Pinjarra: Award winning theatre group hits its 50th year

Paris, 2007.
Paris, 2007.

MURRAY Music and Drama Club is one of the oldest theatre groups in WA.

The club will celebrate its 50th anniversary at Pinjarra Civic Centre on Saturday, February 9.

The club was born from a discussion between three people in 1969 over the lack of a drama club in Pinjarra and a public meeting was attended by about 30 people.

From humble beginnings, patrons have over the years been offered a range of varied and entertaining productions.

The original patrons included Neil McNeil, Dr Barrington Knight and Josephine McLarty.

As with any theatrical group that has been around for many years, the anecdotes and memories are often hilarious.

Long-time members could remember the dinner show when the Civic Centre lost power and neighbours were asked to help cook roast potatoes while car headlights provided lighting.

Wide wooden planks in the rafters were used for adjusting lighting and the King of Siam was not amused in 1972 when someone spilled beer all over him.

Life member Mary Hicks apparently used to stand on the steps of Pinjarra post office and recruit people for shows. On one occasion during Blythe Spirit, in 1973, she forgot to put on her skirt and appeared in her petticoat.

In Pirates of Penzance (2000), Don McClements forgot his lines and had a little chat with the pianist before continuing.

The audience thought it was all part of the show.

During The Gondoliers (1988), one cast member could not see through his blindfold and fell into the orchestra pit.

And during Camelot (1980), Ann Robinson was about to sing but there was no music – the pianist had fallen asleep.

In those days, the piano was bolted to the floor and padlocked.

Every time it was needed, permission had to be obtained from the shire council but things changed years later when the club contributed to a new piano.

That year too, Robinson used the ladies room in what she thought was a lull during the comedy Boeing Boeing but as she ran around the building, she peeked through the main entry to see the cast ad libbing as they waited for her.

Back in the days when smoking was acceptable, members and guests smoked in the hall and the late Nancy Harries would pick up hundreds of butts from the floor next day.

More recently, during The Producers (2009) the hall was without power.

Patrons were admitted and given a free drink by candlelight while the cast frantically applied make-up by torchlight.

Power was magically restored and the show started just 10 minutes late.

The introduction of dinner shows was an enormous undertaking for the club and very labour-intensive. The meal was always a roast, cooked in South Perth, and Adrian Fawcett drove up every day to collect it.