Roadwater Players
The centre of Amateur Dramatics in West Somerset

This is the website that will guide you through everything to do with the Roadwater Players - Winners of the Pint Pot Award 2011/12 and 13 at the Cinderella Trophy Awards


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History of the Players:

The original Roadwater Players Amateur Dramatic Society had been, by all accounts, a successful and popular group in the 1920’s and 30’s, but ceased to stage productions for various reasons  around the time of the Second World War. 

In 1975 Mr Geoffrey Drake, a respected and popular West Country surgeon, who lived in Roadwater Farm, decided to resurrect The Players with the help of his wife Elizabeth and his niece. He was an enthusiastic amateur thespian, who had thoroughly enjoyed his stage experience in numerous hospital productions, and with great humour and determination he set about rousing local interest. Our first meeting was held in the autumn of 1975 at Roadwater Farm. It was decided to resume the title ’Roadwater Players’, and we put together a hilarious revue entitled ‘Up the Mineral Line’. Participants in the revue included the Rector of the Benefice, the Rev Charles Townshend, Raymond and Barbara Young from Withycombe, Bertha Routley, who had been a member of the original Players, and a number of local people who were eager to take part or help backstage. Encouraged by the success of the Revue, we went on to produce our first play: ‘Love by Appointment’ in May 1976. The membership was growing, and the ‘Backstage Gang’ had by now increased, including Brian and Helen Taylor from Roadwater Garage and Martin Damerell from the Post Office, a trio that quickly became indispensable. The Players were joined in 1977 by Philip and Sue Taphouse, whose skills with lighting and properties respectively were incredible! 

Inevitably, perhaps, the next logical step was a Pantomime production. After reading a few professional scripts, Mr Darke’s niece, Elizabeth Cosgrove, decided to attempt her own, and so ‘The Sleeping Beauty’ took shape, taking the stage and community by storm in December 1976. Dr Glyn Court was at the piano, wonderful costumes and scenery were produced by Kay Sawatzki and Martin Damerell respectively, and they were ably assisted by Brian Taylor and Torquil Cosgrove. Vivien Gee (Irwin) sent shivers up and down the spine as the wicked Tormentil of Treborough Tip, deftly opposed by the good fairy Concorde, played by Tina Maddock, whose hairdressing salon doubled as our Williton Box Office. Local farmer Clive Cooper, joined the cast as king, (immortalising himself forever in the annals of the Society with his stroll in front of the curtain, wielding a broom and shovel exclaiming ‘those dratted corgis!’) Bertha Routley, a veteran of the original group, played a leading role as well. 

On a roller coaster of emotion the Players produced an old time music hall the following March, inviting well-known local guest performers, including the late Ken Almond and members of the Carhampton Curtain Raisers. Mr Darke was M.C. and a highlight of the show was his and Elizabeth Darke’s rendering of the Croccodile Song, all to the indefatigable piano accompaniment of Glyn Court. After this production the company really took off as a strong, cohesive, hugely enthusiastic amateur dramatic society. It went from strength to strength, developing skills and maturing with each production, which occasionally included other home generated scripts. Following our play in 1977 we embarked on our most ambitious venture to date, ‘The Wizard of Oz’. Oz was dogged by mishaps minor and major (which were admirably tackled by three producers; Clive Cooper, Gill White and Liz Cosgrove), the last straw being the big snow of 1978, which resulted in Oz eventually coming to the stage in late February, with our new pianist, John Holroyd. Following all this, 1978 was the year that the Players first Constitution was drawn up. 

Every Pantomime necessarily warranted an enormous amount of communal effort- but they were also great fun and hugely rewarding. There were some special magical moments, such as the transformation scene in Cinderella, 1979, when the lights were blacked out for seconds while Jackie Hickman swiftly and temporarily replaced Vanessa Hudson Cinderella) to facilitate the change into the fabulous ball gown, and when six high stepping ponies in fishnet tights, leotards and plumes burst through the beautiful paper fireplace, towing the fairy coach behind them. Then when the scriptwriter of ‘Dick Whittington’ (1980) wistfully murmured ‘I’d love to have a real ship moving across the stage in front of the backcloth’, and the backstage crew replied ‘Then you shall have one!’ and we did. Our crew were always very innovative and for that we were very fortunate. 

Clive Cooper took the reins from Elizabeth Darke as Chairman, and he handed over to Elizabeth Cosgrove in 1978, a year which saw the successful production of the West End play ‘Secretary Bird’, with Clive Oakley as guest director and player of the lead role. Dennis Evans joined the Players at this point. Plays, Pantomimes and occasional forays into the great wide world beyond Roadwater continued to sparkle and entertain; we took our Autumn Revue to Bicknoller in September 1980 (the year that saw Pam and Frank Scragg join as stalwarts!) and the Players participated in the Rotary Old Time Music Hall at St Audries in 1981, and performed their sketch of ‘Sweet Fanny Adams’ at the village fete the following July. Becoming more sociable the Players organised play readings, quiz nights, theatre trips and annual dinners. 

The Players are rightly proud of their record in various drama competitions, and we entered our first competition in March 1979 when we entered ‘The Lesson’ by Doris Clement Salaman in the one act play competition at Bridgwater Arts Festival. ‘The Lesson’ had been staged in Roadwater in 1928 by the WI, and although it won no awards in Bridgwater it was a great pleasure to perform it at Roadwater to celebrate the Village Hall’s 50th Anniversary in 1978. Bertha Routley took the lead role of Granny Greenley, a part that had been played by her very own mother in the 1928 production. Bertha also appeared in the original production as Clara. 

In 1983 the Players staged another successful West End play; ‘The Unvarnished Truth’. This was a very funny play, and the cast and crew enjoyed it immensely; on one night the producer was called into the auditorium during the interval, and returned white-faced with the news that the play’s author, Royce Ryton, was present. In fact, he had with him a complete TV crew, and a few actors, who had been filming the play in the south west, and on their way back to London had seen our posters and decided to ‘pay us a visit’ for a joke! The second half saw us quivering with nerves before such critics, but we gave it our best, and they joined us afterwards in the dressing room, and as was the norm at the Valiant Soldier afterwards. There was quite a party! 

The Roadwater Players entered the Cinderella Cup for Amateur Pantomime in the local area for the first time in 1983 with its production of ‘Puss in Boots’, and has continued to enter the county competitions ever since. In 1985 they were awarded the prize for Best Production by a Small Society for ‘Tom the Pipers Son’, and Al Menzies won the award for Best Actress. In 1987 they won the shield for the Best Village Hall Production for the play ‘Outside Edge’. 

In 1984 Clive Cooper, one of the Players most stalwart members and supporter died unexpectedly. It was decided to mark his contribution to the Players with the establishment of an annual award within the company in his memory, and so the Clive Cooper Trophy came in to being. 

In 1986 Elizabeth Cosgrove resigned as Chairman and the reins were handed to Dennis Evans, under whom the Players continued to thrive. This is the story so far, we are working on the next instalment, so keep checking for the continuation of the story of The Roadwater Players………….