From the society’s first lines, spoken on stage by Doris E Fitt of Perranporth who played a servant girl in a playlet preceding their first musical Trial by Jury in 1912, right up to the present day, TAODS have played a leading role in Truro social life.
Up until the 1950s the society performed one show a year in November during a week that was known locally as ‘Opera Week’.
A programme cover from a 1931 production of Trial By Jury at City Hall, when it was known as The County Theatre. Image courtesy of Francis Evans.
Quality as standard
TAODS shows have always been popular. One West Briton article muses how fortunate the group were to be “guaranteed public support on a scale that must be the envy of many similar groups.”
An advert for their production of The Lisbon Story in the Gazette in 1949 encourages the public to become patrons so they can purchase advance tickets and ‘avoid the queues of last year.’ They may also have wanted to avoid being confined to the back of the auditorium as in those days the seats would all have been on the flat.
Showboat, the Pirates of Penzance, My Fair Lady, Oliver, the Mikado, Carousel, Brigadoon. The society has a long and successful history of bringing smash-hit shows to the Truro stage with producers, including the legendary Mavis Ward, pushing them to produce ambitious shows, many of which were fresh from the West End stage.
Vera Gatley, TAODS Ballet Mistress backstage during a production of Finian’s Rainbow, the 1960s. Image Courtesy of Francis Evans
Newspaper reviews are full of praise for productions, described as ‘difficult to fault’, the finest show seen in Truro’, ‘flawless fantasy’ and ‘enchanting.’ Their 50th-anniversary production of Kismet in 1961, with accompanying exhibition of photographs and other memories, was particularly well received. By that point over 600 people had played a part in productions and there was a real family reunion feel to the jubilee event.
“It is encouraging to know that we are described by new members and visitors as “a very friendly group” and I have certainly found this to be the case!” Francis Evans, President
Photos from a 1995 production of 42nd Street at City Hall, just a couple of years before Hall for Cornwall opened. Image courtesy of Francis Evans.
Today that family feeling still exists in a lively society that’s always keen to meet new members. They can be found rehearsing and performing shows at the Truro Playhouse on Redannick Lane, a former egg packing plant that they turned into a theatre and rehearsal rooms in the sixties. They also perform at venues across Cornwall including the Minack Theatre, Hall for Cornwall and Trelissick Gardens.
Photo onstage during a 1960s production of Busy Body
Impeccable chorus lines of girls in white tights, ballet shoes and feathered hats, ladies in puffed up ball gowns, austere bearded faces in army attire. The TAODS photographic archive is a remarkable tryst through shows of the past, and some of the only captures we have of performances on stage in the City Hall building. For a long time, this was the only regular theatre happening here.
We invite you to take a look at the expansive archive of TAODS images on our heritage site which stretches from 1912 until the late 1990s. There’s a timeless quality to many of the black and white images, which look as if they could easily have been taken last week, rather than early last century.
A beautiful example of a handbill advertising the cast and crew of a 1949 production of Lisbon Story. Photo courtesy of Francis Evans.