Research shows that there was a Clacton Dramatic Society in the 1880s, when Clacton was still a 'new town', and that this Society continued to entertain the town until the outbreak of WW1. Clacton Amateur Dramatic Society as we know it was formed in 1945, staging their first production, Berkeley Square at the West Cliff Theatre in 1947, during the worst winter on record. Audiences delighted to see drama back in Clacton, despite the snow coming in through the theatre roof!
The West Cliff Theatre, at that time, was owned by William Hammer, better known as the founder of 'Hammer House of Horrors'. It was noted in the programme for the 50th production that William was also one of the founding members of CADS and, up until his death in 1957, all of the Society's productions were staged at the West Cliff.
Over the years, as well as highly regarded productions, CADS were also involved in some memorable events. The 1948 production of If Four Walls Told saw an actor appear on stage in a nightshirt that belonged to King William IV, which was on loan from a Mrs Hobday of Lexden whose family had owned it for generations.
In 1950, CADS was instrumental in launching the 'Clacton Arts Project', performing and donating funds for the “cultural needs of Clacton”. They staged a Music Hall, monthly whist drives at the Embassy Cafe, Dinner and Dances at Oulton Hall Hotel and dramatic performances at several venues in the town, many of these locations having changed their function today.
In 1953, as part of the town's coronation day celebrations, the society entertained 160 children from Dr Barnardo's Homes at Davey's Embassy in Station Road. The children had a tea and received a present, all funded by the generosity of members. During the 1950s, CADS used to preview plays at Passmore Edward House, then a rehabilitation centre for TB sufferers, for the benefit of patients and staff. These visits were, apparently, eagerly anticipated and well received.
At the start of the 10th anniversary year, Anastasia was the last production at the West Cliff for some time, and the next 4 plays were at the Princes Theatre. November 1958 saw the group move again, to the Savoy Theatre (now a nightclub) in Rosemary Road. In 1963 the society presented their 50th production, Pride and Prejudice, back in their 'home', the West Cliff. The future of the theatre had been under threat, as it needed considerable investment for refurbishment. Luckily, it was saved from demolition and is still being used and enjoyed today.
During the 60s, CADS benefited from the help, advice and encouragement of the Colchester Repertory Theatre. So when the Colchester Theatre Trust started raising funds to build the Mercury Theatre, CADS were delighted to enter into a covenant to help the cause. When the new theatre opened in 1972, CADS were proud to see their name on one of the seats. This was also the year that the society celebrated its 25th anniversary with audiences enjoying The Murder of Maria Marten followed by Not Now, Darling and concluding with Who Killed Santa Claus?
Over the subsequent decades, the society has continued to entertain audiences at the West Cliff Theatre. The plays performed have been an eclectic mix; from thought-provoking drama to laugh-out-loud farce. Almost every year, CADS features in the nominations for National Operatic and Dramatic Association and North East Theatre Guild awards. And so, in 2014, we reached a milestone with the presentation of the 200th play performed by CADS in its 67 year history, The Diary of Anne Frank. Shows will continue to go on, as they have done since 1947, through the enthusiasm, dedication and commitment of a talented group of local people.