Dorchester Community Plays Association: The Archive

The Archive

The first Dorchester community play of modern times was performed in 1985. It was produced by the Colway Theatre Trust under the inspired and inspiring leadership of Ann Jellicoe whose concept the revival of community plays on such a scale was.

Although most participants probably regarded Entertaining Strangers as a one-off venture such was its success that not long afterwards the Dorchester Community Plays Association was born. Five community plays later and with another on the way a very substantial mass of material has been built up. This includes not only such items as programmes and information about the production and performance of each play but also minutes, accounts and newsletters which between them tell the story of how the Association has developed over the years and give the often fraught background to each production.

The archive is now safely housed in the Dorset History Centre, Bridport Road DT1 1RP (01305 250550) with full public access.

The collection also includes material which relates to the individual plays – texts, programmes, newspaper cuttings, photographs and in some cases detailed research notes.

The intention of retaining this archive, and adding to it, is partly to maintain a record of what has been a remarkable achievement for the town and partly to make available material for research and partly to encourage others to follow Dorchester in this most worthwhile endeavour.

There are some gaps. In particular the agendas and minutes of committee meetings between October 1990 and October 1997 are missing and additional material relating to the first three plays would be gratefully received.

The following index of material includes brief details of each of the six productions.


1. The Constitution

1.1 Explanatory note

Dorchester Community Plays Association (DCPA) came into being on 26 November 1988. It was unincorporated which among other things meant that its members were personally liable for its debts. It was registered as a charity on 14 July 1989.

Partly to avoid members being liable a limited liability company was formed with the same name. This was registered at Companies House on 8 September 2010 (no. 07369993) and with the Charity Commission as a charity on 21 March 2011 (no. 1140952). In October 2012 the assets of the original charity were transferred to the company and the original charity was subsequently removed from the Commission’s register.

1.2 Unincorporated Association

1.2.1 Constitution adopted 26 November 1988
1.2.2 Constitution (amended) adopted 8 May 1989
1.2.3 Resolution amending constitution 4 June 1998
1.2.4 Constitution (further amended) adopted 4 June 1998
1.2.5 Letter from Charity Commission confirming registration dated 27 July 1989
1.2.6 Charity Commission registration index slip

1.3 Incorporated Association

1.3.1 Memorandum of association
1.3.2 Articles of association
1.3.3 Certificate of incorporation

Dorchester Community Plays Association
The Archive

2. Agendas and minutes of AGMs and other general meetings

2.1 Unincorporated Association

26 November 1988 Agenda and minutes of Inaugural General Meeting
8 May 1989 Special meeting
25 May 1990 Agenda for second AGM
25 May 1990 Minutes of second AGM
8 November 1991 Agenda for third AGM
8 November 1991 Minutes of third AGM
12 May 1993 Agenda for fourth AGM
12 May 1993 Minutes of fourth AGM
10 February 1995 Agenda for fifth AGM
10 February 1995 Minutes of fifth AGM
1 September 1996 Agenda for sixth AGM
1 September 1996 Minutes of sixth AGM
12 June 1997 Agenda for seventh AGM
12 June 1997 Minutes of seventh AGM
4 June 1998 Agenda for eighth AGM
4 June 1998 Minutes of eighth AGM
9 June 1999 Agenda for ninth AGM
9 June 1999 Minutes of ninth AGM
7 June 2000 Agenda for tenth AGM
7 June 2000 Minutes of tenth AGM
14 June 2001 Agenda for eleventh AGM
14 June 2001 Minutes of eleventh AGM
11 June 2002 Agenda for twelfth AGM
11 June 2002 Minutes of twelfth AGM
22 May 2003 Agenda for thirteenth AGM
22 May 2003 Minutes of thirteenth AGM
7 June 2004 Agenda for fourteenth AGM
7 June 2004 Minutes of fourteenth AGM (including chairman’s report)
26 May 2005 Agenda for fifteenth AGM
26 May 2005 Minutes of fifteenth AGM
25 May 2006 Agenda for sixteenth AGM
25 May 2006 Minutes of sixteenth AGM
23 May 2007 Agenda for seventeenth AGM
23 May 2007 Minutes of seventeenth AGM
8 May 2008 Agenda for eighteenth AGM
8 May 2008 Minutes of eighteenth AGM
7 May 2009 Agenda for nineteenth AGM
7 May 2009 Minutes of nineteenth AGM
6 May 2010 Agenda for special general meeting
6 May 2010 Minutes of special general meeting
6 May 2010 Minutes of twentieth AGM
9 May 2011 Agenda for twenty-first and final AGM
9 May 2011 Minutes of the twenty-first and final AGM (including treasurer’s report)

2.2 Incorporated Association

9 May 2011 Agenda for first AGM
9 May 2011 Minutes of first AGM
14 May 2012 Agenda for second AGM
14 May 2012 Minutes of second AGM
18 July 2013 Agenda for third AGM
18 July 2013 Minutes of third AGM
24 July 2014 Agenda for fourth AGM
24 July 2014 Minutes of fourth AGM

Dorchester Community Plays Association
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3. Agendas and minutes of committee and board meetings (with some supporting papers)


11 June Letter from Ann Jellicoe to members of the organising committee


1 February Suggested committee structure
25 April [Missing]
6 July Minutes
7 September Minutes
9 November Minutes


Members of the organising committee
4 January (?) Minutes [first page missing]
1 March (?) Minutes
5 April Minutes
8 May Minutes [first page only]
31 May Minutes
14 June Agenda and minutes
19 July Agenda


17 January Missing
18 April Minutes
5 September Agenda and minutes
31 October Minutes


Members of organising committee


List of committee members


List of committee members


List of committee members


1 October Agenda and minutes
3 December Agenda and minutes


25 March Minutes
8 July Agenda and minutes
17 September Agenda and minutes (potential playwrights)
2 December Agenda and minutes


17 February Agenda and minutes
19 May Agenda and minutes
27 September Agenda and minutes
3 November Agenda and minutes


12 January Agenda and minutes
16 March Agenda and minutes
14 September Agenda and minutes
6 December Agenda and minutes


1 February Agenda and minutes
7 March Agenda and minutes
10 May Agenda and minutes
28 June Agenda and minutes
25 July Agenda and minutes
30 August Agenda and minutes
21 September Agenda and minutes
16 November Agenda and minutes


4 January Agenda and minutes
24 January Agenda and minutes
10 April Agenda and minutes
19 September Agenda and minutes
23 October Agenda and minutes


19 March Agenda and minutes
10 September Agenda and minutes
26 November Agenda and minutes


List of committee members
28 January Agenda and minutes
17 March Agenda and minutes (treasurer’s report)
12 May Agenda and minutes (treasurer’s report)
14 June Agenda and minutes (committee members 2004)
12 July Agenda and minutes (treasurer’s report)
8 September Agenda and minutes (committee members’ job descriptions and treasurer’s report)
1 November Agenda and minutes
1 December Agenda and minutes


20 January Agenda and minutes (treasurer’s report)
7 March Agenda and minutes (treasurer’s report)
14 April Agenda and minutes (treasurer’s report)
23 June Agenda and minutes (treasurer’s report)
28 June List of committee members 2005
25 July Agenda and minutes (treasurer’s report)
8 September Agenda and minutes (treasurer’s report)
16 September 5th community play milestones
17 October Agenda and minutes (treasurer’s report)
29 November Agenda and minutes (treasurer’s report and outline of play)


11 January Agenda and minutes (treasurer’s report)
7 February Agenda and minutes (treasurer’s report)
23 March Agenda and minutes (treasurer’s report)
25 April Agenda and minutes (treasurer’s report)
8 June Agenda and minutes (treasurer’s report and list of committee members 2006)
20 July Agenda and minutes (treasurer’s report, job description for business manager and outline timetable)
14 September Agenda and minutes (treasurer’s report)
31 October Agenda and minutes (treasurer’s report and letter from Ann Jellicoe dated 4 October)
5 December Agenda and minutes (treasurer’s report and 5th community play milestones)


22 January Agenda and minutes (treasurer’s report and list of committee members 2007)
28 February Agenda and minutes (treasurer’s report)
29 March Agenda and minutes (treasurer’s report)
8 May Agenda and minutes (treasurer’s report)
23 May Agenda and minutes
5 June Agenda and minutes (treasurer’s report and note regarding health and safety)
3 July Agenda and minutes (treasurer’s report and chairman’s report)
6 August Agenda and minutes (treasurer’s report)
6 September Agenda and minutes (treasurer’s report)
6 December Letter from Richard Lawson to members of the committee


6 February Minutes
16 March Minutes
19 June Agenda
19 June Minutes
11 September Agenda
11 September Minutes
4 December Agenda
4 December Minutes


12 March Agenda
12 March Minutes
18 June Agenda
18 June Minutes
10 September Agenda
10 September Minutes
3 December Agenda
3 December Minutes


11 March Agenda
11 March Minutes
10 June Agenda
10 June Minutes
9 September Agenda
9 September Minutes
2 December Agenda (Note: on account of adverse weather conditions meeting deferred to 20 January)


20 January Minutes (Deferred meeting – see above)
10 March Agenda
10 March Minutes
22 June Agenda
22 June Minutes
8 September Agenda
8 September Minutes
6 December Agenda
6 December Minutes


11 June Note of meeting
4 July Minutes
17 September Agenda
17 September Minutes
5 December Agenda
5 December Minutes


9 April Agenda
9 April Minutes

Dorchester Community Plays Association
The Archive

4. Annual accounts

4.1 Unincorporated Association

Period 30 January to 31 December 1986 (certified and signed)
Year ended 31 December 1987 (certified and signed)
Year ended 31 December 1988 (certified and signed)
Year ended 31 December 1989 (certified and signed)
Year ended 31 December 1990 (signed)
Year ended 31 December 1991 (signed)
Year ended 31 December 1992 (signed)
Year ended 31 December 1993 (certified and signed)
Year ended 31 December 1994 (signed)
Year ended 31 December 1995 (signed)
Year ended 31 December 1996 (independently examined and signed)
Year ended 31 December 1997 (certified and signed)
Year ended 31 December 1998 (signed)
Year ended 31 December 1999 (signed)
Year ended 31 December 2000 (signed)
Year ended 31 December 2001 (independently examined and signed)
Year ended 31 December 2002 (independently examined and signed)
Year ended 31 December 2003 (with report and independently examined and signed)
Year ended 31 December 2004 (with report and independently examined and signed)
Year ended 31 December 2005 (independently examined and signed)
Year ended 31 December 2006 (with report and independently examined and signed)
Year ended 31 December 2007 (with report and independently examined and signed)
Year ended 31 December 2008 (independently examined)
Year ended 31 December 2009 (independently examined and signed)
Year ended 31 December 2010 (independently examined and signed)
Year ended 31 December 2011 (with report and independently examined and signed)
Period to 30 September 2012 (final accounts)

4.2 Incorporated Association

Period to 30 September 2012 (company dormant) (balance sheet only)
Period 1 October 2012 to 31 December 2013 (with report and independently examined and signed).

Dorchester Community Plays Association
The Archive

5. Newsletters

April (No 3)





July (News update)








Dorchester Community Plays Association
The Archive

6. First Dorchester Community Play

Summary sheet

Note. This play was produced by the Colway Theatre Trust and not by DCPA which did not come into existence until November 1988.

Name of play: Entertaining Strangers
Playwright: David Edgar
Performance venue: St Mary’s Parish Church, Dorchester
First performance: 18 November 1985
Play Office: Corn Exchange

Director: Ann Jellicoe
Assistant director: Jon Oram
Designer: Di Seymour
Music director: Andrew Dickson
Lighting director: Chris Edwards
Stage manager: Annie Hake
Play officer: Merry Hinsley

Brief synopsis

Entertaining Strangers covers 40 years of history. At the play’s core is a battle of wills between the Reverend Henry Moule, vicar of St George’s church, and Sarah Eldridge, proprietor of the Dragon Brewery – both of whom are challenged and changed by the great cholera outbreak which afflicted Dorchester in 1854.

Sarah Eldridge, a beer-brewing tradeswoman, embodies the free-thinking, bustling spirit of a community beginning to reap the rewards of the Industrial Revolution. The rise to commercial eminence runs parallel to the story of Reverend Henry Moule, a hardline fundamentalist, who believes brewing to be a sinful trade. During the Dorchester cholera epidemic Moule, spiritually intolerant, proves socially altruistic, while self-interest keeps Sarah away from helping the infectious sick.

Much of the first half of the play is set in the 1930’s – the decade in which the great industrial revolution which had been brewing for 50 years finally flapped its great iron wings and flew, promising a seemingly limitless progress towards economic and social emancipation.

But then the story moves to the 1950’s, a decade in which the confines of that revolution became painfully apparent. For all the technical achievement of the first half of the 19th century, by the advent of the second great cholera epidemic the Victorians knew little more about the workings of their own bodies than the Tudors. And in cholera they faced a hitherto unknown disease, whose means of spread was a mystery and which attacked the new classes in the expanding towns to a disproportionate and often devastating extent.

Index of archived material

Sheet of blank letter paper
Invitation to public meeting (24 May 1984)
Leaflet “Join us in making a new play for Dorchester about Dorchester”
Programme in the form of the Dorset County Chronicle for 14 September 1854
Summary of events leading up to the play (Billie Brown)
Article by David Edgar
Article from The Observer for 20 September 1987 containing a patronizing account of the visit to Dorchester of National Theatre actors

Dorchester Community Plays Association
The Archive

7. Second Dorchester Community Play

Summary sheet

Name of play: Under the God
Playwright: Ann Jellicoe
Performance venue: Herrison Hospital. Ballroom
First performance: 14 November 1989
Play Office: Antelope Hotel, Cornhill, Dorchester

Director: Ann Jellicoe
Assistant director: Anne McInerney
Designer: Hilary Baxter
Music director: Andrew Dickson
Lighting designer: Ken Coker
Stage manager: Peter Bellamy
Play officer: Maggie Ansell

Brief synopsis

The play was linked to a community play Mark og Mønt also written by Ann Jellicoe for Holbaek with which Dorchester is twinned.

Set in 785 when the first Vikings set foot on British soil at Weymouth, and Dorchester, which had been abandoned after the collapse of the Roman Empire, was reoccupied. There were real Danish-speaking Vikings and refugees from the continent, a whole village community of deeply superstitious people ruled over by an ineffective King of Wessex who was murdered, together with his homosexual lover, by the Queen.

Index of archived material

Invitation to participate
Sponsorship brief
Information for participants in the pre-show Forth’n’ton Fair
A5 poster
A4 poster
Stop Press Thank-Yous

Dorchester Community Plays Association
The Archive

8. Third Dorchester Community Play

Summary sheet

Name of play: Running Still
Playwright: Andrew Dickson
Performance venue: The Thomas Hardye School Hall
First performance: 11 November 1996
Play Office: I J Brown, 63 High West Street, Dorchester

Director: Andrew Dickson
Assistant director: Jane McKell
Designer: Alice Purcell
Costume designer: Tor Jarvis
Music director: Andrew Dickson
Lighting director: Peter Runeckles
Stage manager: Dave Codling
Play officer: Jennie Runeckles

Brief synopsis

The show concerns itself with time. A Dorchester family, out for an evening at a community play, find themselves swept into a bi-millennial mystery adventure covering four chunks of time each 2000 years apart. They are accompanied by two representatives of the Time business – an archaeologist and a seer. The focal and universal image which initiates the action is that of the 4000 year old skeleton of a young man, with a flint arrow head embedded in his spine, and with a baby excavated on the banks of a causeway enclosure near Maiden Castle. Whither was the young man fleeing and why was he carrying the child? Could he be the link between the Past, the |Present and the Future?

We follow the rise and fall of a Celtic swineherd who becomes the first and last gladiator to fight in Maumbury Rings. This adventure in song, dialogue, rhythm and movement endeavours to re-create the powerful atmospheres and timeless magic of Maiden Castle, Maumbury Rings and Dorchester itself. It shows the life of ordinary folk set against the tumultuous tapestry of change wrought by the Second Legion Augusta, the Warrior/Priesthood of the early Bronze Age and even the late 20th century internet and beyond.

We begin in the present, travel back through time, glimpse the future and return to the present moment. Dorchester as it is, as it was and as it might be – no small challenge, but a thrilling and monumental journey.

Index of archived material

Blank letter paper
Folder with sponsorship material
List of patrons
Information sheet
Folder with fundraising etc. posters
Design of performance space
Sheet with summary and related information
Press cuttings
Income and expenditure account
Notes arising from wardrobe workrooms

Dorchester Community Plays Association
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9. Fourth Dorchester Community Play

Summary sheet

Name of play: Fire from Heaven
Playwright: Rupert Creed
Performance venue: The Thomas Hardye School
First performance: 15 March 2002
Play Office: Dorchester Brewery, Weymouth Avenue, Dorchester DT1 1QT

Director: Nina Hajiyianni
Assistant director: Rachel Hargreaves
Designer: Ariane Gastambide
Costumes: Olivia Spiteri
Music director: Andrew Dickson
Lighting director: Tony Marder
Stage manager: Geoff Gilder
Play Officer: Marianne Marshall

Brief synopsis

The play is set in Dorchester in the first decades of the 17th century. It contains both those classed as puritans and those classified (by their opponents) as the ungodly. The newly arrived John White vicar of Holy Trinity and St Peter’s church is appalled at the dissolute society into which he has entered and sets about the task of reform. He is assisted in this by the great fire which gives the play its name as it seen by many as punishment for the sinful conduct of so many of Dorchester’s men and women. The “godly” movement grows but as it does so atmosphere in the town darkens with neighbours spying on each other and severe punishments being meted out on those deemed to have transgressed.

The play moves forward by following the intertwined histories of a number of Dorchester families. White is making progress but the cost in terms of Christian charity is considerable. Hypocrisy is never far from the surface. Meanwhile in the world beyond the town political events are heading towards the Civil War and while John White and some of his followers leave to pursue what they hope will be a better life in America Royalist troops enter the town with tragic consequences.10

Index of archived material

Press release dated 29 May 1999
Announcement of forthcoming play
Information sheet – Rupert Creed
Information sheet – What is a community play?
Budgets and other financial information
Costume designs
Research papers
Papers relating to the development of the play including additional research papers and pares relating to the publication of Dorchester Divided
Plan of the performance area
Posters and flyers
Rehearsal Script (Fifth draft)
Cuttings and reviews
Comments on the production

Dorchester Community Plays Association
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10. Fifth Dorchester Community Play

Summary sheet

Name of play: A Time to Keep
Playwright: Stephanie Dale and David Edgar
Performance venue: The Thomas Hardye School
First performance: 16 November 2007
Play Office: South Grove Cottage, Trinity Street, Dorchester DT1 1TU

Director: Jon Oram
Director’s Assistant: Kate McGregor
Designer: Ariane Gastambide
Assistant Designer: Chryssanthy Kofidou
Music director: Tim Laycock
Lighting director: Stephane Cantin
Stage manager: Cath Hylton
Play officer: Sarah Peterkin
Outreach: Polly Shepherd


Act One

The play is set in Dorchester, in the summer of 1804, against the background of the threat of invasion by Napoleon. It begins at the end, with King George the Third, the Queen and their daughters arriving at Dorchester on 7 September to see a play. The play's prologue is delivered by Jenny Hodge, the producer of the play, whose subject is great events in the life of the town. Before we get on to the play proper, we flash back to its origins...

1) Monday 2 July. Chaired by the major (John Manfield), a town meeting is held to discuss how Dorchester might contribute to the preparations to resist invasion. A local schoolmistress, Jenny Hodge, suggests that the town present a play about its history. This would serve to occupy the troops currently resident in the barracks, raise funds for the war effort, promote Dorchester (not least, against Weymouth) and sustain morale. Concerned about the cost and appropriateness of the play, the leading figures of the town postpone a decision on supporting the play. Meanwhile, former mayor Nathaniel Stickland and his wife share their worries about their wayward daughter, Mary, with Nathaniel's brother, Robert.

2) Tuesday 17 July. Late afternoon. In her school, Jenny Hodge auditions (flanked by Miss Elizabeth Meech and Henry Lee, son of the theatre manager). Often, the audition team discover that recruits to the play have unexpected talents. The enthusiasm of young women for the project is increased when four dashing officers arrive from the barracks (two of them, being German, pose casting problems). Robert's uppity daughter, Henrietta, and her limp cousin William are both recruited to the play. A mysterious young woman, unnoticed by anyone, loiters on the edge of the scene.

3) Around 6.30pm on the same day. Elizabeth Meech's sister Maria is hosting her usual - and stultifyingly boring - evening of whist. The spirited and wayward Mary Stickland (20 years old and Henrietta's cousin) is in reluctant attendance. Generally opposed to the play, the company is largely won round when Henrietta arrives with the news of the number of eligible young officers who are being offered parts. Mary's mother is thrilled to learn that Mary's cousin William (a suitor for Mary, approved by everyone except Mary herself) is in the play. To her annoyance, Mary is cajoled into volunteering. Claiming a slight headache, she leaves the party early.

4) Later the same evening. In fact, Mary has a secret tryst. She has met and fallen in love with a young man called Isaac Gulliver, who has dared her to meet him in a rough inn outside Dorchester. Isaac is the son of a notorious, now retired smuggler, a guest at the wedding of two other south Dorset smugglers. Much to Isaac's surprise, Mary turns up half-way through the festivities. Initially scared by this strange environment, she becomes seduced by tales of smuggling derring-do, seeing it as a thrilling alternative to her dull existence (and an even duller future, married to William). By contrast, Isaac wants to escape from smuggling into Mary's respectable world. A third escapee bursts into the scene: a 14-year old apprentice called Billy Lawrence, on the run from his employer, wanting to join the navy. Ever inventive, the smugglers come up with solutions: Billy is taken on as a sweeper and bottle washer in exchange for a safe hideaway; and Isaac decides to volunteer for the play, as a cover for seeing Mary in the future.

5) Saturday 11 August. An outdoor rehearsal on a hot afternoon in Maumbury Rings. The production is hitting a number of problems: Jenny Hodge has lost her German officers, who have been relocated to Radipole, other officers are delayed by sudden mobilisations, Catherine Manfield the wardrobe mistress has no materials to work with for costumes (due to the embargo on imports from the continent). The outdoor rehearsal is witnessed by labourers and indeed mendicants, resentful at the Dorchester landowners who are doing well out of the war at their expense. Finally, objections are raised to Jenny's treatment of one of the events in the play, the trial and execution (in Maumbury Rings) of the spirited and wayward Mary Channing, who, after a wild youth of dancing and debauchery, poisoned her worthy but dull husband Thomas Channing in 1705. Members of the cast of this scene (particularly Rev. Giles Meech, brother to the Meech sisters) are concerned that the scene is unduly sympathetic to Mary Channing - suggesting she might be innocent, or even justified. Mortified by the departure of the German Officers, Henrietta Stickland walks out and Mary is promoted to the role, opposite William as the luckless Thomas Channing, whose marital incompatibility is strangely resonant of the difficulties between Mary and William themselves. Mary has a fateful idea: surely, Isaac can provide the production with necessary materials?

6) Wednesday 15 August - the countryside, near Dorchester, lit by the light of the full moon. Helped by Mary, Isaac is digging up contraband silks, satins and lace to supply to the play. A pleasant, portly man in his 50s approaches and Isaac and Mary have to improvise their reasons for digging a trench at this time of night. Isaac is developing a secret and revolutionary irrigation system which interests his visitor hugely. The man is then joined by his wife, daughters and servants, who have been waiting while the wheel of their carriage is remounted. It turns out that the man is George the Third, on his way back to Weymouth from a visit to Bridport. The King is led back to his carriage. He was alarmingly close to Isaac's contraband. Isaac explains to Mary that the success of the plan to supply the play with contraband on the backing of a "Venturer", a distinguished Dorchester citizen who secretly finances the smugglers' operations.

7) From Friday 17th August to Friday 31 August, a system for supplying not only the play but the players swings into action. First of all, Isaac supplies Catherine Manfield the wardrobe mistress with satins and lace. Rev Giles Meech's wife Charlotte asks where the lace came from and wonders if there might be some for her daughter's upcoming christening. Other members of the company have urgent need for brandy, claret and playing cards.

We see the entire procedure, from the landing of the contraband via its secretion, then its distribution and finally its use at balls, family evenings and card parties. But amid all this William has grown suspicious of Isaac and his relationship with Mary. He has sight of a pouch of gold coins and a letter in French (in fact from Mary). The same evening, the King - visiting Dorchester to inspect troops at Maiden Castle in the morning - suddenly appears in the midst of the rehearsals. Ever keen on the theatre (and boring his daughters by insisting on seeing the same play many times), the King agrees to attend the opening performance of the Dorchester Play the following week. The first act ends with a rousing patriotic song.

Act Two

1) The following day (Saturday 1 September). In a recap of the situation before the interval, groups of the town’s citizens sing of the continuing national peril while Henrietta dreams of her lost officer, Mary frets about her future with Isaac, and William plots their downfall. Towards the end of the scene, Billy Lawrence is recaptured both by his employer and officers who have recruited him to the army. He is returned to his apprenticeship.

2) Wednesday 5 September (two days later). A late rehearsal of the play is interrupted by excise men who have been tipped off by William about the presence of a smuggler\spy in the ranks of the company. When they first arrive everyone panics - most people in the play have received contraband and some have it concealed about their persons. Isaac is told to turn out his pockets, and money is found. But there is also a letter in French which can be read as coming from or to a spymaster. There is huge surprise when Isaac is arrested not as a smuggler with the proceeds of contraband but as a spy with the proceeds of espionage. Mary knows that one word from her would free Isaac from arrest as a spy but would implicate many of her relatives as receivers of smuggled goods. Isaac looks at her desperately as he is led away. Mary realises that Isaac has been betrayed by her cousin William. She is distraught, and Elizabeth Meech guesses that she is in love with Isaac and suspects that the spying charge is trumped up. Elizabeth takes Mary in hand and promises to help her resolve the crisis.

3) Thursday 6 September (the next day). Elizabeth Meech takes Mary Stickland to visit Isaac in prison. The prison is run corruptly by Mrs Andrews, who uses it as a means of feathering her family nest. A 10-year-old child - daughter of a servant fired from the Meech household for thieving - has been forced to act as a servant to Mrs Andrews. Isaac is furious with Mary for allowing his arrest. He is to be arraigned before the magistrate tomorrow and he knows he can save his neck by shopping the genteel classes of the town, including the unknown "Venturer". Mary realises she has to choose between Isaac and her family. Appalled by conditions in the prison, Elizabeth Meech wants at least to give something to the ten-year-old child (Rose) - she gives her a red silk scarf which she ties into the shape of a doll.

4) The evening of the same day. Along with Catherine Manfield and Mary, Elizabeth Meech seeks out the smugglers in their inn and insists they rescue Isaac.

5) Friday 7 September (the next day). Isaac is taken to the home of the magistrate (the mayor, Richard Manfield, Catherine's husband) to be arraigned. The informal court is attended by other officers and dignatories who have indirectly benefitted from Isaac’s contraband distribution. Before Isaac can fulfil his threat to shop the citizenry and expose the Venturer, the smugglers break in and rescue him. He is thrown into the back of a hijacked dairy cart, in which Billy Lawrence is making another attempt to escape his apprenticeship and join up with the dragoons.

6) A few minutes later, in open country, the dairy cart is in collision with a grand carriage - it's the King and his entourage, heading for Dorchester, on a visit that will include seeing the performance of the Dorchester Play later that day. Chasing excise men arrive to arrest Isaac. However, the King recognises him as the farmer who invented the splendid new irrigation system. Clearly this is a case of mistaken identity. The King is also impressed with the patriotic zeal of Isaac's travelling companion, Billy Lawrence, and sends him off to his new regiment. The King insists on giving Isaac a lift to Dorchester, and affords him the protection of a senior equerry for the rest of the day.

7) That evening: a few minutes before the play is due to start. Jenny Hodge is in costume to play Isaac's part; William is begging Mary to forgive him and offering her a life of comfort and ease. Protected by the king's equerry until the end of the evening, Isaac arrives and offers her the opposite - to give up everything and fly away with him. Mary finds herself joined first by Jenny and then by the mysterious young woman only they know is there. As the curtain rises, Mary, Isaac and Jenny make startling discoveries about themselves and each other.

8) The climax of the play: tied to the stake in Maumbury Rings, Mary Channing (played by Mary) sees a vision of her murdered husband Thomas Channing (played by William) and her lover (played by Isaac) and speaks through the characters to them both. The play-within-the-play ends to huge applause. But our play ends with Mary making the most difficult decision of her young life.

Stephanie Dale
David Edgar

Index of archived material

A Time to Keep- rehearsal copy
A Time to Keep – text of the play as performed published, by Nick Herne Books
Play synopsis
Dorchester and the Corsican Ogre (Research material)
Budgets and financial reports
Application to Arts Council England etc.
Application to Awards for All etc.
Other fund raising
Progress Reports
Production Committee reports
Posters and flyers
Health and Safety policies and risk management
Briefing notes for stewards
Audience questionnaire
Box office sales record
Press cuttings
Report of the DCPA Production Committee
Business Manager’s recommendations and observations
A Time to Keep – the symposium

Dorchester Community Plays Association
The Archive

11. Sixth Dorchester Community Play

Summary sheet

Name of play: Drummer Hodge
Playwright: Rupert Creed
Performance venue: Thomas Hardye School
First performance: 1 April 2014
Play Office: Former County Library, Colliton Park, Dorchester DT1 1XJ

Director: Rupert Creed
Assistant director: Sue Wylie
Designer: Dawn Allsopp
Wardrobe supervisor: Sara Hope
Music director: Tim Laycock
Technical director: Andy Worth
Lighting director: Ollie Titterington
Stage managers: Mike Hayes and Andrew Munro
Play officer: Kate Hebditch

Brief synopsis

Drummer Hodge is a play written by Rupert Creed and was commissioned by the Association as the sixth community play of recent times. The story is set principally in Dorchester in around 1900 at a time when the town was expanding although feeling the effects of agricultural depression. It was also a time of great technological change with social change particularly in the status of women making an increasing impact.

A major employer in the town was the successful Eldridge Pope brewery and its head at the time was Alfred Pope who also had interests in property development and was the father of fifteen children, fourteen of them by his second wife, Elizabeth.

At the other end of the social scale is the Hodge family. Ben is unemployed and drinks heavily. Sara struggles to hold the family together and takes particular pride in young Will, keen for him to stay on at school and, unlike his father, make something of his life.

Dorchester was a garrison town and home to the Dorsetshire Regiment whose first battalion had recently seen service on the North West Frontier of India. A member of the regiment was Private Sam Vickery whose bravery in the Tirah campaign won him the Victoria Cross.

The Boer War intervenes. The Pope family takes the lead in assembling a force of volunteers to fight in South Africa alongside the Dorsetshire Regiment. To Sara’s horror Will, urged on by his father, enlists as a drummer boy. But Will is not made for the brutality of war as depicted in scenes which show the treatment of Boer women and children, victims of the scorched earth policy being pursued by the British. Caught trying to help the women Will is punished and sent out into the field where he is shot by a sniper.

Meanwhile led by the local Congregational Minister, James McClune Uffen and his articulate daughter Gertrude, opposition to the tactics used in the war, as highlighted in a report by the feminist campaigner Emily Hobhouse, become a central issue back home. Gertrude becomes friends with one of Alfred’s four daughters, Hilda who is won over to the cause.

Will’s tragic death has the effect of uniting his parents and the play moves on rapidly through the first years of the twentieth century. Will gives up drinking and finds work on a farm. Will’s baby brother is offered an office job in the Brewery. But then in August 1914 he and his parents are faced with the challenge encapsulated in the famous recruitment poster “Your Country Needs You”.

Observing, and as the play progresses commenting on the action, is Thomas Hardy whose poetry is interwoven with the script. The final words of the play are the lines of Hardy’s poem In the “Time of the Breaking of Nations” with its optimistic conclusion echoed by the whole cast: “War’s annals will cloud into night, Ere their story die.”

Index of archived material

Text of the play as performed.
Assorted posters and flyers.
Press cuttings.
Set plan.
Final ticket sales report.
Play budget.
Design budget.
Agendas, minutes etc. of Steering Group/Production Team meetings.
Board progress reports.
Editions of Drumbeat.
Copies of the display boards used in the exhibition.
Research material.

October 2014