The History of RST

Romford Shakespeare Theatre

In 1960, eleven local amateur dramatic societies, under the auspices of the Romford and Hornchurch Theatre Association, joined forces to present Shoemakers' Holiday in the open air at Harrow Lodge and Raphael park.  The brainchild of the Romford and Hornchurch Recorders, the association was spearheaded by Frank Everett, of the Chameleons, with the purpose of promoting dramatic art in the district and of uniting local enthusiasts in plays which would normally be within the scope of any single society.

The successful venture into the larger arena led to a second production in 1961: Lady Precious Stream, which was performed in Haynes and Raphael parks but by 1962, it was proving increasingly difficult to accommodate the various conflicting interests of the different groups, particularly when trying to arrange rehearsal and performance times.  The enterprise collapsed and the RHTA turned its attention, instead, to promoting a local drama festival of one-act plays after an earlier attempt to focus on full-scale plays had met with failure.  In that same year, however, two of the participating companies, who had already forged close links, decided to go it alone and produce A Midsummer Night's Dream in Raphael Park:  Romford Civil Defense Palyers - later to be re-named Comedy Players - and Romford Children's Theatre, founded in 1949 in order to bring live theatre to the local schools. Romford Summer Theatre was Born!

 

Behind the Scenes

It is certain that their enterprise would soon have floundered had Eddie and Bumble not inherited from the Romford and Hornchurch Theatre Association a supereb crew of technical enthusiasts:  Grantly Chandler, Romford Children's Theatres factotum who would alternate acting with stage management;  Barry Jones, the music and sound man for Civil Defence Players; and Bob Gedge and Peter Gould, lighting and sound enthusiasts from Arden Players.

These unsung heros, with their teams, would be the first to arrive at Raphael Park in order to set up their equipment, be on duty throughout the entire performance and be the last to leave, long after the actors had basked in the spotlight of the audience's applause and headed for home.  Little could be left during day in a public park and a lot of lighting paraphernalia, for example, would have to be stowed away.  In earlier years, the power cables had to stretch to a neighbouring house in order to obtain a current and even today, with a more sophisticated supply, there is not enough electricity to light to foliage in the rockery until after the interval when the tea and soup urns have been switched off.

Refreshments were taken over by the spouses of case and crew in the late 1970s after a concessionaire's experiment to cook burgers and sausages backfired, their irresistible aroma proving too great a distraction to audience and cast, alike. For many years now, french bread and tomato soup have remained the staples. Indelible in the memory of the actors, however, was the mulled wine dispensed to them by Doll Humby and Joyce Meade in the interval.

Also lingering in the memory are the musical selections of Barry Jones. Music can lift a play, reflect a mood and ease the transition between scenes to which purpose Barry, steeped in music since childhood, was able to source beautiful melodies from the 13th to 17th centuries.  In contrast, in 2010, by which time individual directors were choosing the music, the park swung into rhythm of the "roaring" twenties - encapsulating the new, brazen spirit of womanhood - to which, rather appropriately, The Taming of The Shrew had been set.

As the music is all that the actors are able to hear from the back of the rockery, Grantley devised a system to ensure that they enter the arena at their appointed time. Connected via a microphone relaying stage sound to a loud speaker on her desk, the Stage Manager summons the actors in readiness for their entrance with her microphone connected, in turn, to a load speaker in their dressing room/  They are then send to wait by one of the red lights, positioned at intervals around the rockery, to await their cue from a green light.  It is a daunting task, requiring the utmost dedication and concentration throughout the entire course of the play - surely the single most demanding role during the performance.

 
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60 years of Shakespeare

List of Previous Productions

2019 - Macbeth

2018 - The Taming of The Shrew

2017 - A Midsummer Night's Dream

2016 - Much Ado About Nothing

2015 - Love's Labour's Lost

2014 - Twelfth Night

2013 - The Comedy of Errors

2012 - The Winter's Tale

2011 - The Merry Wives of Windsor​

2010 - The Taming of The Shrew

2009 - Romeo and Juliet

2008 - All's Well That Ends Well 

2007 - As You Like It

2006 - A Midsummer Night's Dream

2005 - Much Ado About Nothing

2004 - Measure For Measure

2003 - The Merchant of Venice

2002 - The Comedy of Errors

2001 - The Taming of The Shrew

2000 - Twelfth Night

1999 - The Merry Wives of Windsor

1998 - A Midsummer Night's Dream

1997 - As You Like It

1996 - The Winter's Tale

1995 - Much Ado About Nothing

1994 - Twelfth Night

1993 - The Merchant of Venice

1992 - The Taming of The Shrew

1991 - The Merry Wives of Windsor

1990 - The Comedy of Errors

1989 - Twelfth Night

1988 A Midsummer Night's Dream

1987 - Much Ado About Nothing

1986 - The Merry Wives of Windsor

1985 - Love's Labour's Lost

1984 - As you Like It

1983 - The Taming of The Shrew

1982 - The Merchant of Venice

1981 - A Midsummer Night's Dream

1980 - Twelfth Night

1979 - The Comedy of Errors

1978 - The Merry Wives of Windsor

1977 - Much Ado About Nothing

1976 - Love's Labour's Lost

1975 - Two Gentlemen of Verona

1974 - The Winter's Tale

1973 - As You Like It

1972 - All's Well That Ends Well

1971 - Twelfth Night

1970 - A Midsummer Night's Dream

1969  - Much Ado About Nothing

1968 - The Taming of The Shrew

1967 - The Winter's Tale

1966 - The Merry Wives of Windsor

1965 - Twelfth Night

1964 - The Merchant of Venice

1693 - As You Like It

1962 - A Midsummer Night's Dream