Pantomimes and other theatrical performances
1887 saw an important addition to the Devon County Mental Hospital: the Recreation Hall (better known as the 'Ballroom'). The room had previously functioned as a Dining Hall, but the building of a stage, dressing rooms, and storage space for scenery converted it into a room that left many staff and patients with very fond memories. Besides the annual theatrical performances, the room was also used to host the Annual
Staff Balls, an occasion former staff recall as 'a fine affair [where] everyone would dress up'.
By far the most popular use of the Ballroom, however, was for the annual pantomimes. Every year, Hospital staff would put togehter and act out well-known plays with many a script written by Alec Mitchell.Plays include Cinderella, Aladdin, Sinbad the Sailor, Mother Goose, Babes in the Wood, Robinson Crusoe and many others. Amongst the regular cast were Val Gapper, Jess Gapper, Norman Chaplin, Barbara Dart, Pat Newns and, of course, Les Almond. Performances would take place at the Hospital for the patients to benefit as well as at Exminster Victory Hall for the local community to enjoy.