by James Elroy Flecker, produced by Eric Hart
21-22 July 1939
Rummaging through the Chelsfield Players archives unearths a show that was performed barely weeks before the outbreak of World War 2. Hassan is a tale of medieval Baghdad, shot through the lens of the Arabian Nights and celebrating an exotic view of the Middle East considered quaint today but alluring at the time. This production appears nowhere in the official archives, but it definitely happened as the photos and reviews prove. Again, the producer (i.e. director) was Eric Hart.
Hassan was the Society’s first open-air production, performed at “Woodlands” in the grounds of Cannock School (now Browns School), which had an amphitheatre.
It appears to be the amateur premiere of a play written 25 years before with a cast, according to later records, of 100 performers plus a small orchestra in only the Society’s fourth performance, demonstrating that the idea of amateur theatre had properly grabbed the local imagination in a very short time. The reviewer described it as “a real triumph” and “a fine show”, with the hope of “many more to follow”.
He got his wish: there have been over 200 productions so far.