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A series of plays by David McGillvray and Walter Zerlin Jnr concerning the fictional Farndale Avenue Housing Estate Townswomen's Guild Dramatic Society. Each is supposedly a production by the Society of a famous public domain work (such as Macbeth or The Mikado) or a tropetastic example of a popular genre (such as B-movie science fiction, detective drama, or French farce), filtered through the ladies' unique blend of misplaced enthusiasm, ego, inappropriate casting, and bad bad acting.

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Various members of the Dramatic Society appear in multiple productions, each time playing a different role. They include Mrs Reece, the president of the Society; Thelma, a quick-tempered prima donna who always insists on playing The Ingenue; Felicity, a nervous young woman often cast as confident larger-than-life characters; and Flora, elderly and scatter-witted.

The first of the series, The Farndale Avenue Housing Estate Townswomen's Guild Dramatic Society's Production of Macbeth, debuted at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in 1976.


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This series contains examples of:

  • Bad “Bad Acting”: Ronnie, in the role of Ko-Ko in The Farndale Avenue Housing Estate Townswomen's Guild Operatic Society's Production of The Mikado, recites all her lines in a monotone and is prone to Reading the Stage Directions Out Loud.
  • Breaking the Fourth Wall: The ladies frequently break character and the fourth wall to initiate Audience Participation, to apologize for how badly things are going, or just to wave to people they know. (The real fourth wall remains intact, though, with no acknowledgment that the ladies themselves are as fictional as the characters they're portraying.)
  • Chess Motifs: Used to an exaggerated extent in The Farndale Avenue Housing Estate Townswomen's Guild Dramatic Society Murder Mystery, where the remote country house is named Checkmate Manor, home of the Bishop family, their cousins the Kings and the Rooks, and the butler Pawn and maid Regine.
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  • Comically Missing the Point: It's not a proper FAHETGDS production unless part of the audience departs hurriedly during the first act, but no matter how many times it happens, Mrs Reece continues to regard them as isolated incidents and never realizes that they're fleeing the performance.
    Vicar: And would you believe it? They all had trouble with their baby-sitters.
    Mrs Reece: They must have been upset.
    Vicar: They didn't look too chipper.
  • Corpsing: Scripted (but spontaneous in-universe) examples occur in some places.
    • In The Farndale Avenue Housing Estate Townswomen's Guild Operatic Society's Production of The Mikado when Peep-Bo comes in too early with a punchline and then keeps jumping in with it until the right moment for it arrives, she has increasing trouble keeping a straight face.
    • In The Farndale Avenue Housing Estate Townswomen's Guild Dramatic Society Murder Mystery, the actors playing Inspector O'Reilly and Lady Doreen have trouble keeping straight faces when Lady Doreen is required to wax eloquent over a glass of sherry that is quite obviously actually just orange juice, and then lose it entirely when Lady Doreen puts the glass down on a table and the table collapses.
  • Crosscast Role:
    • Many examples of ladies playing male characters.
    • The Farndale Avenue Housing Estate Townswomen's Guild Operatic Society's Production of The Mikado begins with an announcement that the actress playing Pitti-Sing has become unavailable at short notice, so for one night only the role will be played by The Vicar.
  • Evil Twin: A plot point in The Haunted Through-Lounge and Recessed Dining Nook at Farndale Castle. The climax is a version of the ending where the twins fight to the death and it's not immediately apparent which one survived.
  • Her Code Name Was "Mary Sue": At the end of The Farndale Avenue Housing Estate Townswomen's Guild Dramatic Society Murder Mystery, Mrs Reece has to write a new ending to the play after an emergency renders a key cast member unavailable. She takes the opportunity to give all the other characters lines remarking on how young and beautiful her character is.
  • How We Got Here: The Haunted Through-Lounge and Recessed Dining Nook at Farndale Castle has a meta example, as the curtain comes up to reveal the cast still rehearsing the final scene. They break off and go backstage to get into their opening costumes before revealing the actual ending, so the effect is that the audience sees a moment near the end, then everything leading up to it, and then finally the actual ending.
  • Inheritance Murder: The Farndale Avenue Housing Estate Townswomen's Guild Dramatic Society Murder Mystery revolves around the various family members being killed off one by one to secure an inheritance.
  • Last-Name Basis: Mrs Reece, the president of the Dramatic Society, is always referred to as such, where all the other characters are referred to by their first names.
  • Long Title:
    • Many of the plays have titles of the form The Farndale Avenue Housing Estate Townswomen's Guild Dramatic Society's Production of [work being massacred].
    • They Came From Mars and Landed Outside the Farndale Avenue Church Hall in Time for the Townswomen's Guild's Coffee Morning.
  • Madwoman in the Attic: In The Haunted Through-Lounge and Recessed Dining Nook at Farndale Castle, there's a sinister figure lurking around who's escaped after being locked in the cellar for sixteen years by her sister. It turns out that she's the good twin, and her Evil Twin sister locked her up to steal her inheritance.
  • Malaproper: Lottie Grosskopf in The Haunted Through-Lounge and Recessed Dining Nook at Farndale Castle is recently arrived from Austria and her grasp of English vocabulary and idiom slips from time to time.
  • Name That Unfolds Like Lotus Blossom: In The Haunted Through-Lounge and Recessed Dining Nook at Farndale Castle, the medium at the seance has an Indian spirit guide named Big Chief Running Water Softener.
  • Old, Dark House:
    • Checkmate Manor, the setting of the whodunnit in The Farndale Avenue Housing Estate Townswomen's Guild Dramatic Society Murder Mystery.
    • In The Haunted Through-Lounge and Recessed Dining Nook at Farndale Castle, a young couple whose car breaks down are forced to spend the night in Farndale Castle, with the secret passages and sinister occupants.
  • Once per Episode:
    • Mrs Reece walks on stage, realizes she's left a prop behind, and gestures into the wings for a stagehand to pass it out to her. The stagehand gives her an accordion.
    • At the end of the interval, Mrs Reece leads a competition with audience interaction.
    • Mrs Reece remarks that she noticed audience members leaving hurriedly/muttering that they can't take any more, without realising that they're reacting to how bad the production is.
  • The Prima Donna: The young ingenue/romantic lead role in each production is played by the middle-aged prima donna Thelma, who frequently clashes with the other performers. In The Farndale Avenue Housing Estate Townswomen's Guild Operatic Society's Production of The Mikado, she brings the entire show to a halt at one point because she believes she's been insulted, only agreeing to go on after Mrs Reece mollifies her by promising her the title role in an upcoming production of Lolita.
  • Reading the Stage Directions Out Loud:
    • Ronnie, in the role of Ko-Ko in The Farndale Avenue Housing Estate Townswomen's Guild Operatic Society's Production of The Mikado.
      Ko-Ko: I can't kill you. I can't kill anybody. Weeps.
    • Felicity, in the role of Pawn in The Farndale Avenue Housing Estate Townswomen's Guild Dramatic Society Murder Mystery.
      Doreen: A black bishop is missing from the board.
      Pawn: Snort. Well, there is nothing we can do to solve this mystery.
  • Running Gag:
    • In many of the shows, the ladies have added or changed details to make them more domestic or familiar, resulting in characters swapping recipes or makeup advice in completely inappropriate circumstances. In The Haunted Through-Lounge and Recessed Dining Nook at Farndale Castle, the title of which is itself an example, there's a dramatic scene in which a lawyer tells the heroine about her family's dark past alternating with a series of tips about effective moisturising.
    • The Haunted Through-Lounge and Recessed Dining Nook at Farndale Castle also has a running gag in which the line "I am June and this is my fiancée Marty", which comes up every time June and Marty meet a new character, is always spoken by the actor playing Marty.
    • The Farndale Avenue Housing Estate Townswomen's Guild Dramatic Society Murder Mystery has a series of characters arriving at the manor house for a family reunion, each carrying what is clearly the same pair of prop suitcases.
  • The Show Must Go Wrong: Central to the premise. Actors miss cues, skip pages, and lose props, scenery falls apart, and still the show must go on.
  • Show Within a Show: The version where the two shows are co-extensive, and the audience is treated as if they've come to see a real performance of the fictional production.
  • That Russian Squat Dance: The Farndale Avenue Housing Estate Townswomen's Guild Operatic Society's Production of The Mikado includes a musical number that cycles rapidly through several national styles, in which the Russian segment features a group of ladies performing the Russian squat dance with the aid of chairs the same color as the backdrop.
  • Theme Naming:
    • The Farndale Avenue Housing Estate Townswomen's Guild Dramatic Society Murder Mystery features the Bishop family, their cousins the Kings and the Rooks, and the butler Pawn and maid Regine.
    • The Haunted Through-Lounge and Recessed Dining Nook at Farndale Castle, the B-Movie Horror parody, has characters named Graves, Slaughter, Death, Blood, Tombs, and Crematia.
  • The Vicar:
    • The affable but woolly-minded Reverend Bishop, who gets roped into The Farndale Avenue Housing Estate Townswomen's Guild Operatic Society's Production of The Mikado.
    • One of the indignities perpetrated upon the script that becomes They Came From Mars and Landed Outside the Farndale Avenue Church Hall in Time for the Townswomen's Guild's Coffee Morning is that the heroic scientist character is rewritten as a vicar to make him more relatable to the audience.

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