The Walberton Players mark 40th year

Madeline Doman
Madeline Doman

The Walberton Players are staging Annie Get Your Gun to celebrate their 40th anniversary this year.

Their production runs in Walberton Village Hall from Wednesday to Saturday, October 25-28 (tickets on 01243 552882).

President Madeline Doman is delighted it comes with the group in such good health.

“My philosophy is that we look to our junior members. We cherish them and bring them on to be the next generation, but we also need to keep our older members involved which we do with our concert productions.

“And I think we have managed to do that. My greatest wish as a founder member is that the Walberton Players will continue for many, many more years in our beautiful little village.”

Madeline is confident Annie Get Your Gun will signal the start of plenty more success to come: “We wanted a big blockbuster musical, and we were wanting to do a piece that people knew but which was also a little bit different. We were wanting to do Fiddler on the Roof, and you can see why we didn’t do that (the CFT got there first), but then we started thinking about other shows, and Annie Get Your Gun seemed a very good alternative.

“(Madeleine’s husband) Chris was saying he remembers his father had a record of Annie Get Your Gun. They are the songs he grew up with. People have known those songs for so many years. It is a show that is good for all ages, and we will have some youngsters in it as well.”

The group began in 1977 when the late Eve Dods decided that Walberton should stage a musical event to celebrate the Queen’s Silver Jubilee. The Walberton Choral Group was formed to put on Trial by Jury in the Coronation Hall, Slindon as part of a double bill with World Without Men presented by the Walberton WI.: “I was the leading lady in Trial by Jury,” Madeline recalls. “At the time I was doing a lot in Littlehampton and also in Chichester, and they asked me to join. And it worked so well because Eve had a lot of very, very good, experienced people in it. She was a very, very senior amateur actress and had done lots of G&S. She had directed as well. And it was so popular and so successful that people in Trial by Jury said ‘We can’t just let it go.’ It was meant as a one-off but it became permanent.”

In 1978 Eve directed the first-full length show to be presented by the Walberton Operatic Society, Gilbert & Sullivan’s HMS Pinafore.

“In the early years, we did Gilbert & Sullivan because that’s what she was involved in, but when I took over directing we went into slightly-different fields. We went into opera and operetta. We did Offenbach and Fledermaus and Merry Widow, and then we went into Pickwick and the musicals.”

They also took on drama, and, a while back to reflect the growing scope, the name was changed to become the Walberton Players. But the ethos continued.

“This society has always been a family really. We don’t have battles between people about parts. Everybody knows they will get their chance to shine at some point or another. And now we have guest directors coming in. We get different people.We have also opened it up to non-Walberton people. We welcome people from further afield provided they are prepared to join in the same way we all do.” And so it continues: “We had an awful time with the death of David Fido who had taken over from me as chairman, but Peter Fuller stepped in and has done a wonderful job.”