‘A Cobra and Basket’: Truro Amateur Operatic and Dramatic Society and City Hall
By Kate Neale
In 1961, the Secretary of the Truro Amateur Operatic and Dramatic Society received a letter from London confirming an order of a cobra and basket to be delivered to City Hall. A curious order! But apparently, not an unusual one in the day-to-day running of an ambitious local theatre group.
First formed in 1912, the Society performed in different venues in Truro before settling at City Hall for many of their shows. Originally performing Gilbert and Sullivan operas such as The Pirates of Penzance and Ruddigore, after 1929 the group mainly opted to perform more modern musicals such as Oklahoma!, My Fair Lady and South Pacific.
In 1961 the Society performed Kismet as its fiftieth anniversary show. Kismet originally premiered in 1953 in Los Angeles, before being performed in San Francisco and then at the Stoll Theatre in London’s West End. The story is set in an imagined historic Baghdad, and follows the adventures of a wily poet, and the love affairs of his daughter. The Society’s production at City Hall included a cast of over 40 main performers, additional dancers, and a 24 piece orchestra.
Archive material held at the Cornwall Record Office shows what an undertaking putting on a show such as Kismet could be. The Society arranged for band parts from theatre company Samuel French, scenery and props to be delivered to Truro train station, and of course the cobra and basket from a stage production company in London!
The fiftieth jubilee was an opportunity to showcase the Society, and the Mayor and Mayoress of Truro were invited to attend the performance. It was also an apt moment for the Society to reflect on its own history; a large souvenir programme, printed by Truro firm Netherton and Worth, included snippets and stories of performances from past years. Former and life members of the society were warmly welcomed back to celebrate the Society’s ongoing work.
City Hall and Hall for Cornwall has been an important venue for Truro Amateur Operatic and Dramatic Society over the course of its history. We hope that in its new form, our theatre will continue to be a hub for local creativity for years to come!