Grove Park Theatre
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Grove Park Theatre Wrexham

About us » The beginning

The Rivals

In 1925 a meeting of the Old Boys Association of Grove Park School was held at Messrs Roberts Café, and a few members interested in embarking on the world of drama volunteered to meet with the aim of forming a drama group. A subsequent meeting was held at the school and resulted in the birth of the Grove Park Old Boys’ Amateur Dramatic Society.

Once formed, no time was lost, and on 12 October 1925 two one-act plays were put on at the Victoria Hall in Brook Street: Thread of Scarlet by JJ Bell and Motoring by Harry Tate.

Reviews of these productions appeared in the North Wales Guardian as follows:

"YMCA Entertainment, an entertainment in aid of the YMCA, was given in the Victoria Hall on Monday evening by the Grove Park Old Boys’ Association Dramatic Society. The Hall was well filled. The Society gave a fine presentation of the drama The Thread O’ Scarlet. The famous farce Motoring, in which Harry Tate has so often appeared, produced roars of laughter."

"The Grove Park Players - On Monday, in connection with the fine movement which is being made on behalf of the local branch of the YMCA, a dramatic entertainment was given in the Victoria Hall by the Grove Park Old Boys’ Association Dramatic Society. The admission was free (silver collection), and a spacious hall was well filled. The very absorbing playlet in one act, entitled The Thread of Scarlet by JJ Bell (author of The Wee Macgregor), was first presented. This play was given admirably. The actors moved naturally and, with an exception or two, spoke quite clearly. It was very enjoyable and revealed a competent set of young actors. There were no Henry Ainleys or Irvings among them, but they gave a right enjoyable performance. We hope to hear and see them again. Despite a tendency to make the thing a trifle too lively, it was very well done and the audience enjoyed it vastly. This clever company had the good luck to have Mr JW Tucker (Grove Park School) as producer."

The Admiral Crichton

As reported, these plays were part of an evening entertainment to raise funds for the YWCA and YMCA, and between the two plays a number of musical items were performed. After this initial venture the society faltered, and almost ceased to exist as it became apparent that a strictly all-male dramatic society was not on. However, a number of wives and friends agreed to help and the society was saved.

Some amusing incidents are recorded about these productions. Norman Viggars, a founder member and Light Provider for Thread of Scarlet, caused some amusement (not intended in the performance) by being obliged to switch the lights on and off in full view of the audience.

Things were a bit Heath Robinson generally. Another incident recorded in Motoring was, when the play was over, the cast found that the Tramp, who had been dressed and made up with care and detail, had not been given his cue and so failed to appear. However, a press report of the event states that the actors showed great promise.

There was then a gap of some length before the next production in November 1927 at the Church House, when a performance of The Rivals was given in which guest members (the ladies) were invited to take part. During these productions, and for a number of years afterwards, an orchestra played during the interval.

An important and immense contribution to the continued existence of the society was that the production of The Rivals was undertaken in aid of the society’s own funds, which enabled a start to be made on the purchase of stage equipment.

The cast of ‘Strife’, October 1932

Sheridan’s play was a courageous choice for a first full-length production, and some surprise was expressed that no charity was to benefit. Appealing for patronage upon the basis of value for money took some time to be established, but having funds of its own ensured that the society did not have to start all over again the next time they embarked on a production. With funds, however small, their continued existence was on a firm basis.

Annual autumn productions continued until 1934 with one exception, in March 1930, when a special production of The Happy Ending by Ian Hay was given in the central hall of Grove Park School in aid of the Denbigh Orthopaedic Association.

It was during these early years that the foundations were built on which our thriving theatre is now established, and the names of John Emrys Williams, Norman Viggars, Dennis Andrew, Tom Clarke, Arthur Ashworth and Dr John Reid, whom the society could never hope to thank adequately for his interest and unfailing generosity, must be mentioned. Up to this time, and for a while after, the home of the society was the billiard room at Bodlondeb, the home of Mr and Mrs William Aston, who later moved to Acton Park.

In March 1931 it was decided to put the society on a more permanent basis, and a constitution and rules were approved and adopted; also in that year the number of performances for a production was increased.

The year 1932 is one that must be mentioned for its ambitious production of John Galsworthy’s Strife, with its large male cast and many changes of scenery - a truly great venture for the small Church House stage; and, from the records, it appears that the back cloth painted at the Old Court Room of the Town Hall Vaults was inspired.

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