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Pratts Bottom Dramatic Society (PBDS) has been in existence for over 50 years with the first production taking place in 1953. Two of the original members are still taking an active part and have seen many people pass through the society. Our range of productions vary and includes comedy, drama, revues, pantomimes, murder mysteries and supper evenings with entertainment.
Most years PBDS enters the Bromley Theatre Festival and has been able to boast (not that we like to show off!) successes with winning most of the different categories at some point.
The society has always performed in the Pratts Bottom Village Hall either on the stage or performing in the round, but has also been known to venture out amongst the audience on the village green, when we performed a medieval mystery play on the back of a cart during the Fete!
How we started:
Vicky Purnell had the inspiration and enthusiasm to start the Dramatic Society in 1953 with a few of her friends, and found someone to build 4ft by 4ft platforms of wood about 18" high to erect a stage at the kitchen end of the hall, as there was no permanent stage at that time. The W.I. made a curtain set, and flats were built, and housed in a shed behind the hall. Play readings were held, and the first production was a farce - HIGH SPIRITS - performed in 1954. John Harris provided the lighting and sound effects, and his wife Freda is still a member. There were a few hazards on this makeshift stage. There were gaps at the corners of the stage sections, just the size of a stiletto heel - very embarrassing walking across the stage leaving a shoe behind! The sets were extremely wobbly, and near the end of Love from a Stranger we pushed and kicked the door for several minutes before realising it opened towards us, and we made our breathless entrance. Much adlibbing on the stage, and a miracle the set did not fall apart.
We managed to raise about £2000 for the new stage and dressing rooms at the end of the 50's, only to discover that the Village Hall floor was rotten, and that had to be renewed first. By the time the new stage was completed in 1962, it cost a lot more than £2000. The first pantomime, Cinderella Revisited, was performed in December, 1958, and in 1963 Dick Wittington and The 'Orrible Orbital Road - a pantomime written by two local men, Charles Beale and Lesley Keeble, was performed, - a protest by the village against the proposal of a ring road round London, passing through Green Street Green. Annual pantomimes were not staged until 1976. Our greatest achievement was in 1972 when The Three Sisters, in which Joan Bromley starred, won the Bromley Guild Festival. The play was chosen to be performed in Maidstone, and came second in the County. John Bromley and Freda Harris had built a huge papier Mache tree, which had to be transported down to Maidstone, together with a sack of autumn leaves, which we had to search for, as it was the end of May! This achievement inspired the producer, Ron Palmer, to take some of the members to perform Othello at the Minack Theatre in Cornwall.
Finding directors was of importance and we were lucky to have Vicky, Derek Lawton and especially Ron Palmer who took the society to new heights by entering festivals and he left to develop his own company & manages entertainment at Hever castle . We also have had very talented stage managers , set designers, lighting and sound experts who are too numerous over the years to mention. We have developed our technical equipment to a high standard over the last 10 years with the help from our current Technical Manager who has put the gears in motion from being a anologe society to something quite respectable. We have an onsite scenery store and a portacabin where a vast wardrobe is stored & hired out to other societies. Many amusing things happen back stage and can be nerve racking for the actors, All this was summed up in our production of Farndale Avenue's' Macbeth' , with shaky sets, doors that won't open, sound & lighting failures , actors dropping out & being replaced by the backstage crew members. One of the best things about our society is that so many family members have joined over the years , especially young people who start in the chorus of a pantomime and go onto to take lead roles.
'Love, stress and tears go into every amateur dramatic production
but even that last minute cry for valium doesn't remove its seduction.
For despite ups and downs, I think it fair to say
That nothing rivals the magic of a Pratts Bottom play. '
Written by Freda Campbell & Joan Bromley
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