shepheard (The Farnham Herald)
FRTC programme cover 1949 (Museum of Farnham)
Programme A Pair of Spectacles 1949 cast list (Museum of Farnham)
FRTC Gigi by Colette adapted Anita Loos 1959 (Pauline Jefferson collection FTA), cast: Kerry Gardner, Derek Lewis, Meg Ritchie, Sheila Reid, Cynthia Bizeray, Pauline Johncock, Anne Bryce
FRTC Make it Murder by Jack Last 1959, photo Farnham Herald, cast: Victor Winding, Peter Jackson, Pauline Johncock, (Pauline Jefferson collection, FTA)
Castle Company with Bill Maynard (photo The Farnham Herald, Pauline Jefferson collection FTA)
Punch Magazine article with cartoon by Quentin Blake of The Devil's Plaything Sept.1959 (FTA)
The Castle Theatre Exterior drawing by J. G. Garratt ( Museum of Farnham)
Peter Byrne at Gerald Flood's wedding reception Castle Theatre foyer photo by Edward Griffith
Joan Knight (The Courier newspaper - Perth venue)
John Noakes and Shep
Ian Mullins, Dorothy Edwards and her husband, Donald Mcleod (The Farnham Herald, Paratt collection FTA)
Castle Theatre Leaflet "The old theatre is doomed" (Museum of Farnham)
Castle Theatre Prompt Corner 1969 (photographer unknown, FTA Collection)
Early Redgrave design programme for To the Cliff Walk 1969 (designer unknown FTA)
Street plan for new theatre (designer unknown, Museum of Farnham)
Beatrix Thomson in Relative Values 1971 photo by Ian Pert (FTA)
Greetings telegram cover and message May 25th 1971 to Ian Mullins from Noel Coward for the opening night of the Noel Coward Season at The Castle Theatre (telegram design by Ron Atkinson. A collection of decorative telegrams from supporters of the Redgrave Theatre Appeal, including Michael Redgrave and Rachel Redgrave (Kempson) are held by The Museum of Farnham).

Farnham Repertory Theatre Company photos in FTA Collection

The Noel Coward Season 1971 – Sir Noel Coward's royalties for these plays were donated to the Redgrave Theatre Appeal, photos by Ian Pert. (FTA)
Present Laughter – Peter MacKriel, Gerald Flood, Rex Doyle.
Double Bill: A Song at Twilight and Come into the Garden Maud – Josephine Tewson and Helen Dorward
The cast of The Queen's Highland Servant inspecting the site of the new theatre at Brightwells.
Playwright William Douglas-Home donated his royalties for this production to the Redgrave Theatre Appeal and those for The Chiltern Hundreds which preceded it. The Queen's Highland Servant was presented at the Castle Theatre from 18th April to 6th May 1972, directed by Ian Mullins and featured Doreen Andrew and Bruce Purchase in the lead roles. Also in the cast were Angela Barlow, Terence Lodge, Haydn Wood, Alan Partington, William Whymper, Rex Doyle, Roger Ostime, Granville Saxton, Ian Mullins, Christopher Reeks and Hessel Saks, photos by Michael Sargent Studios (FTA).

A Phoenix Too Frequent by Christopher Fry, 1971, William Gaunt and Carolyn Lyster, photo Ian Pert (FTA)
Little Malcolm and His Struggle against the Eunuchs by David Halliwell, 1970, Andrew Jarvis, Granville Saxton, William Gaunt and Philip Trewinnard, photo Ian Pert (FTA)
Who was that Lady? by Albery and Gould, 1971, cast: Christine Edmonds, David Monico, Josephine Tewson, Rex Doyle, Angela Barlow, Granville Saxton, photo Ian Pert (FTA)
The Ghost Train by Arnold Ridley, 1973, cast: Chris Reeks, Gay Wilde, Carolyn Jones, Martin Connor, Alison Griffin, Peter Corey, and Ian Cullen, photo Michael Sargent Studios, (FTA)
Three Sisters by Anton Chekov, 1972, cast: Joan Morrow, Lisa Goddard, Helen Dorward, photo Armand Gerard (FTA)
The School for Scandal by Richard Brinsley Sheridan, 1972, cast: Jenny Agutter and Knight Mantell, photo Armand Gerard (FTA)
Ian Cullen
Gerald Flood
Philippa Urquhart

THE REDGRAVE THEATRE


The Redgrave Theatre, sketch by Burgess, 1975 (FTA)
Brightwell House, photographer unknown, (Museum of Farnham)
Redgrave layout Architect's Plans, the Redgrave Brochure designer unknown, 1974 (FTA)
An early sketch of Redgrave design by Huber (Parratt Collection FTA)
The Redgrave Theatre entrance 1974, photo by Chris Shepheard (FTA)
Sir Michael Redgrave laying Time Capsule (Redgrave Brochure 1974 FTA)
The Redgrave family, framed photo under glass, previously hung in Redgrave Theatre office (FTA)
Sir Michael Redgrave with 2 fundraisers – (Pat Larke collection FTA)
Virginia Bottomley, MP and Martin Connor, the 'Tiler appeal' (Parratt collection FTA)
Redgrave Garden Party with Virginia Bottomley and Ron Moody, photo The Farnham Herald (Parratt collection. FTA)
Sir Michael Redgrave portrait (Redgrave Brochure 1974 FTA)
Cast list from Programme for Romeo and Juliet 1974 (FTA)
Princess Margaret and Lord Snowdon with Andrew Welch and John Draper in RT foyer for Romeo and Juliet 1974, photo The Farnham Herald (Parratt collection FTA)
Ian Mullins
Granville Saxton
Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare, cast: Sammie Winmill, Christian Roberts, colour slide by Paul Wright, 1974 (FTA)
The Lighting Rig colour slide by Derek Brooks
Theatre Projects page from their technical handbook showing The Redgrave southern aspect and the set for Romeo and Juliet.
Castle Street looking south, photo by Colin Smith (Geograph.org.uk)
The Redgrave Theatre, photo from The Theatres Trust.
David Horlock in the Redgrave office (FTA)
Cavalcade by Noel Coward - Poster/Programme (FTA)
Duchess of Gloucester outside Brightwell House entrance to the Redgrave (Parratt collection FTA)
Lynn Redgrave at Bush Hotel (Parratt collection FTA)
Gerald Flood and Belinda Carroll, (Parratt collection FTA)
Princess Margaret, children and Paul Keyworth, photo The Farnham Herald (Parratt collection FTA)
Gerald Flood's Fundraising Cricket at Tilford + Anita Harris and dog, photo The Farnham Herald (Parratt collection FTA)
Garden Room Restaurant colour slide by Derek Brooks
The Clubroom with Melanie Hill, colour slide by Derek Brooks
Jazz Band at Redgrave photo by Peter Minett
Programme cover for David Horlock's 1978 production of Alan Bennett's Forty Years On. (FTA)

Farnham Repertory Theatre Company Production photos and slides in FTA collection


(Ian Mullins productions, all photos by Michael Sargent Studios)
Cabaret – musical by John Kander, lyrics by Fred Ebb, and book by Joe Masteroff, cast: Zoe Wanamaker, 1974
A Streetcar Named Desire by Tennessee William, cast: Connie Booth, 1976
Cowardy Custard, musical revue by Noel Coward, cast: Elizabeth Seal and Gerald Flood, 1976
Sleuth by Anthony Shaffer, cast: Martin Connor and Roger Kemp, 1976
Dame of Sark by William Douglas-Home, cast: Dorothy Edwards and John Sterland, 1977

(Children's entertainments written and directed by Peter Corey, all photos by Michael Sargent Studios)
Amazing Adventures of Wizard Sid, cast: Christopher Reeks and Graham Berown, 1974
Wizard Sid's Olympic Gold Muddle, cast: Christopher Reeks and Peter Corey, 1975
The Emperor's Daughter, cast: Peter Corey and Marion Wyatt, 1976

(David Horlock productions)
Clownmaker by Richard Crane about Nijinsky, Diaghilev and the Ballets Russes, cast and set, 1978 (slide by Peter Hunter)
Portrait of a Queen by William Francis, cast: Lloyd McGuire, Judith Coke, Mark Buffery, 1978 (photo by Michael Sargent Studios)
Oh, What a Lovely War! a musical by Joan Littlewood, cast: Peter Corey, Rosemary Williams, Ted Merwood, 1978, (photo by Michael Sargent Studios)
(The following photos by Format Photography)
Kes by Lawrence Till, adapted from Barry Hines book A Kestrel for a Knave, cast: Michael Shannon, Dominic Letts, 1979
Privates on Parade, a farce with songs by English playwright Peter Nichols (book and lyrics), with music by Denis King, cast: Ian Bartholomew, Rowan Suart and Malcolm Hebden
Cavalcade, a musical by Noel Coward: the cast, 1981

(Stephen Barry productions, all photos by Format Photography)
Educating Rita, play by Willy Russell, cast: Melanie Hill, Dennis Chinnery, 1984
Amadeus, play by Peter Shaffer, cast: Edgar Metcalf, Kit Thacker 1984
Rocky Horror Show, musical with music, lyrics and book by Richard O'Brien, cast: Brian Shelley, Pauline Bennion, Sharon Courtney.
Piaf, play by Pam Gems, cast: Adrienne Posta 1983

(Patrick Sandford productions)
Re-Joyce, Maureen Lipman's tribute to English comedienne Joyce Grenfell, 1988
An Ideal Husband, play by Oscar Wilde, cast: Jeremy Sinden, Eunice Roberts (photo by Tim Humphrey) 1986
Pravda, play by Howard Brenton and David Hare, cast: Granville Saxton, William Whymper, (photo by Tim Humphrey) 1987

(Graham Watkins productions)
Hay Fever, play Noel Coward, cast: Dora Bryan, Pamela Vezey, Suzy Aitchison (photo by Format Photography) 1988
Death of a Salesman play by Arthur Miller, cast: Kevin McGowan, Roy Barraclough, Stephen Hattersley (Format Photography) 1989
Macbeth play by William Shakespeare – James Bolam and Susan Jameson 1989
Richard II play by William Shakespeare – Christopher Cazenove 1991
The Cherry Orchard play by Anton Chekov – Rula Lenska, photo by Astonleigh Studios 1993
Cluedo, play by Robert Duncan, colour slide by Derek Brooks -showing width and depth of stage 1989

(Roland Jaquarello productions)
Mrs. Warren's Profession by Bernard Shaw, cast: Patrick Waldron, Stephen Mangan (Astonleigh Studio) 1994
George Dandin play by Molière, cast: Stephen Mangan, photo Astonleigh Studio 1994
Mrs. Warren's Profession cast in Redgrave foyer: P.G. Stephens, Stephen Mangan, Philip Dunbar, Patrick Waldron, Emma Gregory and Jan Waters 1994
Redgrave Theatre from above, photo by Chris Shepheard 1995
Rehearsal Studios at Hatch Mill now an Abbeyfield Nursing home, (Parratt collection FTA)
The Redgrave re-imagined sketch by Dennis Chinnery for the campaign 2008
Rula Lenska
Jeremy Hardy
Maureen Lipman, Richard Cordery, Sean Bean, Fiona Fullerton, Christopher Timothy, Prunella Scales
Ian Mullins (1929-2014) photo and obituary (Stage Talk Magazine)
Postcard: A Tale of Two Cities arranged for the stage by Ian Mullins from the Dickens novel, Ian Mullins' New Farnham Repertory Company production, photos Ken Bryant 2002 (FTA)
Jeremy Hunt ppc supporting FA campaign to save the Redgrave, photo Anne Cooper 2006 (FTA)
Brightwell House and Bowling Green, photo Anne Cooper 2001 (FTA)
NFRC Lark Rise Cast, photo John Owen Smith 2000
Brightwells Marquee with Ian Mullins walking off stage Henry IV pt2 photo Anne Cooper 2003 (FTA)
Henry IV pt. 2 by William Shakespeare, Ben Warwick as Prince Hal in the NFRC's production, photo Anne Cooper 2003
A Tale of Two Cities, arranged by Ian Mullins from the Dickens novel, Maurice Thorogood, Brenda Longman and Ian ready to go on, photo Anne Cooper (FTA)
A Tale of two Cities, Dennis Chinnery, Helen Dorward waiting to go on, photo Anne Cooper 2002
David Copperfield arranged for the stage by Ian Mullins for the NFRC, Maurice Thorogood and Brenda Longman, photo Anne Cooper 2003 (FTA)
Corin Redgrave, 2004
Farnham Theatre Association (FTA) inaugural meeting, photo Peter Sillick 2006, L to R Front row: Anne Cooper, Abigail McKern, Sue Jameson, Marie King-Hele, Brenda Longman, John Levitt; Back Row: Farnham Town Council Mayor Michael Clark, John Price, James Bolam, Michael Mitchell, Ellis Nicholls, Joe Marks.(FTA)
James Bolam at the inaugural meeting of FTA, photo Peter Sillick 2006
Suggested scheme for Brightwells 2012 sketch by Michael Blower MBE Vice President of the Farnham Society.
Michael Holden (Theatre Consultant), Jeremy Hunt MP and Anne Cooper photo David Cooper 2008
Kika Mirylees and Abigail McKern persuade UCA students to sign up for FTA photo Anne Cooper 2008
Ex Castle and Redgrave people at FTA meeting. L to R: Ann Johncock, Brenda Longman, David Wylde, June Hodgson, Chris Reeks, Maj Grant, Peter Hunter, photo Mike Silver 2010 (FTA)
Andrew Welch interviewed by BBC South TV at Waverley Borough Council for demonstration opposing the planning application to demolish of the Redgrave Theatre, photo Mike Silver 2015
Public objectors to the Brightwells development at Waverley Borough Council, photo David Cooper 2008(FTA)
The Redgrave Theatre boarded up with rescued signage, photo Mike Silver 2012 (FTA)
Dame Judi Dench
Demolition of the Redgrave Theatre, photo Mike Silver 2019 (FTA)
Peter Corey
Jemma Redgrave, photo by Charlie Carter.
Redgrave Auditorium, photo by 28dayslater.co.uk 2014


Author's Note

This book has a personal story as well as a public one. For over fifty years I observed the fluctuating fortunes of the Castle and Redgrave Theatres. As my early passion for working in theatre was thwarted, I had to choose a more secure route into the arts and I became a designer in industry. By 1965, David and I were married and in Farnham where David was a lecturer at the Farnham School of Art. I now had a chance to study for a teaching Diploma in Speech and Drama. Looking for work to support my studies, I found employment backstage at Guildford's Yvonne Arnaud Theatre but with heavy family responsibilities and health problems my aims were frustrated once again. However, my ambition for theatre remained but took yet another route and this book is the result.

In the year 2000, Ian Mullins formed the New Farnham Repertory Company (NFRC) in an attempt to rescue The Redgrave Theatre from demolition. He was looking for volunteers and I jumped at the chance to help by using my experience in street campaigning with Friends of the Earth. When Ian retired, the Farnham Theatre Association (FTA) was founded to carry on the good work. The Theatres Trust, the actors' and technicians' unions, Equity and BECTU (The Broadcasting, Entertainment, Communications and Theatre Union) were delighted to see the campaign being run by members of the public, as it showed demand. John Levitt from The Save London's Theatres campaign came down to give us support and Theatre Consultant, Michael Holden, who had been involved with the Redgrave from the start, said he would do everything he could to help.

During the campaign it became clear that the history of Farnham's two theatres was being wiped from public memory. These theatres had been engaged in artistic creativity for over 50 years. The tiny Castle Theatre had presented over 1,100 of its own productions between 1939 and 1974 and was so successful that a much larger theatre was built. The Redgrave produced 287 home-grown main house productions over its 20-year life in addition to at least 50 Studio and Cabaret shows and in the 1980s gained a national reputation for excellence. Alongside the Farnham School of Art (now UCA) and Farnham Maltings, these two theatres had once contributed to Farnham's fine reputation in the arts.

The Castle Theatre has a plaque on the building, but recognition of The Redgrave is in danger of complete obliteration. The Local Authority had been determined to drive through a 'regeneration' scheme at Brightwells and ignored many thousands of objections. The theatre profession cried out in pain at the demolition of this exemplary theatre and the residents of Farnham who had supported The Redgrave, and built it with their own money, still feel cheated and devastated. The Farnham Theatre Association wants to put the record straight by using the testimonies of people who worked in or supported these two theatres, but with an outline of the wider circumstances which ultimately led to its demolition.

We are delighted that well-known actor and TV star, Stephen Mangan has written the Foreword to the history and are grateful to all those who have contributed in words and deeds to this book. Stephen's account shows how much experience in small regional theatres like The Castle and The Redgrave is valued by the profession and that their loss is irreparable.

Anne Cooper (FTA Chairman) January 2020


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