Museum Gala at the Town Hall

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Rye Museum members and guests were treated to another delightful double-purpose, double venue Gala Evening on Friday October 6. This time the aim in presenting an evening of entertainment was to raise funds for adding a new display at the Ypres Tower on Hops, Hop Picking and Hop Tokens, because we have some very special items from the hop picking era of Sussex and Kent. Judging from the feedback still coming in, the event was successful on all counts. Starting with beer, wine and nibbles at the East Street Museum, with an imaginative display of hops, kegs (and food), members and guests were already in convivial mood when it was time to walk to the Town Hall for a double bill of “drawing room comedies” by two talented theatre companies of Rye – the Rye Shakespeare Company, which has regularly produced plays for the Museum, collaborating this time with Acting Up in Rye to produce the double offering.

Class clash at Mallards

The first play was The Playgoers.  A domestic episode (1912), directed by Janet Stott, fitted neatly into audience perceptions of stratified life in Rye a hundred years ago: house staff – a hierarchy of maids (Sandi Bain, Jackie Burren, Sarah Givertz, Milly Jenner) plus cook (Pat Driver) and One Odd Man (John Breeds) successfully defeating the increasingly authoritarian efforts of their patronising master and mistress (David Bentley and Carrie Warrior) to bestow — inflict? — on them the treat of an evening at the theatre. The play’s author, Sir Arthur Wing Pinero was a celebrated dramatist and director in his day, on a par with Gilbert, Sullivan and Shaw and knighted for his services to drama; one of his many successful comedies ran for 683 performances. He is credited with ushering in a new age of social drama, writing strong parts for women including the parlourmaid-with-airs in this one.

Major Benji may roar at Georgie

Dilys Mayor, well-known for an inexhaustible supply of new scripts for Mapp and Lucia characters, authored the second play Rye Spy, which moved us — and the parlourmaid (Sandi Bain, now named Grosvenor), plus the master (David Bentley, now a ubiquitous Rye barman and porter) — on a century and into Mallards and Rye pubs. Dilys was Miss Mapp and provided the costumes for the other familiar characters taking the stage: Lucia (Susannah Mayor), Georgie (Andrew Mayor), Major Benji with the big roar (Andy Godfrey), Quaint Irene (Janet Stott), Diva Plaistow (the inimitable Yvonne Hamilton) and the Bartletts (Bob Percival and Carol Gasson) – though the “true identities and roles in Rye” subsequently revealed were somewhat unexpected. The whole was a fitting addition to an RSC Secret History of Rye series.

Even more unexpected than the ending has been the post-production revelation by former mayor Jo Kirkham that “sleeper agents” probably were planted in Rye– in WWII years!

All in all, a delightful evening, with some new faces in attendance and a good amount raised for the next project. Many thanks to the Mayor for use of the wonderful Town Hall venue, all the players and the team who provided a superior Cheese and Wine Party.

Photos: Ray Prewer

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