This silk playbill produced by Ebley portable theatre highlights the important role played by district nurses in providing much needed care in a pre-NHS South Wales Coalfield when the risk of injury and death was ever present.

 

Performances were often given in aid of a local patron’s chosen charity thus promoting the Theatre owner as being of a charitable disposition. The patron would attend the opening night and be presented with a pure silk handbill advertising the current play.

 

The Ebley Theatre was a wooden shuttered structure with a canvas roof and collapsible, removable seats which was transported from town to town by horse drawn wagons. Ebley’s Theatre visited many parts of Wales including Dowlais (1883), Maesteg (1896) and Bridgend (1906), where the theatre was assembled in the market place, and Wrexham, Hay, Pontycymer, Senghenydd and Caerphilly. The whole family took part in the performances and the audience was treated to 3 hours of entertainment for threepence. The actors and actresses had other duties other than simply performing. The men had to assemble and dismantle the theatre, according to strict rules, in each location whilst the women repaired costumes and drapes. The theatre stayed in a town for between two and six months performing a different play every night. Those performing in the show stayed in local lodgings but Mr Ebley’s accommodation consisted of a sleeping van and living van which travelled with him. The vans were finished with figured glass, polished wood and brasswork and as the theatre was electric powered, a gas engine generator would also be towed along.

 

To perform in a town the Ebleys required a license from the local magistrates for which they needed supporting references regarding their moral character. The chapels often regarded the Portable Theatre as a bad influence and threatened members with excommunication if they attended a performance. (Edward) Ted Ebley, however, refused to put up with bad behaviour and it was reported in one performance that he left the stage to bang the heads of two brawlers together and then returned to his part in the play!

 

As with many theatres The First World War brought an end to Travelling Theatre. Ebley’s Olympic Theatre was in Aberkenfig at the outbreak of war and all the male members of the cast left to join the war. Edward (Ted) Ebley and his son were left to dismantle the Theatre alone. The Theatre was then towed to Cwmavon where it was rented to the Caerau Coliseum Company and opened as a cinema. In 1916 it closed and then reopened under the Ebley name. In 1927 the Olympic Cinema opened in Depot Road showing silent films and converted to sound in 1932. In 1970 it became The Olympic Bingo Hall and in 1980 Edward (Ted) Ebley sold the building. Thus ended a fascinating family link with a long gone form of entertainment.

 

To find out more about portable theatres see http://www.nfa.dept.shef.ac.uk/history/invited_articles/ebley.html

 

 

Mae’r poster sidan hwn a gynhyrchwyd gan gwmni theatr cludadwy Ebley yn amlygu’r rôl bwysig a chwaraeodd nyrsys ardal wrth ddarparu gofal yr oedd ei angen yn fawr ym meysydd glo de Cymru cyn y GIG, pan oedd y perygl o anafiadau a marwolaeth yn llechu’n dragwyddol.

 

Yn aml byddai perfformiadau’n cael eu rhoi er budd elusen a ddewiswyd gan noddwr lleol, a fyddai felly’n hyrwyddo perchennog y Theatr fel unigolyn hael. Byddai’r noddwr yn mynychu’r noson agoriadol a byddai hefyd yn derbyn rhaglen a wnaed allan o sidan bur am hysbysebu’r ddrama ddiweddaraf.

 

Strwythur dan gaeadau pren oedd Theatr Ebley ac roedd ganddi do cynfas a chadeiriau plygu cludadwy. Byddai’r theatr yn cael ei chludo o dref i dref gan wagenni a cheffyl.  Gwnaeth Theatr Ebley ymweld â llawer o rannau o Gymru gan gynnwys  Dowlais (1883), Maesteg (1896) a Phen-y-bont ar Ogwr (1906), lle cafodd y theatr ei hadeiladu yn y farchnad, ac yn Wrecsam, y Gelli, Pontycymer, Senghennydd a Chaerffili. Byddai’r teulu cyfan yn cymryd rhan yn y perfformiadau a byddai’r gynulleidfa’n mwynhau 3 awr o adloniant am 3 cheiniog. Yn ogystal â pherfformio, roedd gan yr actorion a’r actoresau ddyletswyddau eraill. Roedd yn rhaid i’r dynion adeiladu’r theatr a’i thynnu i lawr, gan ddilyn rheolau llym ym mhob lleoliad, tra byddai’r menywod yn trwsio gwisgoedd a gorchuddion. Byddai’r theatr yn aros mewn tref am rhwng dau a chwe mis yn perfformio drama wahanol bob nos. Byddai’r rhai a oedd yn perfformio yn y sioe yn aros mewn llety lleol ond roedd llety Mr Ebley yn cynnwys fan cysgu a fan byw a fyddai’n teithio gyda fe. Roedd y faniau wedi’u haddurno gyda gwydr patrymog, pren caboledig a gwaith pres a chan fod y theatr â chyflenwad trydan, byddai generadur injan nwy hefyd yn cael ei halio.

 

I berfformio mewn tref roedd angen trwydded gan yr ynadon lleol ar yr Ebleys ac er mwyn cael y drwydded hon, roedd angen tystlythyrau cefnogol arnynt ynghylch eu moesoldeb. Yn aml byddai’r capeli’n ystyried y Theatr Gludadwy yn ddylanwad drwg ac felly byddent yn bygwth esgymuno aelodau pe baent yn mynychu perfformiad. Fodd bynnag, gwrthododd (Edward) Ted Ebley, ddygymod ag ymddygiad drwg a chafwyd adroddiad iddo adael y llwyfan yn ystod un perfformiad i guro pennau dau ymladdwr yn erbyn ei gilydd ac yna gwrthododd ddychwelyd i’w ran yn y sioe!

 

Yn yr un modd â llawer o theatrau, daeth y Theatr Deithiol i ben o ganlyniad i’r Rhyfel Byd Cyntaf. Roedd Theatr Olympaidd Ebley yn Abercynffig pan gychwynnodd y rhyfel a gadawodd yr holl ddynion a oedd yn actio yn y theatr er mwyn ymuno â’r rhyfel. Gadawyd Edward (Ted) Ebley a’i fab i dynnu’r theatr i lawr ar eu pennau eu hunain. Yna haliwyd y Theatr i Gwmafon lle cafodd ei rhentu i Gwmni Colisëwm Caerau a’i hagor fel sinema. Yn 1916 fe’i caewyd cyn cael ei hailagor dan enw Ebley. Yn 1927 agorodd y Sinema Olympaidd yn Ffordd Depot lle dangosid ffilmiau mud ac yna newidiodd i ddangos ffilmiau sain yn 1932. Yn 1970 daeth yn Neuadd Fingo Olympaidd ac yn 1980 gwnaeth Edward (Ted) Ebley werthu’r adeilad. Gyda hynny daeth cysylltiad teuluol hudol â hen fath o adloniant i ben.

 

Am ragor o wybodaeth ynghylch theatrau cludadwy, gweler http://www.nfa.dept.shef.ac.uk/history/invited_articles/ebley.html

April 21st, 2015

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