The year 1963
was a momentous one for the Thespians for they lost their
President, Producer and Musical Director. The death of R. H.
O. Wright, a member since 1912, was a matter of great
sadness and, indeed, his contribution to the Society as
singer, Honorary Secretary, Musical Director and, finally
President, had been quite outstanding. He was replaced in
1964 by Mr K. Guyton, another member who had served the
Thespians in a number of ways.
whose preference the committee respected in changing their
original choice of 'The Pyjama Game' to 'Kiss Me Kate' for
her last production holds, of course, an almost incomparable
position in Thespian history. Between 1925 and 1963, she
produced no fewer than forty-two shows, notwithstanding the
six barren years of World War 11. Now in her seventies, she
had decided to retire on doctor's advice. 'Mrs Rendell,'
wrote Wendy Wright - 'or 'Eisie' as she is affectionately
known to all - has never spared herself to ensure the
success of each show. It is difficult to realise the amount
of work entailed in some of the larger productions, but 'Eisie',
with her tireless energy and unfailing sense of humour, is
Her method of
training both principals and chorus - a curious mixture of
sound instruction and flippancy, affectionate bullying and
leg-pulling - is surely unique, and fascinates all who work
with her. To say the Thespians are lucky to have secured the
services of such a Producer is a gross understatement - for
all who are fortunate enough to know Eisie Rendell, will
agree that they will not look upon her like again.'
Earlier in the
year, just before Easter, the Thespians gave a performance
of Faure's 'Requiem' and a Bach Cantata in St. Mary's
Church. The organist was Percy Wells and the performance was
well supported by the public.
'Kiss Me Kate'
was not, unfortunately, a financial success, though it was
much enjoyed by those who saw it. It was the last show
conducted by Peter Cooper, who had informed the committee of
his intention to resign. The committee accepted his
resignation with regret and thanks for his seven years' work
with the Society, and cast around for a replacement. Thus it
was that Vera Mallett came to the Thespians, and a more
felicitous and profitable appointment could, scarcely have
been made, as the years since have demonstrated. The new
Musical Director was the first woman to hold the post in the
Society. A professional vocal coach, she had recently moved
into the district from London, having had a wide variety of
experience as performer, teacher and conductor. She it was
who initiated the change to an orchestra of professional
musicians, drawing her players not only from the immediate
locality but from London and other places outside the
In view of her
reservations about the show chosen for 1964 -'La Belle
Helene'- the committee accepted her suggestion that 'Pink
Champagne', adapted from the Strauss operetta 'Die
Fiedermaus' should be substituted. This was staged at the
Town Hall in November, 1964, with Nan Taylor as the
producer, and its success augured well for the future.
Earlier in the
year, the Thespians and their new Musical Director had got
to know each other in rehearsals for a single performance of
a concert version of 'The Yeomen of the Guard.' This was
given in February at Hitchin Boys' Grammar School.