The woman who brought community plays to prominence in the early 1960s has died at the age of 90, shortly after her appearance at this year’s Bridport Page to Screen festival.

Tributes have been paid to Ann Jellico by Hilary Highet, co-chairman of The Town Mill Trust.

Ann Jellicoe, with her husband Roger Mayne, was a patron of The Town Mill Trust.

She was a prominent female voice in the generation dominated by “angry young men” who transformed British theatre in the late 1950s and early 1960s.

She trained as an actor at the Central School of Speech and Drama and came to national attention in 1958 when her first play, The Sport of My Mad Mother, won the Observer newspaper’s playwriting competition and was staged at London’s Royal Court Theatre.

She left London for Lyme Regis in 1975 with her photographer husband. and started what was to become a highly influential career in community theatre.

She wrote a play about the Monmouth rebellion,The Reckoning’ in 1978, for Woodroffe School, which was staged, with a cast of 80 amateurs and a few professionals, by the University of Exeter.

She founded the Colway Theatre Trust (now Claque Theatre) in Dorset in 1979, where she championed large-scale community plays, acting as playwright and director. She also commissioned leading figures such as David Edgar, Howard Barker, Fay Weldon and Charles Wood to write plays based on local stories and performed by large casts of local people.

The company’s first play, Edgar’s Entertaining Strangers, was also staged at the National Theatre in 1987, with Peter Hall directing a company led by Judi Dench and Tim Pigott-Smith.

Prior to her move to Dorset she had scored an international success with her play, The Knack (1962) which made a star of Rita Tushingham on stage and with Richard Lester’s1965 screen version, which won the Palme d’Or at Cannes. The play was also directed in New York by Mike Nichols.

She founded and directed the Cockpit theatre club to produce experiments on an open, Elizabethan-style stage, the first in London for 400 years.

David Edgar invited her to join his writers’ group. She continued writing and also translating, first Ibsen’s Rosmersholm, starring Peggy Ashcroft and Eric Porter in 1959, and then, in the West End in 1961, Ibsen’s The Lady from the Sea, starring Margaret Leighton, Vanessa Redgrave and John Neville.

Her 1964 translation of Chekhov’s The Seagull for the English Shakespeare Company at the Queen’s was an unforgettable occasion, starring Devine as Dorn, Ashcroft as Arkadina, Peter Finch as Trigorin, Redgrave as Nina, and Peter McEnery as Konstantin.

Paying tribute, collaborator and friend David Edgar said: “Ann challenged existing theatrical form with The Sport of My Mad Mother and invented a new one with her community plays.

“She could be a little grand – her husband Roger remarked that he was Tory in attitudes but radical in manner, while Ann was the reverse.

“But she was able to cajole writers, directors and designers to work for a pittance and to inspire thousands of ordinary people to do extraordinary things, and make great pieces of theatre thereby.

“She was a living demonstration of how theatre changes lives.”

Hilary Highest said: “The Town Mill Trust and volunteers would like to send their sincere condolences to Ann and Roger’s family and express gratitude for the interest they showed during their time as patrons of the Town Mill.”

It was in April that audiences in Bridport had a rare chance to hear Ann Jellicoe speak about her early years in theatre when she and her daughter Katkin Tremayne talked to arts centre director Laura Cockett about the beginnings of her extraordinary theatrical career.

She said: “I always loved to perform when I was young and really wanted to be an actress but I was considered just too plain to get the parts then - but that drove me on to find another way into theatre.”

She is best known in Lyme Regis, Bridport and Dorchester for her groundbreaking work from the 1970s till the 90s in Community Plays - a creative legacy that continues this year with the productions of Flea! at the Electric Palace and the Monmouth Community Play in Lyme Regis.