Merstham Amateur Dramatic Society was founded back in 1930, soon after the Village Hall in Merstham had been built. In its early days MADS was an Operatic & Dramatic Society and the first production was Gilbert and Sullivan’s HMS Pinafore. Sadly we don’t have any production photos from the 1930s – but we’d be delighted to hear from anyone who does !
There are a few surviving programmes, including for HMS Pinafore. It was presented ‘under the personal supervision’ of Madame Geraldine Ulmar, a retired American soprano who was also the Society President. In her younger days she had performed leading roles with the D’Oyly Carte company in the US
By 1932 Geraldine Ulmar had passed away, and the programme for A Damsel in Distress shows that ‘& Operatic’ had been dropped from the title to become plain MADS – it is thought that staging musicals was considered too expensive. The Society continued to present plays until activities ceased with the outbreak of war. It was re-started around 1947, by Merstham author and actress Joy Anderson and went on to become one of the foremost amateur societies in the area
MADS was a founder member of the Betchworth Drama Festival of One-act Plays (now called the Southern Counties Drama Festival) and notched up many successes in this local competition, in which the winners go forward to successive rounds culminating in the All England Theatre Festival – originally organized by the British Drama League. The high-point of this for MADS was probably 1973 when its production of ‘Epilogue to St Joan’ (by George Bernard-Shaw) reached the final in Birmingham and came a close runner-up