Once upon a time in a tiny Cornish village called St Blazey, a group of budding thespians believed the locals needed a laugh or two. It was post-war Britain and the group started plotting, at the local football club, how they could raise the roof. Two years later in 1950 they staged their first production, A Prince for Cinderella, at the Labour Hall in St Blazey.
Ticket prices then were 2s6d (12 ½p ) and the 14 performances were sell outs! The cast rehearsed in the Church Hall in St Blazey, with original members recalling that the toilets were downstairs, with brambles and nettles poking through the walls and the occasional visit of a rat!
The Society continued to perform at the Labour Hall and the Palace Cinema until 1959 when it moved to the Capitol Theatre in nearby St Austell.
During the performance of Cinderella at the Palace Theatre in 1953, the Society had the services of a pure white pony who travelled from Wadebridge to perform. This pony was unfortunately blind in one eye and they made sure that his blind side was to the audience so that the lights did not frighten him. During the week he was stabled at The Pack Horse Inn which cared and groomed him, and the landlady sprayed no end of perfume over him. He spent the first half of the show, prior to his stage entrance, in the bar where the customers plied him with gin-soaked sugar lumps.
On more than one occasion by the time the finale of the show came he was more than four sheets to the wind! The same pony appeared in the first production of Cinderella at the Capitol Theatre but he was not allowed to become so intoxicated, nevertheless he once again stole show. How things change!
Perhaps one of the most challenging times for the Society came when it decided to build its own theatre in 1991. The sports hall of the local secondary school was transformed from a flat gym to a stage with wings and raised seating.
It was a colossal effort by the members who worked into the night as soon as the school had broken up for the holidays, then striking it on the Sunday after performances in order for it to be used as a sports hall again by 8am on the Monday morning. This continued for seven years, and has resulted in our stage crew becoming proficient in anything to do with an allen key and scaffolding!
The Society has been somewhat nomadic in its rehearsal space and performance venues, using theatres and halls across St Austell. In 2006 it was invited to produce its show at the new Keay Theatre in the town. The theatre seats 224 people.
Over the years the Society estimates 2000 people have volunteered to make the productions such a success. It has been wonderful to see families blossom through the friendship and fun the Society offers. Many former junior dancers are now returning having had their own children who want to be little starlets themselves!
A production of this size doesn’t happen overnight. The Society has made its own scenery and costumes over the years, with the experienced team starting to design in the early summer before the panto has even been cast. Workshops and auditions are held in August, welcoming local people of all ages onto the stage.