History of MLADS:-
Formed in 1959 as a section of Moulsham Lodge Social Club, Moulsham Lodge Amateur Dramatic Society first performed in the British Legion Hall in Baddow Road, and it was here that their first play "George and Margaret" was staged in 1959 . This was produced by the founder of the group Bill Morgan who remained the regular producer of the group until 1964 when he left the area and Roland Nuttall took over.
Productions continued at the Baddow Road venue, albeit now with a variety of producers and all together, audiences saw 22 major productions staged during the 10 years that MLADS used the British Legion site.
Audiences in those days were often very small, it not being unknown for the cast to outnumber the audience. On one occasion, members of the cast sat in the audience when not performing to boost the applause!
However, in 1969 we had to leave our Baddow Road home and there began an association with the YMCA in Victoria Road, where we performed five plays. One of the problems associated with the move was a lack of storage facilities and sets had to be transported on roof-racks around the town from various sites where they had been built and painted.
Our time at the YMCA was limited however, and we performed our last play there in 1971.
While MLADS had been developing, the old Social Club had been replaced by the Moulsham Lodge Community Association, the aim of which was to build a Community Centre on the estate. One of the earliest groups to affiliate to the new Community Association was MLADS and the links with MLCA have been maintained until August 2005 when the centre closed.
In 1972 the Community Centre was completed and MLADS prepared to move into their new home. As an intermediate step the move from the YMCA to the estate was via the Moulsham School where "Dear Charles" was produced in the spring of that year and in October came our first production on our new stage.
Before the play could take place however, a proscenium arch had to be built and stage curtains hung. The former saw many members of MLADS and indeed anybody who happened to be available, struggling to erect a proscenium using much sweat and tears, never doubting for a moment that all would be ready for our opening night. The arch was completed and it was autumn 1972 that St Luke's curtains opened on "Not Now Darling" our first production in our new hall.
In time, our own stage curtains were purchased and various improvements to the stage and lighting were effected over the ensuing years.
The Phoenix Theatre Company was created after a fire on the stage in October 1997 (the fire was started by children outside the building), which spread to the stage in which MLADS lost virtually everything, flats, furniture, properties and lighting. The stage and backstage areas were completely refurbished and the MLADS production that had already been in rehearsal "It Runs In The Family" was performed in early March 1998 under the umbrella of The Phoenix Theatre Company with the intention that other local drama groups could use our newly refurbished facilities and make our venue more of a local theatre venue. However members of other local drama groups have performed with us from time to time.
Since our first performance in the centre we have presented many full length plays as well as various revues, pantomimes and one-act plays. Our audiences have grown from those early days when 70 people in two nights was considered to be a success to today when up to 180 people an evening can be found watching a performance.
Membership of the group has maintained a steady level, generally standing at around 30 to 35, indeed long-term members of the group have seen their children, who required baby-sitters, join the audience and finally appear in plays themselves.
We have come a long way since those early days in the British Legion Hall, with its tortoise stoves and the rain rattling on the roof, through the YMCA with its passing trains, to the Community Centre where we performed until June 2005.
Forty-five years of building sets, selling tickets and even acting, has in no way dimmed MLADS enthusiasm for live theatre and to continually tempt around 1,000 people per year to leave their television sets and venture out to watch us speaks volumes for our popular appeal.
(see History of The Phoenix Theatre Company) for what followed.
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