Royal Night at the Redgrave
New Play for tenth birthday
Ten years after she officially opened the Redgrave Theatre, Farnham, Princess Margaret, Countess Snowdon, returned on Wednesday to grace the celebrations for the first decade.
For the occasion the Redgrave had commissioned William Douglas-Home, the playwright who lives at West Meon, to write a new play. The result was "David and Jonathan", a play with an unusual theme but which, apparently, pleased the Princess as much as it did most of the capacity audience.
It was, indeed, a gala night. The theatre had almost disappeared beneath flowers (with arrangements by the theatre's own secretary, Lorna Morgan) and plants, shrubs and even young trees supplied by good friends of the Redgrave, Forest Lodge Garden Centre.
The foyer was alive with a theatre audience in all their finery who had to be in their seats by 7.45 before the Princess arrived.
She had had supper with Viscount Montgomery, president of the Redgrave Trust, and Viscountess Montgomery, at their home at Isington. On arrival at the theatre she was welcomed by the Lord Lieutenant of Surrey, Lord Hamilton of Dalzell.
In the area where she had unveiled a tablet ten years before H.R.H. was introduced to the Mayor of Waverley, Mrs. Anne Hoath and Mr. Peter Hoath, Mr. Paul Keyworth, chairman of the Farnham Repertory Company, and Mrs. Madeleine Keyworth.
Introductions followed to Mr. Stephen Barry, artistic director of the Redgrave, and Mrs. Jackie Berry and to the chairman of the gala organising committee, Mrs. Eve Fausset and Mr. Martin Fausset.
The Princess was presented with a bouquet by three-year-old Charlotte Flood and six-year-old Tom Barry.
Meanwhile, in the auditorium, the manager, Tim Flood, had welcomed the audience and read a message of good wishes for the occasion from Sir Michael Redgrave who has always taken the keenest interest in the theatre named after him. Until he moved from his home at Odiham to London in recent months, he often visited the theatre.
The Princess was escorted to her seat in the front row by Mr. Keyworth and Mr. Barry and the National Anthem was played.
Then it was on with the play and, at the interval, the Royal party moved into the club room.
There were more presentations, including Sir James and Lady Scott of Rotherfield Park, Alton, leading figures in Hampshire country life; Mr. W.H. Talbot, chairman of the Redgrave Trust, and Mrs. Talbot; Mr. and Mrs. Colin Shurrock, Mr. John Morris and Miss Valerie Brisco of British Telecom, sponsors of the production. Ever since the tightening of financial support from local authorities the Redgrave has sought sponsorship for productions with considerable success.
Also presented were Mr. Geoff Nutall, chief executive of Waverley, and Mrs. Buttall; Mr. Tommy Smith, vice-chairman of the Repertory Theatre and Mrs. Smith; Mrs. Lorna Morgan, the company secretary, and Mr. R. Morgan; Mr. Flood and his wife Anna, and an especially happy thought, Alice Allender, the theatre's oldest working volunteer with memories and service going back 40 years to the early days of the Castle Theatre.
Back to the second half of the play and then, when the Royal Party and the audience moved back to the clubroom, foyer and restaurant areas, they found a tasty buffet had been laid out. On a hot evening the audience was also pleased to expand on to the patio which was sheltered by a red and white awning.
The Princess chatted with the cast and guests for an hour or more before leaving by car at about 11.40.
"A wonderful evening, and the Princess enjoyed it and the play," said Viscount Montgomery, after he had said farewell to the Royal Party.
Naturally the author of the play, William Douglas-Home, and his wife, Lady Dacre, were present - the former full of admiration for the Redgrave's production.
Also present was Ian Mullins, the Redgrave's first director ten years ago, and producer of William Douglas-Home's other play with a church setting, "The Lord's Lieutenant".
Memories of that premiere were also recalled by the veteran former drama critic of the Sunday Times, Sir Harold Hobson who was in the audience.
In all it was a memorable night for the Redgrave.
The Princess cuts the celebration cake watched by the cast of "David and Jonathan". From the left, Mike Shannon, George Waring, John McAndrew, Michael Cotterill, Sean Bean, Suzie Cherys, Yvette Byrne, Godfrey Jackman and Charlotte Attenborough.
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