X Y T
Memories of The Young Theatre
Richard Attlee (Harwood) Rachel Bradley (Day) Russell Brownbill Sian Case Nigel Davies Karen Davies (Beazley) Dave Farey Jane Fryers Tim Gray Tim Hill James Lipscombe Felicity Norrie (Wiseman) Tim Orlik Cameron Gower Poole Penny Robertson (Harwood) Jo Roundell-Greene (Harwood) Alec Siddall Gabby Vautier Rick Warden
In some ways I feel like a relative latecomer to YT. I didn’t join until the inaugural meeting of the Beaconsfield Group a mere forty-odd years ago! My joining was thanks to my best mate and desk-neighbour at school, Nigel Davies who persuaded me to tag along to what sounded like a family commitment: he was having his arm twisted! There was going to be a shortage of boys, we had to help 'make up the numbers' and it'll be fun. Let's be honest: it was something to do on a Sunday afternoon in Beaconsfield and there would be teenage girls there. Plus, it would be roughly half-way between our homes. You would think that we would be happy rolling up, even as two versus many. But no, it was terrifying and I know now why Nigs asked me along.
It was a group which did what?
Acting? No. That wasn't for me. I was a BOY after all and I didn't do soppy acting. No. I wanted only to sit at the door taking everyone's weekly shilling and work backstage: pushing buttons and working with tools seemed a much more boy-thing to do. Everything apart from backstage was ticked “not at all interested” on one of 'those' forms. Until Ian intervened. He trusted me with the male lead in the first Beaconsfield show, The Sea King's Daughter. Okay, I'll be an actor then, just to help out and in view of the lack of choice. Sitting on the door taking everone's subs naturally progressed into me being elected Treasurer at the first AGM.
I realise now that I spoke the first words of the first Beaconsfield YT show. I am glad I didn't realise their momentous nature at the time because we were nervous enough. Ian directed and had the three of us - Susan Blott, Deborah Pugsley and me - starting the show not only sitting (hiding) in the audience, but waiting for the lights to dim before making a scene from row P into the aisle. Me as Peter said “Come on … this way … don't be afraid … I'll do all the talking”. At this point my real brother (older, not a member) spun round in his aisle seat and later said he nearly told me to shut up. I guess that was the effect Ian was after and it felt great. Acting opposite Ian appearing as William Shakespeare with full doublet, hose and ageing make-up (he needed it then!) must have garnered the right reaction as Ian saved the full monty for the first show and I seemed to stand staring at him with my mouth open for ages.
I was lucky to be cast next in Hiss the Villain as Silas Snaker the rascally banker. A victorian melodrama with Nigel Davies playing my clerk, Bowler, it was directed by the lovely Michael Wiseman. I hope it wasn't really prophetic but; oh, wait! a few years later I was working in the (not yet) evil world of banking. “Fortune favours the brave, an hour ago I was a bankrupt” would today be followed by something about a taxpayer bailout rather than “Every effort to retreive my fortune has plunged me into utter ruin!”. It was Bowler's fault: no bonus for him!
We had some fun with Hiss. Going on a pub crawl after the first show in full make-up and costume to try and flog some tickets. It was okay: we drank only brown ale at 15 and I don't remember getting past the Greyhound: the weather was showery and we didn't want to ruin the costumes. Actor's tip: always be careful of that fag ash.
Having made lots of new friends at YT (mostly girls!) we all went off to the Beaconsfield Charter Fair which was all new to me. Penny (then Harwood) introduced us all to her schoolfriend Ally who was to become a member of YT, my wife, and an Artistic Director.
Some of my favourite YT memories are not just the shows, or Sunday meetings, or even the after-show parties or the twiglet-powered committee meetings (and being driven to them in Aviva's Triumph Vitesse or Ian's automatic Mini Traveller). I cannot forget camping out in the Curzon Centre when it had a huge tin hut in place of everthing which isn't the main hall. It was about as secure as a wet paper bag so David Owen would let us camp in the main hall with airbeds and sleeping bags to safeguard the equipment. We must have been bored one freezing night when someone lit a 'bonfire' in an empty paint tin (health and safety!) and we circled our beds telling stories about local mad axe-men and generally trying to frighten the younger members. Passing police saw the flickering light at 3am and banged on the windowed fire exit doors. I was half asleep and thought the zombie apocalypse had come.
One set build--or was it a strike?-- happened to coincide with the Grand National. Red Rum was running again and was bound to win. I was delegated to go to the bookies. It did win. Happiest crew ever. The Curzon Centre's old TV room reverberated with much joy.
So that's covered my YT memories of smoking, drinking, gambling and womanising (not all condoned by the group, obviously) but I am certain that The Young Theatre helped me in ways that being at an all-boys' school with male teachers cannot. I had moved to Seer Green from Twickenham only a few months before the inaugural meeting so even in the short-term YT helped me find new friends quickly and substituted for the Sunday visits to the ice rink and the rowing I had moved away from.
My active involvement with YT came and went and my banking career eventually turned towards training so I was able to draw on a wealth of acting techniques in order to help train people: from providing great service to appraising business lending propositions. A 'role play' on a training workshop is not much different to the way we were improvising on the earliest Sundays at YT. I facilitated innumerable meetings, workshops, presentations. Even a bit of navel gazing when I was asked to train trainers. Voice is one of the key skills we trainers use, so the tips, tricks and techniques I had learnt at YT served me well. With apprentice trainers I would use what Aviva Wiseman pulled on me when she was directing They Came to a City: She put out her hand “May I see your script?” I passed it to her. “Yes. It's just like mine: there are gaps between the words, may we hear them please?”
By the time I had left an active YT role for the last time, I think I had, at one time or another, performed every function imaginable for a production. Whether designing posters, applying Mark Britton's make-up for Badger in Toad, designing, installing and operating lights, sound and even making some daft video 'CGI' clips for Dazzle which looked like snooker balls rather than stars; the only production job I had never done was costume but that was soon remedied when I joined Mark Oldknow, Jonathan Fowke and Karen Ogborne in their fledgling theatre company Tight Fit Theatre which Mark and I took forward to produce many shows in the Wycombe Swan Town Hall where we were the resident company for many years. I certainly wouldn't have taken on the role of a theatre company producer without the years of YT behind me.
Even today, writing this, editing everyone's contributions, and marking it all up for the web I am reminded of other skills YT helped me develop because if there is one thing YT reinforces, it is that there is always something new to learn. Whether it is understanding The Crucible's political nature or how to operate and service a Junior Eight dimmer without finding myself on my back in the middle of the stage after an electric shock (What? Where am I? Oh, should I not leave the fuses exposed?!). When I was putting my first YT file onto the world wide web in 1996, then building YT's first ever web site and now with Ian's input, looking after this YTArchive web behemoth of 4,438 files in 389MiB. I'm now fluent in HTML, PHP, CSS and all the other things you learn as a webmaster who started before there were such things as web authoring tools (use notepad!) or content management systems. And to think, I remember preparing many YT newsletters in the early days: cutting a stencil for David Owen's Banda machine; hammering away on a manual typewriter and having to use nail varnish to fix any typos.
There are some YT memories which still make me smile as we laughed a lot at the time. Most involve John Varah and I'm not referring to him performing A Level dissections during a performance (backstage, on the back of a flat, not as part of the action) but to the times he would dress up as Queen Victoria or a Russian peasant woman and then there was the night camping in the Curzon when he introduced us to his friend Ruth. You had to be there…
I joined Young Theatre as a result of my older brother marrying Veronica Wiseman which led to her mum, Aviva, ‘persuading’ me to come to the first inaugural meeting. I was a very shy young man in those days, still am a bit really, but although I was terrified at first I talked my best mate at the time, Tim Hill, into coming with me for support and ended up staying for some years.
Hiss the Villain (the first performance), two incidents: Silas, played by Tim had the line “he bites his lips and bangs his head” but he managed to deliver it as “he bangs his lips and bites his head” which successfully encouraged a fair bit of audience participation (see Keith Harwood later below); the bottle of beer ‘meager provender’ that was knocked over and proceeded to spin round and round downstage spraying its contents (water) liberally over the front row.
Keith and Lady Felicity Harwood: I recall always making sure that Keith Harwood wasn’t on holiday if we were planning a melodrama evening as his witty, ‘rambunctious’ audience heckling and interventions used to make the whole performance gain extra lift. What I suppose added to the fun was dear Lady Felicity trying not to look too embarrassed. I have many fond memories of Keith and Lady Felicity - wonderful characters!
This brings me to their son, little ‘Ricky’ Harwood who when playing Toad received a blood producing crack on the head from a wooden sword during the weasels’ and stoats’ fight (set to the William Tell overture, slightly butchered, at my request, by the brilliant sound engineer Jim Webb). I recall dashing out of the auditorium, through the Curzon Centre kitchen in an effort to get to him to see if he was able to continue. I never got there as a certain Morwen Case resolutely blocked my path and told me ‘all was under control and they didn’t need my help’. She was, of course right, and Ricky carried on with a blood stained head. I think in the early days the lower age limit for membership was 9 years old, but I recall whenever we were at Westside, Ricky (who was not yet 9) would creep through the hedge from next door and try to get involved somehow. He was a very good actor and one that I thought would make it professionally. I recall he had a small part in a 1980 TV series with John Duttine, ‘To serve them all my days’.
Maria Marten: There was a performance of this on an outdoor stage one night at my parents house, Magpie Lodge, in what was called the ‘top paddock‘. I think it was probably a fund raising bar-b-q and I recall having to lay yards and yards of cable from the house to the stage, about 600 yards, in order to rig up some lights. The voltage loss was so great that I think we ended up with type 23(?) spots putting out about 200 watts! Cannot remember the cast but I think Penny would have played Maria and the villain (was it Tim Hill? [not me, but I do remember having to line up three cars' headlights in the paddock so we could see! -ed])
Mark Britton: many memories of smuggling Mark out of his house, without his mum noticing he was gone, so that he could attend the occasional ad-hoc rehearsal or social. His Dad was always pretty good and often colluded in the escape.
Pilgrim 76: Trying to operate the complex lighting changes from the back of the Curzon Centre with a number of hired in dimmers from SAVE and four (I think Joe, Nigel, John and myself) of us desperately trying not to get in each others way and never getting it perfect!
Sunday afternoons at the old Burnham Hall, long since gone, with its severely raked and dangerously splintered wooden stage … The attraction of being able to learn a wide range of theatre skills, not just acting. In particular I recall a lighting workshop run by John Treays [of the BBC] … The big annual productions were then, as now, exceptional quality for a voluntary local ‘youth group‘ … The first production was The Sea King‘s Daughter 1971. There were one or two people from my school in it — Nicola Froome, Jane Treays — and new friends such as David Blott, the son of a colleague of my mother’s. I recall the delight of a pretty costume and the embarrassment of a fairly naff script, but it was the start of Young Theatre‘s half-century … The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe: I’d always loved this story, and enjoyed playing Susan more than almost any role. But it wasn‘t totally a happy experience; one member of the cast had real difficulty learning lines, so we were all on tenterhooks much of the time. I can still recall the itchy sweater I had to wear in the first act.
The Cloak was a three-handed one act play, in which Jane Treays and I were the main protagonists. We performed it, as I recall, at Burnham Hall and at a couple of festivals, and did pretty well. I can visualise the cloak now, but not remember the storyline. What I do recall is that it stretched our acting muscles more than the big annual productions, and I realised how much I enjoyed the rehearsal process, as one develops with other cast members a common understanding of a play‘s lifeblood. Before that, there had been a project in which four sub-groups were tasked to write and present a short play for a competitive evening. I was lucky to be allotted a talented group of members — and we duly won which I thought was the object of the exercise. But I can remember being very miffed that I was criticised for being insufficiently ambitious!
In 1974 I assisted Ian with Alice Through The Looking Glass. I still cite his vision of how to show the chess moves as a brilliant bit of set design. The chessboard was painted on the stage with exaggerated perspective. The 4-6 foot high pieces were cut from hardboard and moved by a hidden member of the cast. The genius was to paint the outline of the piece on each in UV paint, finishing a few inches above the floor. UV lamps were then new to many of us (yes, really!) and when the stage was lit only by their rays, the pieces appeared to float to their new positions in response to a disembodied voice calling the moves. Ever since then, I’ve loved stage effects that are not technically complicated or expensive, but cleverly imagined and executed. And it was fun to do!
The Deserted House, directed by my brother Martin, was the final play I did with YT before going to university. I recall being terrified on the first night, knowing that we were under-rehearsed. All good practice for real life, where rehearsal time is often not on the agenda.
I cannot believe that it is 50 years since YT started. It was so much a part of my teenage years.
YT memories … Lady Precious Stream, doing the makeup for LWW and of course Alice. I also spent a lot of time making refreshments and being rather naughty. I also remember Nigel and Tim leaving me at the Old School, in the Old Town for hours. We were painting flats and they said they needed more paint. I think they went off to the pub as I sat for hours watching the snow coming in through the roof, until they eventually appeared without the paint.
I also know that my mother had to do many a Sunday lunch washing up alone as we all fled at 2.00pm to be at YT for 2.15pm.
There is no doubt that Young Theatre took up a great deal of our time and gave us many friends. It was a wonderful thing to do as you could do so many different things not just acting. Not my thing !
My memories of YT are of appearing in The Deserted House and also Lion when I revelled in the role of the White Witch. My favourite moment was stabbing Aslan and then with a flourish of the knife flicking “blood” over the orchestra. I absolutely loved it and have you to thank Ian for bringing out the best in me. It definitely inspired me and played a part in my going on to study Dramatherapy.
I have many happy memories of Young Theatre but probably the most prominent one was being hit over the head (by accident) with a wooden sword by one Tony Barker during the final chaotic fight scene in a production of Toad of Toad Hall in 1977. Tony had been type-cast as Chief Weasel and I was a very small Toad. At the point of impact my lovingly made green hood became a blood red one and I became decidedly light-headed. However, somehow, with the aid of assorted woodland folk, led by the indomitable Badger Britton, we made it to the end of the show. And, in spite of that unprovoked assault, I am still in touch with the infamous Mr Barker who is happily married with three children and living in Sweden.
[ICYMI Rick can be heard regularly on Radio 4 as Kenton in The Archers -ed]
I squealed with delight when I found Tim's website and the Facebook page and all the old photos. It brought back so many happy memories and (Ian) you're the person who put the energy into it all in 1964, so a huge thank you!
I grew up to teach English and Drama for 4 years, then left teaching for boring stuff like HR but before I became a parent, generated a few one-off productions for local children outside school drama. I even directed Ernie's Incredible Illucinations once.
Part of the motivation for giving my time then was to recognise all the hours [Ian] gave us to discover the magic of theatre. How many youngsters over the years have been switched on to theatrecraft?
My first memory of YT was in 1973 the first day I came along to Burnham Hall with Gillian Howell, who was my neighbour. She was playing Kathy in Deserted House. I thought I was just going to watch the rehearsal, but after about 10 minutes I was given my first job. Three metal chairs were being used as the bed Kathy has to lie on and they kept sliding apart as she lay down. In the absence of any string I was asked to hold the chairs together. And I never looked back!
I loved YT and had some fun roles … I played Sweebee the princess in The Beeple, in which some over-zealous acting caused my antennae to fall off the stage and the copydex which held the furry cheek patches on played havoc with my skin. I learnt sword-fighting as Chief Ferret in Toad of Toad Hall and I think the swishing long dress I wore playing Lady Philippa in a play whose title I've forgotten [Good Blood, Bad Blood?], started my love of vintage clothes, but I'm not sure that my acting was up to much. I was really pleased when Ian suggested I took the role of Production Assistant, although it was a constant battle to stop him smoking on set and some of my tasks, including constantly rounding up seven dwarfs, one of whom seemed to have acquired a bottle of whisky on the first night, were particularly thankless !
I suppose anything that happened at an after show party can't be printed!
What sticks out most is my sister's ad-libbing! Notably the occasional one during Charlie and the Chocolate Factory -we made her do a few extra circuits of the audience on thje last night before opening the tabs again for her and the entire third act of Blithe Spirit....glad that was a static set!
No photos! I'm a techie and like to be in the dark!
It might not be surprising but my most vivid memories of BYT are of productions, of being on stage doing work I believed was important as well as fun. My first production was Snow Queen and there was hilarious banter between us guards. They were all mates from their time in the group and I was the new kid so got the mickey taken out of me a bit. But as I remember it, once they'd realised I had a sense of humour I got to join in their games too. I'm sure on one occasion they’d all secretly rehearsed some kind of little dance or formal set of moves, and intentionally kept me out of the loop…leaving me stranded on stage the b#ggers!
I remember being immersed in the music of United We Stand and knitting a scarf was part of the rehearsal process! Red and white squares - I think I've still got it somewhere! And Dracula Spectacula was a blast too, I got to play the handsome hero for the first and only time in a 30 year career!
I made good friends in the group, chiefly with Ryan Whitney, and he was part of my lasting memory on stage with the BYT. I have a feeling the play we were in (called Stereotypes) won an awards. We performed it regionally, on tour if you like, and it certainly began with a great montage (I think Mark Britton directed it) set to David Bowie's Modern Love - I've never forgotten the feeling that actually even young people, students no less, could pull off something live that was genuinely worth watching. I carried that feeling with me into student drama at Cambridge. BYT was fun, no question, but to my mind drama was treated more seriously there than in the other local groups I'd been involved with. In fact it was the first time I can remember feeling properly directed, even drilled, to make stuff work. There was discipline involved in this play performing lark - who'd have though it! BYT was just what I'd been looking for and I'm grateful for my time there.
As a teenager I was lucky enough to be a member of The Young Theatre at Beaconsfield and it was there that I first discovered the play Winners by Brian Friel.
During my formative years I had done very little acting and Joe in this production was the first real part I had ever been given. The play was entered into several local drama festivals and we were very successful, winning multiple awards. It was at this moment in my life that I realised acting was my passion and the career I wanted to pursue.
As a direct result of this experience I changed my A level choices and eventually went on to study drama at university. Since then this has led to me becoming artistic director of Troublemaker Theatre Company where I work with young people to inspire them in the same way I was inspired. I now run my own youth theatre group at Norden Farm Centre for the Arts in Maidenhead and run workshops across the country.
Had it not been for this play, Kathy my director and The Young Theatre I would never have discovered a hobby which I am lucky enough to now do as a job.
I was involved with the Young Theatre back in 1995 for a relatively brief period, but to me it was a vital lifeline. I had been bullied for years during school, and joining this group gave me a passion for theatre and the confidence to focus on developing both myself, and a career in the arts.
I really don't think I would have had the courage or guidance to fight for the dream to work in the industry had I not been inspired by the young people and older members I met here. So thank you! God knows where I would be now … perhaps richer and with more social life, but surely less contented … ha ha!
Lots of my memories of YT were being utterly overwhelmed and excited at how confident and cool everyone was and desperately adjusting my personality to try to pretend I was confident too, attending many a post show party and drinking far too many sweet alcoholic beverages and being utterly obsessed with ALL boys! But I'm not sure that's what you are going for! … So …
I do have a vivid memory of sitting on an armchair covered in plastic bags as Laurence Markham‘s dad dyed my hair jet black for my first ever big role as Snow White (I'd got the role second hand but hey, it was a start and my mum was no less proud!)
Also the production of The Crucible has always stuck with me as there was such a sense of excitement around the production and watching the older and very brilliant actors was a real inspiration for me.
I spent twenty minutes browsing through the old photos, reminiscing about the great shows I was privileged to be a part of and the wonderful, dedicated people with whom I worked on them. Although my own contribution towards the success of YT was small and short-lived, I still to this day remember that particular period of life with huge fondness and happiness. It has taken me the best part of twenty years to find employment in an atmosphere where the comraderie and spirit of cooperation I enjoyed as a teenager every Sunday afternoon is the norm; I'm pleased to say that I have now found it, albeit not in the theatrical world. In my personal experience that ethos in anything other than corporate spiel is extremely rare and is a testament to all YT members, past and present.
Sweeney Todd was my first show, in which I may have had a single line. I forget how I came to be involved at all, but what is certain is that the whole experience so gripped me that I couldn’t wait until the weekend, the next show, the next after-show party …
The anniversary performance of The Crucible in which former members rekindled their love for the Curzon Centre stage, was perhaps the single greatest experience I had as a YT member. I remember in preparation for my eventual role as stage manager, reading the play for the first time (the same copy still sits on my bookshelf and gets the occasional outing!) and initially thinking we had perhaps bitten off more than we could chew! Thankfully I was of course wrong and with hindsight should never have been in any doubt; the show was a great success, in particular I recall that the atmosphere in the audience was palpable. I'd never known anything like it; to be a part of a group with the ability to almost mesmerize an audience with our combined efforts was strangely powerful and intoxicating.
I first joined the Young Theatre (at Beaconsfield) when I was about 14, and auditioned for the upcoming production of The Cagebirds directed by Carla Quelch. I think I was cast as the Constant Twitting but had to pull out due to some clash. I later returned to the cast as the Medicated Gloom for some fundraiser held at the Defence School of Languages, which seems sinister now I look back. The ubiquitous Mark Oldknow gave a fabulously histrionic rendition of Tom Lehrer's The Masochism Tango, a song I used years later for drama school auditions.
After performing it for East 15's then head of music, Colin Sell (CLANG — sorry, I think I might have just dropped that name?) I was ushered onto the three-year acting course. I thought this excessive as I'd already done three years of auditioning. In any case, as a survivor of three years' full-time relentless personal criticism and pretending to be animals, I can now be counted among the ranks of former YT members that have gone pro.I am also now an active member of Equity, where I sit on the South and South East London branch committee, and have been a delegate to the union's annual representative conference.
My first committee experience was with the Young Theatre, naturally. I joined the committee as secretary, replacing Phil Macken in 2002. In later years I rose to be marketing manager. My inside hand on the group’s workings allowed me to rig a series of awards votes, so that by 2005 I had a Sheila Anderson Award, Burnham Trophy, Theatrical Achievement Cup and Best Actor Award to my name, not to mention two papal knighthoods and the Order of Lenin!
The Burnham Trophy was awarded for Commeducation, which I wrote and directed for that year's “isolation” theme. I also crewed it at a number of local theatre festivals. I never had the opportunity to perform at the festivals, although I was in the original cast of YT's Ball Boys. Regrettably there was a clash with a prior commitment, and James Cooke stepped into Rupert's trainers, playing opposite Pete Sharman. Probably for the best, as it did then win the British Final Theatre Festival.
My younger brother Mike played the lead in Commeducation, and I also had the pleasure of working with him on Once a Catholic, directed by the late Cindy Linley. He had to attend an urgent appointment with a man about a dog quite late one interval. I think it was Harriet Abbott who was stuck on alone, and brilliantly extemporised a scenario directing the absent Mike to an imagined biscuit tin off left. Mike eventually trudged on, and had no idea what biscuits Harriet was talking about, which was even funnier. I have no doubt he will be delighted I am repeating all this.
I waved farewell to Maxwell Road with Helen Sharman's production of The Importance of Being Earnest. I finally got to actually perform opposite Pete. My enduring memory is the heartbreaking finale. We set the show in wartime Britain, and at the curtain call Earnest (Pete) and Algernon (myself) saluted and marched off as poppies fell and our partners (Jess Templeton and Lucy Gillam) danced on alone. Many of my best friends at YT were on that production.
For a few years the Curzon Centre, and the people who pitched up there every Sunday, were my home away from home. I am pleased the group is still going strong.
I still remember with great fondness my time at Young Theatre Beaconsfield. Ian created a really remarkable atmosphere and theatre company. It certainly gave me something to do, and experiences to learn from, which I much enjoyed. Not involved in the theatre now (well, let's be honest my acting certainly was not my strong point!). A BIG thank you to [Ian] - for all your work, advice, patience and tolerance - how you stayed sane as production deadlines approached - I will never know - but it was worth it for sure.
YT @ Beaconsfield member 1980-1990
50 years !!!!! wow.
My 10 years at TYTAB were FANTASTIC and gave me the confidence and drive to take on many challenges in later life and I still love the buzz of performing in front of hundreds of people albeit in the Corporate World (without tights)
First Show - Snow White acting alongside Aviva Wiseman as one of the children.
Many small roles in one act plays followed, where my confidence was drawn out by Mark Britton the then Group Director.
Here We Go in 1983 was a great show with the musical talents of Scarlet & Lace to carry the show along… The setting was a youth theatre putting on a show (a show within a show). My acting role was as one of the 'Backstage Boys'. 'Standout' performance was definitely Jackie Phipps singing On Richmond Station.
These were very happy days (Sunday was the best day of the week) my first major role was as Caspar the Accountant in Pied Piper in 1984. Possessing a near perfect long term memory I still remember some of my lines - “The coffers are in extremely good health at present Burghermaster, however I might humbly add an exodus of this number may prove detrimental in the long run!” The experience I gained acting alongside Mark Oldknow, Ian Wagge, Patrick Duffy et al was fantastic!
I have an indelible image of Royston and Liz as the double act Noris and Boris - what fun!
Michael Wicherek wrote the afore-mentioned Pied Piper and I had the privilege of working alongside him on Look Back In Anger by John Osborne. This was a very well polished production with numerous rehearsals at the Old Rectory in the Old Town. Mike then wrote and directed the thought provoking 'Wrecked' which was one of the most unusual sets I have ever built! The set comprised a floating raft of domestic appliances and household waste!!! Again my ridiculous memory allows me to recall a short poem from the play -
My friend the sea
Always beside me
All iridescent blue
Lapping, lap, lap, lap....
I took a technical role in the big shows that followed, such as - The Owl and the Pussy Cat and The Wiz (the biggest and best production in my time at YT) which culminated in becoming Technical Manager on the Committee for 3 years. Having total responsibility for the staging of Toad of Toad Hall in 1986 was quite a challenge. Mark Oldknow was very exacting in his requirements and 30-40 hours a week at the Curzon Centre were not unusual - building and painting sets... this played no small part in me being expelled from John Hampden Grammar School for poor attendance. This expulsion ultimately pulled me away from YT as I had to go to Oxford to complete my A Levels (I did however return at Xmas to join the audience for Snow Queen)
In the summer of 1986 I had an influencing role in writing Stereotypes for the Voices Festival. I played the lead 'Dick' and remember vividly the mimed ‘curtain up’ of dressing, and getting ready to go out for the evening, to the deafening chords of Iron Maiden. A great show - which subsequently went on (sadly without me as 'Dick') to win Festival acclaim!
In my third year at University (1990) I was working in Bracknell so I returned to YT where I had the privilege of working alongside Bill Tapley as we steered YT through a very successful year. I believe the Tinder Box was financially the most profitable show for the group to date due to the extraordinary amount of advertising Bill and I sold! In 1990 I directed my first play Us and Them and helped Bill maximise the revenues and exposure of the Group! A great finale to my time at YT.
YT gave me the confidence from a very early age to take on any challenge… I look back with great affection on my time with YT, I miss it greatly and of course wish it every success in the years to come!
Ian Wallace - you should knighted for your vision and commitment! Your services to community and youth theatre should not go unrecognised!
PS: The pic is me 'in character' at a fancy dress Party ! Still love to play a part !
My first YT show was Hysteria, the social evening. I did sound and always remember the tree falling sound effects in The Cherry Sisters. The Wiz was next I think, and this threw me head first into musical land - which was incredible, and kicked off my somewhat embarrassing love of musicals.
Every show was a great experience. The set builds, the typically stressful tech rehearsals and the sometimes shambollic dress rehearsals somehow resulted in a great show. The trips to the Indian restaurant, the after parties, and the Sunday morning get out - complete with hangover (when I eventually started drinking!)
The fondest memories are undoubtably the Ball Boys festival shows. It seemed the audiences and adjudicators were always blown away by the show. Pete, Phil and James put on great performances every night. Working alongside Russell and Jonathan on the tech team was certainly an education(!), and I always remember the local crews being impressed with our immaculate get-ins and get-outs, painstakingly choreographed by Mark, Liz and Graham! I was by far the youngest in the team, and without going into any detail, it felt like some kind of initiation into the world of grown-ups; I was 14 I think.
One of the advantages/disadvantages of going to an all-girls school is that you had to go out of your way to meet boys. So I rode my bike hopefully to tennis every Saturday morning (terrible at tennis which I did not feel showed me in the best light so I ditched that) and got a parentally-enforced ride to a church youth group every Sunday night (a bit too quiet & reflective for me … some nice lads there though so I kept going).
BUT on Sunday afternoons I happily walked the mile and half or so to Young Theatre because not only were there lots of boys there, I had also found something I really loved to do. A short few years in some fun productions (Laundry Girls, Here We Go, Le Bal des Mannequins, Rat Trap) and a stint on the committee gave me the confidence to join two drama groups at University and help start a new one designed to encourage those who thought they couldn't act to give it a try.
There is no doubt that Young Theatre helped give me the confidence needed in the working world and when I moved to Seattle 13 years ago and was looking for something to get involved with, I joined the board of a local theater company which had a really strong youth theater production and workshop programme.
None of my 3 children have the acting bug but we are so glad they too have found the things they love to do on Sunday afternoons (and are happy it keeps them away from all the boy-girl distractions at school!)
PS: Rick Harwood was out of my league but I listen to The Archers every day for a slice of home and it brings back a good few memories.
PPS: Still in touch with Sara Collins (down the coast in SF)
Where do I start? What has BYT done for me? Short answer—“Everything”!
I joined in April 73 at 9 years old with my friend Rick Harwood. I wanted to be Tech and was very proud of the T on my membership number, B133T: I still remember it! When I did ‘act‘ there was always some weird reference to my crew cut hair Archibald and Shaun!!! But luckily the various Tech jobs kept me out of trouble! I had a few stints as Technical Manager and loved the teamwork and high standards that YT set. Funny how things from some shows stick in your mind, Pilgrim = Rostrum, Dragon = Follow spots, Toad = Rick‘s head, United We Stand = Football stand etc. etc. I remember walking the scenery from The Old School to the Curzon Centre and many a night spent sleeping at the Curzon when we had left the set build to the last minute; I now realize this was done on purpose as this was great fun! The Curzon creaks at night after a show as the floor contracts and of hearing ‘footsteps’ at 3.00am and being terrified by JV‘s and Mike Hull‘s horror stories — the memories! The YT holidays to Brixham, St Agnes and the 87 South Coast tour were fantastic times and being thrown off a campsite for lewd behaviour (2 boys had used the girls showers as there was a big queue for the boys!) still makes me chuckle. Because of YT and my father‘s film job, I had 20 years in the film industry ending up as Manager European Technical Services for MGM / United Artists in Charlie Chaplin‘s old office at Pinewood! I now co-own a mobile cinema that provides community cinema to villages in Sussex. Getting back to ‘Everything‘, my first band Splendid Isolation was from YT‘s Adie Bower and Paul ‘Buddy’ Bacon. Bobbins with Bob (Graham Field), which became Bright Young Things, again with Bob and Adie. Most importantly I met Esther* my wife who was at college with Bob and who appeared in a YT festival in 89, so without YT my 2 fantastic daughters would not be here. So therefore YT thanks for everything.
* We believe this to be Esther Burns who was a member of the Amersham College production “Rainy Day Women” which formed part of the 25th Anniversary Shadows play competition (which was also a Burnham Trophy competition).
How YOU could help with this part of the Archive!
If you were a member of The Young Theatre - at either Harrow or Beaconsfield - we will be delighted to hear your memories of your time with the group. That's productions or any YT activities! Please get in touch with us and share this with any other ex-members you know. We want to hear from everyone!
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