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Playgoers Archive

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A little history...


Leonard Elmhirst and his American wife Dorothy began their experiment in rural regeneration at Dartington Hall in the 1920s. Dorothy’s passion was the arts, and one of her many initiatives was to establish the Playgoers, initially for the benefit of the community that lived and worked on the estate. The group began in 1946, and in their first year of productions (1948) they staged NoahMedea and You Never Can Tell in the Barn Theatre (now the Barn Cinema). The theatre group gradually grew beyond the estate, and drew an active membership from all parts of south Devon. Playgoers continued to stage several high quality productions each year, including, from 1974, its iconic outdoor Shakespeare in the private garden of Dartington Hall, often with a professional director.

Following the conversion of the Barn to a full-time cinema in 2014, and the unavailability of the
Private Garden, Playgoers now perform in several different studio spaces on the Dartington Estate, plus a host of locations in south Devon, including Totnes Castle, St Mary's and St John's churches, Bogan House and the KEVICC Ariel Centre.

Playgoers have twice commissioned original work from local writer Nick Simpson. The first of these was
Love and Fire (2013), an ambitious, large cast community production which told the story of Totnes
through historical and contemporary characters. Three years later, Inventing Utopia traced the early
days of the Dartington 'experiment', focussing on its impact on the local community and the
discovery of the WW1 play Journey's End, with which the Elmhirsts were closely associated.



Here's a list of all the shows presented since 1948. Where the venue isn't given, the show will have been performed in the Barn Theatre (now the Barn Cinema).  


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