MADS About Theatre

28 Apr

The cast of theatre restaurant production, ‘Tiptoe Through the Tombstones’. David Warner is in the middle, wearing a black shirt.

When recalling his first time on stage, David Warner jokes about how scared he was. To those that know him as the tough director of the Gulgong Musical and Dramatic Society (MADS), this would be quite surprising.

After joining the MAD Society over 30 years ago as a favour to a friend, David Warner is considered the soul and driving force behind the amateur theatre group.

“I sort of got conned into it by Maurice Gaudry back in the late seventies,” David recalls.

“I remember the first thing I was in, my son Ian was about two years old, and all I had to do was sit on stage with Ian on my knee.  I was supposedly Henry Lawson’s father and Ian was Henry Lawson and I didn’t have to say a word but I was absolutely terrified.”

The MAD Society in the small town of Gulgong has been around for over a century, and has since grown to become a well-respected and professional group amongst the town and surrounds.  Their home, the Prince of Wales Opera House is the longest continually running opera house in the country, which is a credit to the group, who purchased the building in 1972 to prevent it from being demolished.

The group have managed to keep the Opera House running, by funding renovations and upgrades to the National Trust building through revenue from their popular shows and performances.

David Warner, who’s been directing now for over 20 years, credits the success of the group to the dedication and quality of the people involved.

“We’ve always attracted a really good group of people, I mean if you’ve got 50 people and you’re trying to pull them together and all work together, it’s not easy,” David explains.

“But the fact that we can do that intensely over about a three-month period, I think it says a lot about the people who are involved.”

The MAD Society has a reputation around town as being one of the most professional groups around.  David believes this is partly due to the strong direction and professional approach the group has taken over the years.

“When I first got involved, the director, Yvette Barwick ran a very tight ship,” David says.

“Yvette established that anyone who dared peek through the curtain or who arrived out in the audience in costume and make-up, she just read the riot act.”

David has adopted this strict approach to his directing, as many current and former cast members will know, especially when it comes to those precious two rules.

According to long-time member, Brian Cook, the wrath of David is enough to make everyone perform their best.

“The professionalism of the performances is better than anywhere I’ve seen, we’ve got a director that’s so cranky that we’re all scared like hell of him and that brings out the best in us,” Brian says chuckling.

Although for the past five to ten years MADS has been at its strongest, David worries about its future.

“Long term, I don’t know, because the unfortunate thing is people like my boys who get involved and do a fantastic job while they’re at school, have to leave the town to go to university or whatever, so we lose some really good people that way.”

With the majority of the cast over 40, David is hoping the future of the group will be secure with some of the younger members of the group.

“What we’re trying to do now is keeping a look-out for people in the town who are staying in the town who are a bit younger than us who can take it over, because it’s certainly a very worthwhile thing,” David says.

Although it will still be a while before David gives it up.

“Maurice always said to me, ‘when MADS no longer ceases to be fun, I won’t stay in it’ and I’m exactly the same,” says David.


One Response to “MADS About Theatre”


  1. Waters to come to Gulgong « The Wonderful World of Theatre - May 6, 2012

    […] He explains that films are occasionally shown at the theatre, and that artists wanting to book a show need to fit around the schedule of the Opera House, which includes the local Eisteddfod and performances by the local Musical and Dramatic Society. […]

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