Breath of Spring - performed May 1979
(1st production)

By Peter Coke

Performed with the kind permission of R. Wilshaw (now Samuel French)

Director - Dennis Murfitt

Charman's Letter

Welcome to the first production by the Manifest Theatre Group. In 1978 a number of local people came together to try and promote a local drama group for Mistley, Manningtree and Lawford areas, as it was felt that such an activity was lacking within the community. Since that time the Group's membership has risen to around the 50 mark and a great deal of local interest generated.

The money for this production, some £450, was raised through the generosity of patrons and sponsors and a lot of hard fund raising by the Group's members, and we hope that this production will be the fore-runner of many to come. It is hoped to provide as wide a spectrum of plays and melodramas as possible and we look forward to your continued patronage.
Ernie Norfolk


(in order of appearance)

Miss Nanette Parry Viv Wheatley
Brigadier Albert Rayne Dennis Murfitt
Lily Thompson Brenda Chapman
Alice, Lady Miller Janet Cousins
Dame Beatrice Appleby Val Taylor
Miss Elizabeth Hatied Yvonne Cobbold
Pape Adrian Bolton
Kemp Kevin Brown

Production Team

Peter Westbrook, Kevin Brown, Christine Potter, Peter Potter, Frances Brown, Sally Mann, Jan Cullum-Nasta, Bruce Emeny, John Honeywood

The Play

When Dame Beatrice is given a mink stole by her maid, she is reminded of the maid's shady past and immediately suspects that it was stolen from the the next flat. A former army officer and other lodgers endeavor to return the stole. The plan is devised with care and all of them take such delight in the secretive scheme that they wonder why they don't do this more often. They form a syndicate for stealing and returning furs. Everything goes well until a loss is reported and the police come charging in. The maid is horrified to discover what has been going on behind her back, but agrees to employ her talents to bail the amateurs out of trouble if they agree to never touch another fur. She succeeds, the police leave, and life returns to its humdrum ways until someone remembers that it was only furs they had promised not to touch!


The first offering of the newly-formed Manifest Theatre Group, Breath of Spring, by Peter Coke, is being presented in the old British Legion hall. An ambitious play for a newly-formed group of actors, this comedy of the early 1950s proceeds at a spanking pace, thanks to the direction of Dennis Murfitt, who also plays convincingly the part of a testy old brigadier, and his assistant producer, Valerie Taylor, also taking a leading part as Dame Beatrice Appleby. The performance of both these players is outstanding for such a newly established group, as are the renderings of Janet Cousins as Alice, Lady Miller, and Vivienne Wheatley as Miss Nanette Parry. Yvonne Cobbold convincingly portrays a nervous and muddle-headed spinster, Elizabeth Hatfield, and Brenda Chapman gives a delightful performance as the not quite reformed ex-jailbird maid. The two policemen, Adrian Bolton and Kevin Brown, arrive on the scene in the last act.
The play is acted in a superb set built entirely by the company over the last few weeks and is approaching professional standards. Stage manager is Peter Westbrook and his assistants Peter Potter, Bruce Emeny and John Honeywell. It is obvious that the hall has limitations as a venue for theatrical production, but the company has succeeded in over-coming them and the public will look forward with interest to future presentations.

Professionalism shows in Manifest group’s debut

A FAULTY fuse plunged the stage into darkness mid-way through a first night performance by the Manifest Theatre Group – and served to reveal the professionalism of this newly-formed group. The five-minute wait must have been a nerve-racking one for the members of cast on stage. But the audience was given no sign of this when actor and producer Dennis Murfitt pointed out that the place was set in the 1950s when electricity strikes were not unknown.
Breath of Spring, the comedy by Peter Coke, is about a motley gang of amateur thieves who believe in the Robin Hood principle of giving to the poor what they take from the rich. The former Legion Hall in Manningtree makes a beautiful theatre, and I was glad to see the cast make full use of the unusually wide set which was in itself, very well designed.
One little detail illustrates their professional attitude: the geraniums were taken away when the scene moved from one season of the year to another. A nice touch.

Valerie Taylor, the assistant producer, was an excellent choice for the part of Dame Beatrice. She had a great stage presence and a particularly memorable deep and booming voice.
Dennis Murfitt played Bertie, the gruff and precision-minded Brigadier who softens as he finds himself the Romeo of both the Dame and her friend Alice (Janet Cousins).
The vividly-dressed elocution teacher is a character role which is obviously right up Vivienne Wheatleys street for she takes advantage offered by the par. So, too, does Brenda Chapman as Lily, the maid.
Yvonne Cobbold, the gauche and neurotic Hattie, seemed to be a little nervous at first but relaxed noticeably during the performance and her hysterical scene with a ball of string had the audience in fits. The small part of the embarrassed Scotland Yard Inspector was brought out well be Adrian Bolton, and the constable was play by Kevin Brown.

I am sure that no-one will be disappointed in this first production from the group, it their other performances go as well as the first night – black-outs excepted! They will be staging Sweeney Todd in the autumn, and would like to hear from anyone - especially men – who would like to audition.

Photo Shoot

(standing - Brenda, Dennis, Viv, Adrian, Kevin)
(lying/kneeling - Val, Jane, Yvonne)