The Young Elizabeth
by Jeanette Dowling & Francis Letton; producer Brian Matthew
18-20 August 1966, St Just, Oxenden Wood Road
Another outdoor production in the grounds of a house in Chelsfield Park. The Young Elizabeth tells how Elizabeth I navigated the court intrigues from the death of her father Henry VIII through the reigns of her siblings Edward VI and Mary I.
In customary fashion, the production was highly praised by the Kentish Times, proclaiming “new heights of success” and, unusually, singling out an off-stage contributor, Wendy Bradfield, for costumes: “surely one of the finest arrays to grace an amateur stage”.
Little did anyone know that this would be the swansong for the Matthews at Chelsfield. Brian had organised a charity performance of the show on 14 September for the Friends Of Orpington Hospital, but the committee cancelled it while he and Pamela were away on holiday, citing “too many difficulties”.
Brian was furious, and the schism was reported in the same newspapers that had reviewed his productions with such enthusiasm over the previous eight years. Matthew blamed “older, non-acting members of the committee”, while secretary Harry Parr hinted at longer-running frictions and pointed out that the charity show had been arranged without the committee’s knowledge.
The upshot was that the Matthews and some other members left the Society, never to return.