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David Thomas MBE

David Thomas was born in Brixton, London, on 10th December 1931. His mother was a dresser to a firm of theatrical costumiers, delivering and collecting costumes from the theatres. As a young boy David was fortunate to come into contact with the legendary actress Sybil Thorndike and her husband Lewis Casson. They took him to a toy shop and bought him a toy sword! a swashbuckling start to a life in theatre for David.

The family moved to Swansea in 1937 and settled in Brynmill. During the War in 1943 he joined Brynmill and Uplands Youth Club. The club presented its first Gilbert and Sullivan production "The Gondoliers" that year and at the age of just eleven, David experienced his first taste of "the smell of the greasepaint and the roar of a crowd" as a chorus boy. in 1949 the club changed its name to the Uplands Arts Club. He progressed through the ranks of the chorus to play virtually every lead role in the Gilbert and Sullivan repertoire later becoming producer, director, chairman and finally president over the next sixty years!

In 1953 David joined the only other society in Swansea at the time, Swansea Amateur Operatic Society. Originally the "Amateurs" staged their shows at The Grand Theatre up until the Grand became a full time cinema, by 1953 they were performing At Swansea Empire Theatre in Oxford Street. Along with the opportunity to play at a real theatre, David realised that the society also employed a professional producer. He was eager to learn. His first few years were as part of the chorus, until in 1956 when he was given his first part as Hubert in "The Student Prince" (this was the last time the amateurs appeared at The Empire, as it closed in February of 1957). During the next few years he cut his teeth as a producer. In 1959 he married to Anne Rogers at St Barnabus church in Uplands, Swansea. Their union produced two daughters - Kathryn and Elizabeth, both girls literally grew up in "the wings" and eventually took to the stage appearing in shows that David produced. In 1961 David, together with a group of friends, started The Abbey Players, named after Singleton Abbey where they rehearsed. This fresh and youthful group presented small-scale musicals starting with "The Boyfriend". They would initially perform at The Llewellyn Hall in Swansea, but later moved to The Grand Theatre in 1978 with "How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying". The first few years however saw them compete in Ireland at the Waterford Festival, where they won many awards. David won the Best Producer Award in 1965 for "No No Nanette" which also got the award for Most Entertaining Production. David stayed with The Abbey Players until 1999 when he directed his last show "Oklahoma" with them.

David also produced shows for Port Talbot Amateur Operatic Society from 1965 - 2000, starting out at Sandfields Comprehensive School and finishing up at The Princess Royal Theatre. Other companies he directed for included Carmarthen Amateur Operatic Society, Clydach Amateur Operatic Society, Penyrheol Light Opera, Neath Master Players, Neath Opera Group (who would perform at Craig Y Nos) and Cadoxton Grand Opera.

In 1983 he was invited to produce Cocket Amateur Operatic Society's production of "Fiddler On The Roof" and stayed until 2001, staging a total of 19 musicals including a sparkling production of "Chess" in 1994. David had a happy and enjoyable time with Cocket, experiencing the "family" feel that the society brings to its members. He would occasionally step away from musicals and loved comedies and farce. He was a member of the Y.M.C.A. Theatre Group in the 50's and 60's. He also acted with Swansea Little Theatre at this time. For 18 years he served on the Executive Committee of the Welsh Amateur Music Federation, he was also one of only 250 people to receive the Medal of Merit from the National Operatic and Dramatic Association, and was presented to the late Queen Mother at St James' Palace during the 75th Birthday Celebrations of the association. In June of 1995 David Thomas received his highest accolade when he was awarded an M.B.E. in the Queen's birthday honours, for services to amateur theatre in South Wales.

David receiving his M.B.E from The Queen in 1995