Known as STAG, it was founded in 1981 by the then Vicar of Shute and his wife, a theatre director and playwright. Its raison d’etre was to put on challenging drama which would not be tackled by other local amateur groups – and to extend the use of Shute Parish Church beyond one weekly Sunday Service.
To this end the church was slightly altered to accommodate a permanent stage and extra power was bought in for stage lighting. The result is an unusual and very flexible ‘theatre’ space without distracting from the church’s primary purpose. Productions make full use of the aisles of the church as well as the stage. A production of Ladislas Fodor’s ‘The Vigil’ in April 1998 turned the whole church into a courtroom!
In the early years a trilogy of plays, written by the Vicar’s wife Philippa Moseley, about the family who lived at the neighbouring manor house (Shute Barton, National Trust) was presented; Shakespeare, Sheridan and Chekhov have all been staged with great success and T.S. Eliot’s ‘Murder in the Cathedral’ was a natural for the church.
Not all plays are suitable for the church. STAG’s second home is Kilmington Village Hall (KVH) where Wilde, Coward and Goldsmith have all been played.
A strength is STAG’s ability to draw in young actors. ‘Young STAGs’ have staged several successful productions, including versions of ‘HMS Pinafore’ and ‘The Mikado’. A Passion Play included 20 young people under 16 in the cast of 42, and several teenagers have ‘cut their teeth’ with STAG before going on to study Drama at University.
A legacy of which STAG is proud.