History of the Derwent Valley Players

Since the "naughties" the Derwent Valley Players have been reincarnated as an amateur theatrical group performing an annual christmas pantomime as well as a number of original and locally relevant plays, many written by our very talented playright and director Roz Chapman. These include "Women of the Willow" and "Kangaroo Court".

However, the name Derwent Valley Players has a long history, dating back to 1943. The following history of the Derwent Valley Players is republished with permission, from an article by Ken O'Brien, a well-known New Norfolk historian, published in The Derwent Valley from Federation to Millennium, Volume 1, 2001 ISBN 1-876391-02-2.

In August 1943, Roy Richards, the popular secretary of Lachlan Park (Royal Derwent) Hospital, with a cast of about 15 produced an originl play called The Other Ship Sailed On. This resulted in an amateur theatrical group called the New Norfolk Players being formed in September of the same year. During the following months there were several one-act plays followed by Oscar Wilde's The Importance of Being Ernest, which proved very popular in 1944. The next year saw the production of A. A. Milne's Mr Pym Passes By and Lillian Hellman's The Little Foxes. As the actors grew in confidence, there were further ambitious plays culminating in Noel Coward's Blithe Spirit in 1946.

Interest in repertory continued to grow at New Norfolk as people came to work at ANM[1] and young people were discharged from the services. During 1947 there was Ten Minute Alibi (by Anthony Armstrong and Herbert Shaw) followed by the delightful Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier. There had been major productions each year from the inception of the Players. This pattern was continued in 1948 by Noel Coward's Tonight at 8:30 and J. B. Priestley's They Came to a City. All of the above were presented in the Oddfellows Hall[2] in Circle St to large and enthusiastic audiences.

Another new phase in the story of the Players took place in 1949 with the production of Love in Idleness by Terrence Rattigan. This was presented at the Playhouse Theatre[3], Hobart, for the Hobart Repertory Society[4] and ran for a one-week season. In 1951 the Players chose Hedda Gabler (Ibsen) for their contribution to a drama competition in the North. Returning to New Norfolk, the next productions were the three-act plays The Sun Never Sets (Priestley) and The Late Christopher Bean (Emlyn Williams) which were presented with some difficulty at the ANM Hall[5] in Derwent Terrace. In 1953 the Players performed Alan Melville's witty comedy Castle in the Air at the Lachlan Park Hall.

Sadly the introduction of television in 1960 was the beginning of the end for the Players, the New Norfolk Eisteddfod and the ever-popular concerts held in our local halls. However, those of us who participated, no matter how small our role, remember with affection the great times we had, the highs and lows, the patience and dedication of the the producers and the appreciative audiences.


[1] Australian Newsprint Mills Limited and Norske Skog, Boyer

[2] Oddfellows Hall, New Norfolk

[3] Playhouse Theatre, Hobart

[4] Hobart Repertory Society

[5] ANM Hall, Derwent Terrace

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