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 Connecting professional and amateur theatre in Newbury, West Berkshire and beyond

Resurrection Players - Passive Resistance

14th to 15th April 2018

Review from the Newbury Weekly News.

When our good citizens rebelled

The Resurrection Players: Passive Resistance, at the Phoenix Centre, Newbury, on Saturday, April 14, and Sunday, April 15

I don’t suppose today's local residents are at all happy with recent rates increases, but I can't see a crowd gathering outside Hungerford Town Hall, with speeches urging them not to pay by Methodist and Congregational ministers.

This was the situation back in 1903 when a new Education Act was introduced to improve education in primary and secondary schools with a new tax to fund institutions in a standard way. But the non-Anglicans (Baptists, Congregationalists, Primitive and Wesleyan Methodists) were not prepared to support the kind of religious teaching that church schools provided and refused to pay their rates. Early passive resistance? Yep, civil disobedience as well and usually quiet, respectable citizens became rebels.

This was an interesting and fascinating subject from history for the Friends of Newtown Cemetery to present wearing their theatre hats as The Resurrection Players. It all started when local resident Alan Vince was shocked to read in a 1903 copy of the Newbury Weekly News that his great-great-grandfather Charles Midwinter had been up before the magistrate for refusing to pay part of his rates. Ros Clow wrote and directed this play focussing on events outside Hungerford Town Hall and later Newbury Magistrates Court and the Congregational Church Lecture Hall. Alan Vince brought this matter to the attention of the players and Dave Seward CEO Berkshire Youth, played the part of his own great-great-grandfather Samuel Seward, trustee of the Methodist church.

Garry Poulson was effective as Charles Midwinter and Paul Shave was believable as councillor Joseph Napoleon Day. Barry Digby and Mike Brook were persuasive as church ministers making their speeches, if a little less than passionate about the subject. Other actors in the large cast did well under Ros Clow's smooth direction and stage movement was well-orchestrated.

(Just a tip for the couple of actors who lost their way – stand still and wait for a prompt, if you have to, but don't call out and spoil the theatrical illusion.)

Overall though, Ros Clow's production was a fascinating look back at Newbury history.

Eleven of the characters portrayed are buried in Newtown Road Cemetery.