From the Big Bang to Black Holes...
In 2006 intrepid members of the DADS then committee John Simper, Anne Cannings and Louise Enticknap undertook the daunting task of compiling a book entitled 'Dunsfold Amateur Dramatic Society presents the first 90 years'. The project involved considerable work in pulling together as much information as possible from disparate sources (DADS archives, local press archives, previous member's own records, anecdotal recollections etc.) and presenting it in a readable, coffee table style book form to be made available for sale to anyone who might be interested.
Inevitably there were gaps and an update is now due but these pages contain a potted version of DADS history based largely on the book's contents plus some additional material. Enjoy!
Dunsfold Amateur Dramatic Society (DADS) (from John Simper)...
Welcome to the Dunsfold Amateur Dramatic Society (or, DADS as it is usually known) and a short history of its first hundred years. From serious dramas to farces, "who-dun-its?" to pantomimes, musicals to revues, DADS has served up more than 170 productions, offering just about something for every taste. Based at the local village hall, the Society is run by local villagers and draws its talent (if that is the right word!) from the village and the immediate area.
So where to begin with our potted history of the DADS?  How to give a flavour of what DADS is about and what it means to Dunsfold?  And how to cover both the highs and lows of its history? Perhaps there's no better way than to just follow the advice of the King in Alice's Adventures in Wonderland: "Start at the beginning and go on till you come to the end."
The Society was born from very simple beginnings in August 1916, when a musical ballet, A Flower Play, designed and arranged by Mrs Hollins, wife of the then village Rector, was acted out on the lawn of the rectory by children from the village. Swathed in yards and yards of flowing coloured muslin, with a piano accompaniment from Mrs Hollins, the children reprised this and several other mime/ballets in the newly-built Winn Hall and at local village fetes over the next couple of years.
Within three years, the society had become firmly established,
been officially christened "DADS", and sometimes even went out "on tour" to local village halls and churches in Hascombe, Hambledon, Chiddingfold, Alfold and Plaistow. And, within five years the Society had grown in capability and reputation to the extent that the Surrey Advertiser could write that "Dunsfold has a reputation for the successful presentation of amateur theatricals which few Surrey villages can equal, and none can surpass. This is due largely to the Amateur Dramatic Society, and to the enthusiastic encouragement and help given by the Rector and Mrs Hollins"
Going from strength to strength, there was no end of village talent or willingness to appear in DADS shows - even to the extent of being able to fill a cast list of nearly fifty for the six-act Poor Old Man in the Moon pantomime written and produced, again, by Mrs Hollins in 1925.
Miss Kit Hearn.
Poor Old Man in the Moon
Accommodating so many players on the small Winn Hall stage must have been logistically challenging, and wouldn't be attempted for another twenty-odd years! With so much competition to appear on-stage, and no end of ideas for new productions from Mrs Hollins, it is not suprising that a half-century of shows had been presented by the outbreak of WWII.
From 1939, the Society went into hibernation for almost ten years, until the headmistress of the village school, Miss Kit Hearn, started rehearsals for a four-hander of short plays. Presented to an appreciative audience in February 1948, the show was judged successful enough to prompt the formation of a DADS committee and the start of rehearsals for another four-hander to be staged later in the year. Under Kit's direction, and concentrating on presenting several short plays in an evening, the Society staged two or three shows and a pantomime each year until, early in 1952, Kit left the village to take up another appointment.
After five years of enthusiastic and very able guidance, her departure caused something of a setback. In the next couple of years, planned shows were either abandoned for lack of cast, or cancelled because the show was not judged to be up to scratch. But by 1954, DADS was back in business, presenting its first three-act play, Love's a Luxury, and then, in 1956, its first attempt at a dramatic play, Night must Fall. Both productions, a murder-mystery and a classic British drama, were well received, and typical of the productions that would become hugely popular with Dunsfold audiences over the next few years.
The public entertainment mood of the Sixties and the first half of the Seventies, on the Dunsfold stage at least, was mainly for comedies and dramatic productions. The choice of author and particular plays mirrored those which had played successfully on the West-End theatre circuit. A core cast of village thespians regularly played to full houses over three nights, gradually gaining a reputation as one of the most successful and competent amateur dramatic groups in the area.
Show budgets in those days were closely controlled, helping to minimise ticket costs and maximise donations from show profits to many worthy causes in the neighbourhood - The Red Cross, Spastics Society, Cheshire Homes, Yvonne Arnaud Theatre, etc. all benefited from DADS donations. In the most recent past, the Society has favoured making donations to more local charities such as The Meath (epilepsy trust) and, in Dunsfold itself, Puddleducks (toddler play group) and Evergreens (over 60s club).
Whilst DADS, the Society, had achieved a reputation as one of the longest established theatrical groups in the area and for being able to successfully organise and present a play, it didn't always seem to have the necessary skills to do other things - when it organised a dance in the Winn Hall as part of the 1970 Dunsfold Summer fete, only 11 people turned up for the evening! Advertising and publicity (or rather, the lack of) for the event was the probable reason for what must have been a very dull evening for those that did attend. Increasingly, as the decade passed, the DADS ad-hoc and erratic approach to publicity and finances would bring very serious problems.
Quiet Wedding - 1954
Quiet Wedding - 1954
For the moment, being on stage seemed to be a far safer activity! But not for long! By 1975, DADS finances were so stretched that the Society could afford only one production each year, and urgent attention had to be given to fund-raising. Forgetting the lesson of the dance some five years earlier, a dance held in October produced a net profit of only 95p! Membership numbers rapidly declined, and for several years there was neither sufficient money nor members to stage even an annual show.
Fund-raising and membership drives briefly lifted the Society's fortunes, but the future of the DADS was looking bleak. By the early-Eighties, the local newspaper was lamenting the rows of empty seats in the Winn Hall and fearing for the demise of the Society. But then, at last, the Society realised that staging a good show was almost the easiest part of the Society's activities - what was missing was a proper approach to publicising and advertising each production to ensure that show nights were a sell-out. At the same time, renewed drives to increase membership brought in many new faces, many of them from outside Dunsfold itself.
By the end of the 1980's DADS was back to two shows a year, a late-autumn major production with a spring lesser show. Over the next few years the Society successfully staged many thrillers and comedies, with a sprinkling of classical dramas, but at the same time the character of DADS was changing - fewer and fewer cast members were from the village itself, and ticket sales were increasingly relying on out-of-village support.
Reflecting this, the Society considered, and rejected, merging with another local group, but then matters finally came to a head at an Emergency General Meeting in March 1998 when a proposal to wind up the Society was tabled. Rejected by the floor members of the Society, it was decided instead that the DADS should continue, with a new committee, and that both should be primarily drawn from and involve people living in Dunsfold and the immediate area.
After near dissolution, the Society was saved, but not knowing whether it had sufficient membership to organise a show - or even whether there was sufficient interest in the village to ensure its survival! The new committee tackled these questions in a very positive and head-on way, announcing in The Parish Magazine that there would be a public meeting at which village residents would be invited to express their views as to what they wanted to see the DADS doing, if anything, in the future. The reaction to the meeting was gratifyingly positive, with a long list of village names offering help both on and off-stage.

Not the happiest ending that might have been conceived, but it did have the effect of bringing the Society firmly back into Dunsfold - in the village, for the village, and by the village. And there was hope that the change back to a village-centred Society, with a strong and committed new committee  would generate sufficient future  interest in the Society for it to  continue.
So, that's what DADS has been in the past. But perhaps we shouldn't forget some of the most ambitious productions in recent times: the DADS 90th Anniversary pantomime Aladdin, launched on the public in 2006, another pantomime, Robinson Crusoe and the Pirates in 2011, both productions drafting in many local children and extras, Neville's Island in 2009, and 'Allo 'Allo in 2014, the stage production of the much loved 80's TV sit-com. All involving complex staging and large casts, huge problems with Winn Hall limited stage size and facilities, but tackled with enormous enthusiasm and energy by the DADS. And we haven't even mentioned the Poetry reading evenings (held each year since 2003), the Quiz Nights, the annual Garden Party & BBQ, or the Carol Singing.
But what about the future? DADS is now firmly rooted in the village, run by an enthusiastic committee who have all at one time or another "trod the boards". And with an aim to continue presenting the sort of plays and entertainments that Dunsfold residents enjoy.
1972 - I'll Get My Man. Cast in, order of appearance: Reverend Arthur Humphrey (Reg Amey), Mrs. Carter (Doris Thatcher), Harriette Humphrey (Lou Cox), Winifred Barrington Locke (Beaty Enticknap), Peter Graham (Barry Wood), the Photographer (Patrick Stenning), Josephine (Brenda Park), Pixie Potter (Mary Parker) and the Bishop of Lax (Reg Kilner).
1972 - I'll Get My Man.
Doris Thatcher as seaside landlady Mrs Austin. Beside the Seaside - 1961.
Christmas Eve in the Clouds?
On stage at the Winn Hall, possibly Christmas Eve in the Clouds, 1917. See anyone you recognise?
If so let us know.
Dunsfold War Work
Henry Hereafter - 1998
Tora Bray
Directed by Tora Bray (above). Here on the left we see Dicky Richards as the Seraph and Gillian Kisch as Queen Catherin of Aragon.
The first show under the new order, Henry Hereafter in November 1998, was a huge success. The play, directed by Tora Bray and staged by Anne Cannings, both new-comers to DADS, charted the post-death trials and retributions of Henry VII when faced, in the anti-room of Heaven and Hell, by his, generally speaking, somewhat disgruntled six wives. It introduced new faces both on-stage and backstage, many of whom are still active in the Society today.
And in the spirit of keeping DADS in the village, the 2002 production Dunsfold.org.y: A Revue was written primarily by two Dunsfold residents Geoff Sweatman and Michael Walker prompted, it is said, by a chance comment seen on the Dunsfold village website... "A visitor from Mars would probably assume that there wouldn't be much going on in the village."
We hope that this short history will have whetted your appetite to learn more, and perhaps even to join the Society and give free rein to your acting skills. Or if you feel that the spotlight is not quite right for you, how about helping behind the scenes? Whatever you decide, you can be sure that you will receive a warm welcome from that young Centenarian - the DADS.

'Allo 'Allo - 2014
'Allo 'Allo - 2014
2009 - Neville's Island Poster
'Allo 'Allo - 2014
Edith sings and...
...Grüber catches René and Crabtree in the pantry.
Jane Sweatman directed the production and again it was staged by Anne Cannings. Contributions were made by many in the village to the many skits and vignettes including (somewhat senior) Dunsfold residents portraying the local toddler group, the Commons Commitee discussing the thorny problem of dogs fouling the common, and the Peter Cook and Dudley Moore sketch about Mr. Spiggot "...Spiggot by name and spiggot by nature...", a one legged man auditioning for the part of Tarzan. The whole melange was tied together and viewed from the perspective of a visiting Martian, played by David Burt, who had landed an exploratory mission on Dunsfold common (makes a change from the White House lawn). We even had a spacecraft landing and taking off from our tiny stage, no mean feat.

David Burt - the Martian
Dunsfold 'Review' - 2002
Dunsfold 'Review' - 2002
dunsfold.org.y A Review - 2002.

David Burt (far left) as the Martian.
Centre - the thorny issue of dog poo on the common.
Right - the Martian could change sex and appearance at will but could always be recognised by the audience by his antennae.
Aladdin - 2006
Aladin - 2006
The Reverend (Rector at Dunsfold St. Mary & All Saints parish church at the inception of DADS in 1916) & Mrs A E Hollins.
Cinderella - 1949
Cinderella 1949
1985 - Old Time Musichall
1985 - Old Time Musichall
1993 - The Miser
1993 - The Miser
Programme for DADS first post WWII show staged on the 14th February 1948, consisting of 4 one act plays and an all female cast. The Society minute book records that £7.0s.0d was raised and added to Society funds.
DADS 1st post WWII show
DADS Poetry Evening at 'Hurland's' - 2006...
(notice the three on the left discussing when they might meet again).
Poetry Evening - 2006
Henry Hereafter - 1998.
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