The Society’s origins go way back to 1896 when the Old Grammarians’ Dramatic Club mounted a “Programme of a Dramatic Performance” (*) at Battersea Grammar School then located at St John’s Hill, Battersea.
The Society continued to flourish until the early years of the First World War and then reformed in the 1920s. A similar pause occurred during the Second World War.
The Society again saw something of a decline in the 1960s until two enterprising masters at the school, Ken Dobson and Morris Hughes, conceived the idea of a joint production between boys at the school, staff, parents and old boys. After a small production of ‘Trial by Jury’, this idea came to full fruition in a production of ‘Oliver’ at Christmas 1968.
In the summer of 1969, the idea of taking a show “on tour” was suggested and after an extensive search for a suitable theatre by Ken, he decided that the Arts Theatre in Falmouth, Cornwall, was the best location.
That first visit in August 1970 gave the Company its name of UPSTAGERS and led to a seventeen year long annual pilgrimage to Falmouth (with the exception of one early year to Exmouth) with scenery, props., costumes, performers and crew. Musicals including ‘Oh What A Lovely War’, ‘Oliver’, ‘My Fair Lady’, ‘Kiss Me Kate’ and ‘Man of La Mancha’, to name but a few, were presented to the holiday audiences as well as to our home supporters at Battersea Grammar and latterly, Furzedown and Graveney, Schools.
Touring came to an end in 1986 with ‘Salad Days’. Plans were afoot to take a show on tour in 1987, but the Company found itself too short of men to make casting a show feasible.
Subsequent to Battersea Grammar School being made comprehensive and losing its original identity, and then the further demise of Furzedown School, all direct association with the school (Graveney) became more and more tenuous and the Company found it necessary to seek a new home and major plans were temporarily shelved.
From 1986 the Company continued to perform plays and comedies at a smaller venue in Tooting until, in the summer of 1988, it was decided to book the Secombe Centre (as it was then – now the Secombe Theatre), Sutton, for a musical once again.
The successful production of ‘Annie’ in the Spring of 1989 gave the Company a new lease of life and it performed a variety of plays and comedies at the Charles Cryer Studio Theatre, Carshalton and musicals at the Secombe Theatre, Sutton including ‘The Sound of Music’, ‘Oliver’, ‘Calamity Jane’, ‘Blitz’ and, harking back to its final Falmouth production, ‘Salad Days’.
The Company has had to curtail its musical productions since 1996 due to another decline in numbers, but we managed to continue with plays until ‘Absent Friends’ in March/April 2000.
Unfortunately, we have been “resting” since then. Please see Chairman’s message under “Events”.
* Copies of the following programmes are held in the archives at Battersea Library. :-
Old Grammarians Dramatic Club, second season, 1887.
President: W.H.Bindley, Esq., M.A.
Programme of a Dramatic Performance to be given at Battersea Grammar School,
Wednesday evening, Dec. 14th 1887.
Old Grammarians Football Club.
President – W.H.Bindley, Esq., M.A.
Programme of an Entertainment to be given by members of the
Old Grammarians Amateur Dramatic Club,
on Monday evening, February 21, 1887, at Battersea Grammar School