Our Lockdown competition attracted entries of all kinds including a ‘Covid’ adapted version of  The Nightmare Song from Gilbert and Sullivan’s Iolanthe. The stresses of a Zoom call were ably expressed in a humorous, tongue twisting monologue by Jenny Saunders. Of course, it really needed to be sung at our prize giving ceremony in early September and we are grateful to Gareth Davies from the St David’s Players, Exeter’s G&S Society, for helping us make this happen. Gareth sang this hilarious rendition, with local pianist Roger Stephenson accompanying, and Jenny was delighted to see her piece performed in front of an enthusiastic audience in the town square. Emma Mills from Crediton, a long standing member of the St David’s Players, reports on the history of this popular society and how they have been coping with lockdown. 
A scene from St David's Players production of Iolanthe - All photos by Chris Wilson

St David’s Players were formed in 1969 as a part of St David’s Church Youth Club and over the subsequent years the society has grown from strength to strength. We traditionally put on our full scale productions at the Barnfield Theatre in central Exeter in early October each year. We also do concerts and have social events throughout the year. Gilbert and Sullivan shows are part of my family tradition and I love singing in the shows.

The Grand Duke in rehearsal

In 2019 St David’s players celebrated 50 glorious years of bringing Gilbert & Sullivan to Mid Devon. They were honoured, in their first year as members of NODA, the national body that represents amateur theatre, to receive the NODA South West award for ‘Best Gilbert & Sullivan Production’ in 2019 for their production of the lesser known work The Grand Duke.

The Grand Duke in Performance

The pandemic has had a great effect on the whole company, with nearly all performing being restricted and the upcoming performance of HMS Pinafore being put on hold until restrictions have been lifted. During lockdown we have been entertaining ourselves with social and committee meetings via Zoom, which has been quite a challenge. Perhaps we could open their meetings with the Zoom nightmare song!

We have been working hard in the background and are very much looking forward to playing our part in bringing full scale live productions back to the heart of Devon as soon as we  possibly can. The virus might not be going away just yet but neither are we. We look forward to inviting you back onboard the good ship HMS Pinafore as soon as we possibly can!

A scene from The Gondoliers

To find out more about the St David’s Players visit our website.

And here is Jenny’s version of The Nightmare Song from Iolanthe


by Jenny Saunders  (with apologies to Gilbert and Sullivan)


When you’re lying awake with a dismal headache

and you’re planning to schedule a meeting,

You will sense in the gloom it will have to be ‘Zoom’

Because gone is all face to face greeting.


So you log onto Zoom which ‘enables’ the room

To have ‘breakout’ and ‘screen share’ and ‘waiting’.

You find ‘invitation’ will lead to frustration

For you feel that ‘required’ is too grating.


But an ‘optional’ invite perhaps too polite 

(For these ‘contacts’ are quite indivisible).

But they’re ready to start and they gather (in part)

Some are mute, some are loud, some invisible!


Well it soon becomes clear that the ones who are here

Are all in their own homes, how surprising.

And those who are late, in a ‘waiting room’ wait,

And your panic is steadily rising.


So there’s no need for chairs look, they’re stacked up in squares,

Heads and shoulders, a grid slowly forming.

But you haven’t a clue who is looking at who

Or how they will do their brainstorming.


So you shut all these troops into separate groups

(You will give ‘breakout option’ star rating).

When you visit each space and assess each one’s place

You find six more participants waiting.


When you try to get out of the room with a shout,

‘I am here’ then of course they can’t hear you.

And you’re stuck for a way to ‘accept’ them or say

‘Wait a minute, I’m ever so near you.’


Well you find you can’t win, don’t know which room you’re in

And perhaps it’s just all dark illusion.

So you walk off and think, ‘I’ll escape for a drink

And I’ll leave them all to their confusion.’




Though I walk out of Zoom I’m still locked in a ‘room’

And the thoughts in my head aren’t convivial.

Ceaseless comments and chat, round and round this and that.

Some are Covid-based fears. Most are trivial.


Like being trapped in a telephone box with a wasp

That keeps buzzing around and across me.

I discover my mind is too small and confined

And I’m stuck letting all those thoughts boss me.




I must unlock ….. release this lockdown door

And step across the threshold, breathe, and find

There is a sanctuary outside the mind

Where skies are wide (enough for wasps and more!)


And I must run to Coleford, Copplestone,

Down lanes where trees reach up to greet the light,

Longing like me to soak in sun. I think

They’re porous to the dawn! They dip and drink

And drench themselves, in this expanse of bright

And water-cool blue, mercy-morning joy!    


Slowly down river - lanes I drift and float.

Wildness must be Zoom’s best antidote!

Now up the hill to Broomhill Cross - the sigh

Of soft wind breathing out relief. Trees toss

And branches dance abandoned, almost fly.

Even the grasses in the hedgerows seem

To laugh today. Tumbling pink and green

And gold under this great, wild unlocked sky!

Oct 6, 2020

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