Bell, Book and Candle

by John Van Druten

14th – 16th January 1971

Gillian Holroyd, a genuine witch, falls in love with publisher Sheperd Henderson and casts a spell on him, obliging him to dump his fiancée and rush to her side. All of this goes against the grain of Gillian’s mentor Mrs De Pass who does her best to counteract the love spell. Meanwhile, Gillian’s wacky warlock brother Nicky courts disaster by co-authoring a book on black magic with pompous, bibulous novelist Sidney Redlitch.

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The Cast

Gillian Holroyd – a witch: Mary Garwes
Tony Henderson – a human: Eric Saxton*
Queenie Holroyd – Gillian’s aunt: Louise Stanlake*
Nicky Holroyd – Gillian’s brother: Roger Gray
Sidney Redlitch – an author: Jonathan Hames
*Last minute replacements

Produced by Jonathan Hames

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Newbury Weekly News review

Audience bewitched by Compton play

Compton Players chose a play by John Van Druten for their 28th production and their presentation of Bell, Book and Candle was as usual a delightful one. The story set in modern times tells the tales of a lovely young witch who uses her powers to enchant a human being into falling in love with her and eventually losing those powers by herself falling in love.

The demanding and difficult part of the witch was played by a very attractive newcomer to the group – Mary Garwess – a talented actress with considerable experience. Her feeling for the part and her gentle handling of the love scenes made one feel that there really was magic afoot.

Eric Saxton as Tony Henderson, the human who did not believe in witchcraft but was made to change his mind in a most uncomfortable way, gave a most convincing performance of an enchanted male, who could not understand how he became so.

The senior witch of the party “Aunt Queenie” was played by Louise Stanlake at very short notice and as usual she gave an amusing performance. Her antics coupled with her unique methods of revenge on innocent offenders caused many chuckles from the audience who were obviously delighted to have the opportunity of seeing her on stage again.

Roger Gray as Nicky Holroyd, the witch’s brother and Jonathan Hames as Sidney Redlitch an author who is attempting to write a book on witchcraft completed the cast and both of these actors were extremely good in their interpretation of their parts.

Last but not least there was “Pyewacket” the Siamese cat that obeyed the wishes of its mistress in the casting of spells. This part was to be played by Wacket Jnr. But he suffered from stage fright and his part was taken with all the self-assurance possible by Nimmo.

Bouquets were presented to the ladies in the cast and Nimmo received the reward of a dainty meal for his performance.

The play was produced by Jonathan Hames and it was undoubtedly yet another success for the Compton Players. It is pleasing to know that the public can look forward to many more productions of the same high standard. Their next production is to be a passion play in the parish church during Holy Week and it is hoped that many people in the village will offer help. It is an ambitious undertaking and the Players deserve all the support they can get, particularly from the public to whom they have given so much pleasure in the past.


[This review does not mention that I took over the part of Tony three days before the first night. Louise’s ‘short notice’ was about a fortnight. E.S.]