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1921-1923

The following year the Society forsook the Town Hall for the old Playhouse which stood in Market Place, on the site now occupied by Burton's. The Thespians took their refreshments in Hobley's restaurant next door, on the left-hand side of the theatre. The scenery for their second production of 'The Mikado' was specially painted for the occasion by no less a person than the manager of the Playhouse, Mr R. Brown. Considerable amusement was caused by the fact that the Playhouse, at that time, was under contract to run a film serial, which was shown between the acts. Mr Wilfred Layton was the conductor. This was the first production to run for a whole week, with a Saturday afternoon matinee - a practice which has continued in almost every case since then.

Between 1922 and 1924, the Thespians steadily worked through the Gilbert & Sullivan operas. In April, 1922, 'The Yeomen of the Guard' was given for the third time. Mr Layton having left the district, the Society was once again without a conductor. The Rev. George Brown - like Mr Woolley a member of St. Mary's Church staff-undertook the earlier chorus practices, the final rehearsals and performances being conducted by Mr Hugh Baly, the conductor of the Bedford Operatic Society.

In this year, 1922, it was decided to attempt two productions each year instead of one and 'The Pirates of Penzance' was put into preparation for the autumn, though due to a smallpox scare in the town the date was subsequently postponed until just before Christmas.

For the first time in the history of the Society, with past difficulties in finding an honorary conductor in mind, it was decided to engage professional help and the choice fell upon Mr Edgar Wilby of the London Symphony Orchestra.

'The Pirates', a comparatively short opera, was preceded by a curtain raiser by Alfred Sutro entitled 'The Marriage will not take place'. In 'The Pirates of Penzance', Geoffrey Pyman again played the Pirate King, in which role he had made his first appearance for the Thespians in 1906.

'Ruddigore' was revived in April, 1923, and was described as 'a production of exceptional merit'. For the first time, the programme was illustrated with photographs of the performers.

'The Sorcerer' followed in November, 1923, and saw the first appearance of Leslie Rands, who left three years later to join the D'Oyly Carte Opera Company and became a well-known principal at the Savoy Theatre.

 

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