DODS – A POTTED HISTORY

The history of the Dover Operatic and Dramatic Society divides neatly into three sections: 1911-1914, 1926-1939, 1950-2000. Each phase has its heroines, heroes and highlights, and to tell the full story would result in a work of several volumes! However, a few special moments, subjectively chosen, should serve to give a glimpse of the Society at work over the past ninety years.

1911-1914

Following the success of the inaugural production of The Mikado in December 1911, the Society was asked by the newly-appointed Lord Warden, the Earl of Brassey, to put on a special performance during the celebrations to mark his installation. Fifty years on, in 1961, the late Sidney Turnpenny recalled that glittering occasion:

“The show opened with the whole cast on stage, and the orchestra playing Elgar’s Pomp and Circumstance, and when Wilfred Barclay rose to sing Land of Hope and Glory everyone in the house rose too. The colours and splendour of the full dress uniforms and the beautiful gowns of the ladies made it an occasion never to be forgotten.”

1926-1939

The Great War cast its shadow for several years after 1918, and it was 1926 before the Society was revived. Yet, by 1929 it was confident enough to enter Iolanthe in an open national competition for musical productions. DODS was placed second regionally, and ninth overall in England and Wales. The 1930s saw some spectacular productions of modern musicals, principally at the Hippodrome. Tickets were as cheap as eight pence, and the trams took theatregoers to and from the door. Some there are, who can recall the thrill of “House Full” signs for the Desert Song (1934) when each evening disappointed customers were turned away. Similar large-scale and eagerly awaited productions continued annually until the declaration of war in 1939.

1950-2000

And so to the latest, and longest, chapter in our history. Undeterred by post-war austerity, or by the loss of the Hippodrome, a stalwart band met to revive the Society with Iolanthe at the Town Hall in 1950. Half a century and one hundred and thirty productions later, and we still use the Town Hall for our major productions.

There have been several landmark productions and events in this, the third phase of our existence. One such magnificent achievement was the 1961 Son et Lumiere at Dover Castle – a pioneering and much acclaimed effort by an amateur society in this highly technical medium. Ten years later, the Society purchased DODS Mill in Temple Ewell, which remains our home for rehearsals, wardrobe and workshop.

In 1975 it was decided to exploit a gap in the market and present a pantomime, Jack and the Beanstalk, and the DODS panto continues to draw crowds, even today, when we are faced with stiff competition from the high-profile Marlowe Theatre production in Canterbury.

In 1994, the junior members of the Society formed their own section, The Next Generation, and this latest string to our collective bow continues to go from strength to strength. Our committee was expanded to allow our young members a voice in the development of the Society. In 1999 our structure was further overhauled, when DODS was reformed as a Company Limited by Guarantee. It is now managed by a Board of Directors, including a representative from each performing section, and is well positioned to meet the challenges which the 21st Century and the Internet Age will throw at it. As long as people have a basic human urge to get together to sing and dance and act, DODS will continue to thrive.

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