Coming soon: a spy thriller in May and a murder mystery in July. Scroll down for details.

Spy thriller is a Pack of Lies – and WADS truly wants your help 

WADS – Whitchurch’s community theatre – is staging a play based on a true story of English espionage and is looking for help, particularly with designing and building the set.

Pack of Lies is a 1983 play by English writer Hugh Whitemore based on the story of a couple and their teenage daughter whose neighbours are arrested for spying. WADS is putting it on in the Parish Hall on 19, 20, and 21 May and is planning quite an ambitious set and so is looking for people to help design and make it. WADS is always looking for new members – not just actors and set-builders, but anyone who wants to join in; directors, front of house, you name it. So, if you are interested, this is a chance to get involved early in a production. 

The original West End production of Pack of Lies starred Judi Dench and her husband, Michael Williams. Dench won the Laurence Olivier Award as Best Actress for her performance. The real-life teenage daughter on whom the play character was modelled was none other than Gay Search the television presenter best known for her work on the BBC television series Gardeners' World.

For more information about how you can get involved, email, telephone 01256 892514, or turn up to one of WADS’ club nights, held every Tuesday at 8pm in the Parish Hall, adjourning later to the Red House.

Jane Austen and the Vampyre Earl - a truth universally acknowledged to be stranger than fiction

Imagine the scene. You receive an invitation saying “The Hon. Newton Fellowes MP has the pleasure of inviting you to a Gala Dinner on Saturday 9 July 1816 at Whitchurch Silk Mill in aid of local good causes and the poor of the borough. Our guests of honour will be the Earl and Countess of Portsmouth of Hurstbourne Park and local authoress Miss Jane Austen.” You know that the peer in question is known locally as the Vampyre Earl, for his disturbing interest in death and decay and his unfortunate habit of biting the servants. Then you notice the following words, written in a shaky hand, which appear at the bottom of the invitation: “Terrible things will happen.” Odd, perhaps, but this is exactly the invitation that guests for Whitchurch Silk Mill’s latest fundraising venture will be receiving.

Jane Austen and the Vampyre Earl sounds a pretty implausible combination, too delicious a coming together to be true, perhaps. But in fact, The Third Earl of Portsmouth, who lived in Hurstbourne Park on the edge of Whitchurch in Hampshire, was known locally as the Vampyre Earl, and not only was he acquainted with Jane but he was taught by her father, The Reverend George Austen, vicar of nearby Steventon.

And now, Whitchurch resident and member of the town’s community theatre company WADS, Sue Washington, has written a murder mystery in aid of the town’s Silk Mill that brings Jane and the Earl together in a fantasy murder mystery that, as the poster says, “is more plausible than you might think.”

Jane Austen and the Vampyre Earl is set in 1816 and is in aid of Whitchurch Silk Mill’s Preserving the Fabric Bicentenary Appeal. The entertainment is being staged by Whitchurch’s own community theatre, WADS, and the evening starts with a drinks reception at the Mill followed by dinner at the Gill Nethercott Centre with the murder mystery unfolding throughout the evening. This is a once-only event and is sure to sell out quickly. It takes place on Saturday 9 July at 7pm and tickets cost £40 to include a drink on arrival, three-course meal, entry into a raffle to win a bottle of champagne, and the chance to solve the murder mystery. Guests are encouraged to “come in 1816 costume if you dare,” but 21st century evening dress is also permissible. For costume ideas follow this link and for costume hire follow this one.

While the events that take place in the murder mystery are fictional, the characters are based on real local residents who knew each other.

Tickets to Jane Austen and the Vampyre Earl are available online by clicking here (a booking fee will be added) or, if you don't want to pay the fee, by email to, at the Whitchurch Silk Mill shop, or by telephone on 01256 892514.

Why not join WADS?

We are always on the lookout for people to get involved - actors, directors, sound and lighting people, make-up people, set builders, wardrobe, front-of-house, etc. etc. All are welcome. Our club night is every Tuesday at Whitchurch Parish Hall from 8pm. Just turn up,  contact WADS at, or telephone 01256 89251. You can also follow WADS on Facebook and Twitter (@WADSweb).

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The photograph above of the cast of Julius Caesar appears by kind permission of Andy Stott, whose work can be viewed on his website,