A brief history

The Company began at the old Village Hall in 1981 when the committee decided, after a few post-meeting refreshments, to write and stage their own version of the pantomime classic, Dick Wittington. The main instigator was the late John Mobbs (a suite at the present hall is named after him and his wife Betty) and he took on the role of Director, steering a willing group of first-time thespians to three performances.

Despite the very limited facilities and stage equipment at the time the project gained traction and became an annual event. But it was sometimes perilous! During one performance there was a total power failure and disaster was only averted when a member of the Fire Service in the audience summoned a fire engine and used its generator to power lighting into the hall so that the drama could continue. Other incidents in those early years included a principal who made a big entrance but forgot to be in costume, a female singer who decided she’d had enough mid-song and stormed off and a collapsing bed in Red Riding Hood, up-ending Grandma. Mind you, committee members had retrieved the bed from the back garden of a council refuse operative. No names, of course. Ah, those were the days (and programmes were only 10p!).

An early star was the local vicar, Fred Bianchi, who also lends his name to a suite at the new hall. In the summer of 1985 an Old Time Music Hall show was staged and this became an annual fixture too. Costumes were often borrowed from St Cross and Romsey drama groups, at least until some very talented costume mistresses joined the Otterbourne group.

Modern technical advances (such as microphones and strobe lighting) were enthusiastically adopted, membership expanded, the pianist grew into a band and then, in 1986, everything moved into the fabulous new Village Hall, thanks to a lottery grant, where it continues to this day.

In 1989 the first professionally written script was used and standards were on the up. The cast was enlarged to include a senior and junior chorus which meant family groups were attracted to the company.

Over the next 20 years some of the profits from the shows and pantos were used to up-grade the equipment, costumes and facilities. The hi-tec control room which now oversees everything from the back was added in 2002; up till then the sound and light guys had balanced precariously up in the air on a metal tower that had to be constructed for every show and was accessed by a wobbly ladder.

The Drama Group (as it became known) was renamed the Otterbourne Theatre Company in February 2019 and continues to happily evolve as members move on and others join up. No experience is necessary, just an interest in theatre and a desire to be in a dynamic and friendly company. Current membership stands at 65, including juniors (7+).

Recent wins in the Daily Echo Curtain Call Awards:

– Best Pantomime
– Best Costumes in a Variety Show
– Best Performance in a Pantomime
– Best Musical Director

We have also been nominated in many other Curtain Call Awards categories.

We would love to hear any anecdotes that we may have missed from the company’s 40 year history. If you have one, please email it to us so we may consider it for this page! Thanks