A Golden anniversary curtain call - The Community Leader and Real Estate New and Views

A still from a production of Harold and Maude.

Possibly the first permanent theatrical troupe in the Redlands, Mount Cotton Drama Group’s home was Mt Cotton Community Hall, built with timber from settler Daniel Benfer’s property and opened by Adolf Benfer in 1930. This year, the group will celebrate the 50th anniversary of its foundation with an exhibition at Redland Museum.

Started by a group of teachers in 1974, the group proved highly popular with performers and audiences alike and after 16 years its numbers had swelled to the point where it gave birth to a breakaway musical-focussed group, MATES. Mt Cotton presented 142 productions over its 43 years, but nothing lasts forever and in 2017 it rang down the curtain for the time last and merged its properties, members and cash with MATES (which had now become Mates Theatre Genesis after a merger with a group based in the Redland Museum).

Jean Spencer (pictured above left), now a regular actor with Theatre Redlands, joined the Mount Cotton Group with her late husband Ben in 2005.

“We’d both been involved with theatre so when we moved up from Sydney it didn’t take long to get involved with the Mt Cotton group,” she says. “Ben was an electrical engineer, so as well as his acting talents, he was in demand for his technical skills. It was a great group with a wonderful atmosphere.”

Jean’s first role was in a short play in The Quickies short-play series.

“I played a dying woman who escaped from hospital to see the New Year’s Eve fireworks. My character dies on stage at the end – but the show was quite amusing in parts!”

She and Ben went on to act, direct and work as backstage crew and Jean continues as one of Theatre Redland’s most popular and well-known members, along with other former Mt Cotton members Barbara Collyer and Kathy Manning.

The 50th Anniversary Exhibition will include videos, programs, posters, old stage sets, props, costumes and some original plays written for the group. It will run at the Redland Museum throughout May.

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