DAME WENDY HILLER (1912—2003)
Patron of The Young Theatre 1970-2003
Born at Bramhall, Cheshire on August 15th 1912, she was apparently destined for a theatrical career from an early age; she was christened Wendy after the female heroine in J.M.Barrie's Peter Pan! She joined the Manchester Repertory Company straight from school in 1930 and made a sucessful London debut in 1935 in Ronald Gow's Love on the Dole. She later married Ronald and it was her performance in his play, the story of unemployed cotton spinners in Lancashire, that inspired George Bernard Shaw to cast her in the title role of St Joan the following year. This marked the beginning of a long professional association with Shaw, and established her as a great English actress. As one of Shaw's favourite performers, she took leading roles in Pygmalion and Major Barbara, both onstage and on screen. She was a versatile actress, equally at home with the works of Shakespeare or O'Neill. She also won distinction in several film roles, most notably in Sons and Lovers (1960). A Man for All Seasons (1966) and Separate Tables (1958) for which she won an Acadamy Award. American audiences were neither amused or impressed when, asked what the award meant to her, she cooly replied, "Cold, hard cash. that's what it means to me".
She was remarkable in that she was extremely untheatrical until the
houselights went down, and then she would give a performance of
breathtaking reality and expertise. Nevertheless her brilliantly poised
performance as Queen Mary in Crown Matrimonial (1972) surprised many of
her admirers who did not suppose that she was capable of such majestic
hautiness and regality.
In 1994, she reprised her association with Shaw, starring as one of his correspondents, Laurentia McLachlan, in a television play, The Best of Friends, adapted from correspondence between Shaw (Patrick McGoohan), McLachlan, and Sydney Cockerell (played by Sir John Gielgud)
She lived in Beaconsfield, Buckinghamshire, and died, aged ninety, on May
BOB HOLNESS (1928 - 2012)
Patron of The Young Theatre 1977-2012
Bob Holness was an actor and presenter, and was perhaps best known for hosting the British version of Blockbusters
and less known for being the second actor to portray James Bond (on the wireless). He was a patron of YT from 1977 and appeared on video in the 1996 production of Winter's Tale. On 6th January 2012,
he passed away peacefully in a nursing home at the age of 83. WIKIPEDIA | Google
| Daily Telegraph: web site | scan (701KB)
DAME SYBIL THORNDIKE
Patron of The Young Theatre 1970-1976
Born in Gainsborough, Lincolnshire Dame Sybil was the actress for whom George Bernard Shaw created the play St Joan. Having made her acting debut in 1904,
she demonstrated her wide acting range when, during World War I, she took both male and female parts in Shakespearean plays at the Old Vic Theatre. An actress of great skill and versatility,
she was especially noted for her tragic roles in Euripides' The Trojan Women (1920) and in St Joan (1924); she subsequently played St Joan more than 2000 times.
She also excelled in comedies such as Shaw's Candida (1924); She Stoops to Conquer (1943) by Oliver Goldsmith, and The Reluctant Peer (1964) by William Douglas Home.
She was married to the noted actor and director Sir Lewis Thomas Casson, and in 1931 she was made a Dame of the British Empire.
Group Director, The Young Theatre (at Beaconsfield): 1978-81 & 1988/9
Artistic Director, The Young Theatre (at Beaconsfield): 1982-88
Honorary Life Member of The Young Theatre since 1989
Vice-President of The Young Theatre (at Beaconsfield) 2002 - 2009
Mark joined The Young Theatre at Beaconsfield in September 1971 at the age of 12, just in time to be given his role for The Lion, The Witch & the Wardrobe - holding Burnham Hall's stage door open for the cast to go back and forth! Having nearly given up at this point, greater things were just over the horizon and he was given his first part in The Four Year Change, a one act play which was part of a production under the banner of Stage 4. from there there was no stopping him, with leads in Alice & The Deserted House (1973); and Our Town (1974) - and also becoming Under 14 representative on the committee (where he was introduced to 'twiglets' and Hillman Imps!).
The following years saw Mark starting to direct as well as act, and move up the ladder on the committee, from handling the finances to publicity and then to Deputy Group Director. In 1975, Nigel Davies, the Group Director, went to work abroad halfway thrpough the season and left Mark to pick up the reins and so get his first taste of being at the helm. As a result, 'O' Levels went out the window, but then a college course at Slough in Hotel & Catering started, with an 'S' level in Directing as an extra.
When Nigel returned (thankfully!), he directed Mark as Badger in Toad of Toad Hall (1977), and Mark then switched to directing various plays and musicals - The Other Children (1977); Humbug (1979); Smike (1981); 20 Years of YT (1984); The Wiz (1985); & The Dracula Spectacula (1989) ; as well as writing musicals - The Rat Trap with John Varah (1983) and The Pied Piper (1984) - both of which he also directed! . . . not to mention various award-winning one-act plays including Ritual For Dolls; Them Boots Ain't Made For Walkin'; & In Need Of Care - and the odd melodrama! During his 11 years as Group Director or Artistic Director, Mark has many fond memories of productions and making some great friendships still alive today. He was a Vice-President of the group from 2002 to 2009
Mark also performed and directed for 10 years with The Wooburn Theatre Company and StageWorks, as well as more recently producing a number of musicals for Churches in High Wycombe.
The Young Theatre was responsible for developing many of the skills Mark now uses in his career as a live events producer, film/video director and internal communications consultant, and in 2001 he set up his own company 'Creating Sunshine' drawing on the experience of running a "small business" all those years ago! Thank you, Young Theatre!
Founder Member, The Young Theatre (at Beaconsfield), 1970
Vice President, The Young Theatre (at Beaconsfield) 2002—2012
Honorary Life Member of The Young Theatre since 2004
Webmaster, The Young Theatre Archive
It's said that Tim was born at a young age with hair, and survived his childhood despite nearly drowning in the solent! His numerous and varied abilities developed rapidly
and were assiduously nurtured when he became a founding member of The Young Theatre at Beaconsfield.
Having initially vehemently insisted that he wanted only to work backstage, Tim became "internationally renowned" for saying the first words in any Young Theatre at Beaconsfield production
("Come on, don't be afraid. I'll do all the talking" as Peter in The Sea-King's Daughter, January 1971).
His next role reflected what was subsequently to become his day job for the next 25 years (a lending banker who ended up training other bank managers).
As the rascally banker, Silas Snaker in Hiss The Villain he performed blatant overcharging while mis-selling pensions and payment protection insurance. No . . . wait . . . !
Over the considerable number of years that followed the inaugural meeting, Tim contributed a great deal to the development of The Young Theatre -
and successfully added to the wealth of his own inimitable and diverse talents through a series of continuously changing roles -
which a lot of YT people believe brought about the formulating of the phrase "a moving target... etc"!!
He also developed a reputation as a creative lighting designer, working not only with The Young Theatre - memorably on Ian Wallace's production of "The Crucible" in 1995 -
but also with a number of other local theatre groups.
He diversified further still with Tight Fit Theatre -
(the professional theatre company set up by other ex-YT members, Mark Oldknow, Karen Ogborn and Jonathan Fowke in 1996) -
for whom he has both appeared onstage and been heavily involved with the technical side of production. He is currently Tight Fit Theatre's Company Producer.
Married to Ally, with daughter Siobhan, Tim has - one way or another - remained involved with The Young Theatre either on the fringes or in the centre of the action since its formation in 1970.
Typically, he remains stoically at his post (whatever that happens to be at the time!) displaying those qualities which have made him so valuable to the group.
Recently, his expertise with the web was "highjacked" when this archive site needed to be set up - and he now acts as the YT Archive's webmaster.
In 2002, in recognition of his contribution to YT over the years, he was made a Vice-President.... Tim is indeed a man of many parts - but, as some of his friends like to say,
unfortunately not all of them are working as well as they used to . . . ! [You can say that again. tjrh]
Group Director, The Young Theatre (at Harrow) 1972-76
Andrew trained originally as a journalist - specializing in arts events and stories - and moved into theatre PR and promotions. He then completed a four year degree in Theatre at Dartington College of Arts in Devon, later inflicting himself on the great British public as an actor, appearing on stage, TV and films.
He evolved into a theatre director creating innumerable productions from drama to opera, musical theatre to celebratory arts events.
He then saw the light and got a life.
Creative and heritage event management followed and he recently spent time as a local government Arts and Heritage Manager in a bid to “find the funds”.
He now runs Eastern Edge - a creative development unit, based on the Suffolk coast.
Group Director, The Young Theatre (at Harrow) : 1969-71
Honorary Life Member of The Young Theatre since 1992
Artistic Director, The Young Theatre (at Beaconsfield) : 1990-97
Honorary Life Member of The Young Theatre since 1997
Group Director, The Young Theatre (at Beaconsfield) : 2002 - 2003, 2004
Vice-President, The Young Theatre (at Beaconsfield) : 2008 -
Helen was born in Dudley, West Midlands - into a theatrical family. Her parents both acted in amateur theatre and her father was Chairman of the Old Dudleians Dramatic society forever ! She had her
first taste of directing age 14 at King Edward VI High School, Edgebaston. The play was dreadful - The Crimson
Coconut - but her leading lady was amazing and is now known as Lindsay Duncan. Her first part was as an Irish
nun for the ODDS - she was brought in at three days notice - no change there then.
More drama at Manchester University, despite studying Psychology, she appeared in two
medic revues - including a forgettable performance as Little Weed. After graduation, she moved to Newcastle to
become the first female marketing executive for Proctor and Gamble - mainly because she was told P&G didn’t
take women. She worked on Daz and joined the People's Theatre. There, while she was playing a nymphomaniac and
he was doing the can-can with no trousers, she met John, himself a founder member of The Young Theatre (at
Daz turned out to be something of a strain - chauvinistic attitudes and too many numbers
- so she became a social worker in Gateshead. Helen and John married in 1975 and held the reception in the grounds
of Dudley Zoo. One of their guests had a long trunk and tusks and she claims to be the only bride with elephant
spit on her dress!
The couple moved back to Bucks., and John introduced her to the
Beaconsfield Theatre Group where she became very much involved in all aspects of BTG, serving on the committee
and becoming Group Chairman for a number of years. Her acting roles have ranged from Puck to Doris in the two hander Same
Time Next Year and recently she played Doris again, this time in The Cemetery Club. She also directed
Dead Guilty and The Killing of Sister George, and - as luck would have it - it was when she was
directing Woman in Mind for BTG in 1989 that a certain Mark Britton, who was in the cast,
"persuaded" her to become actively involved in The Young Theatre at (Beaconsfield) as an Assistant Group
Director to Bill Tapley - and the rest is history. Apart from being YT's Artistic Director for seven years, she
has also directed a number of YT productions including Blithe Spirit (1992); Antigone (1993) and
Daisy Pulls it Off (2001) - whilst in 2002 she stepped in, at only a week's notice, to play Mother in
Billy Liar - with her own son as Billy! In fact both her children, Becky and Peter have been/are heavily
involved with YT, but so far, neither of the dogs has appeared on stage. This is a good thing!
While the children were small, Helen wrote comedy sketches for TV - Naked Video
and Russ Abbott. About 7 years ago, Bums on Seats, a publicity handbook, was
published - and the board room battle over the title remains legendary. There is a rumour that a second book could
be on the way, but in the meantime she is seeking an agent for a novel. This September, she fulfilled a lifetime
ambition to follow in her father's footsteps and was accepted as an associate member of the Guild of Drama
IAN R. WALLACE
Group Director, The Young Theatre (at Harrow) 1964-69
Group Director, The Young Theatre (at Beaconsfield) 1970-76 & 1981-2
Artistic Director, The Young Theatre (at Beaconsfield) 1976-82 & 1988-90
Honorary Life Member of The Young Theatre since 1982
Vice-President, The Young Theatre (at Beaconsfield) 1991-2002
President, The Young Theatre (at Beaconsfield) 2002 - 2009
After leaving school, where he got his first taste of writing and directing for the
theatre, Ian spent a brief spell training as an accountant before joining the BBC in 1963. After working in
Accounts and then Management Services, he transferred to Television Programme Planning in 1971 before moving into
programme making firstly with Drama Plays then in 1981 with Series & Serials where he worked as an Associate
Producer until he took early retirement in 1993.
Throughout the whole of that period Ian was also very actively involved in the amateur
and semi-professional theatre as an actor, writer, director and lighting designer. In 1964 he founded The Young
Theatre in North Harrow and, after marrying his wife Sue in 1969, moved to Beaconsfield where, with Aviva Wiseman,
he established its sister group, The Young Theatre at Beaconsfield in 1970.
His impressive list of TV credits include single plays and films such as Speed
King (with Robert Hardy); the BAFTA Award winning Going Gently (Judi Dench, Norman Wisdom & Fulton McKay); Mrs
Reinhardt (Helen Mirren & Brad Davis) and The Caretaker (Warren Mitchell, Jonathan Pryce & Kenneth Cranham).
Series & Serials included My Cousin Rachel (Geraldine Chaplin); Tripods and Star
Cops where he was responsible for the development of video/computer effects which won a number of awards; Bluebell (Caroline
Pickles); Very Peculiar Practice (Peter Davidson & David Troughton); A Sense of Guilt (Trevor
Eve & Jim Carter); Miss Marple (Joan Hickson, Jean Simmons & Joss Ackland) and The Sharp
End (Gwen Taylor & James Cosmo). He also represented the BBC on such successful independent productions as
Love Hurts (Adam Faith & Zoe Wannamaker) and Spender (Jimmy Nail).
Theatrically, his writing credits include The Story of Snow-White; Snow
Queen & Here We Go (Musical) and adaptations of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland
& Through The Looking Glass - as well as a number of other adaptations, one-act plays and revue
sketches. His musical play The Rats with music by Alan Kingshott (with whom he wrote the highly successful
Here We Go) was premiered at Greenford in 1999. Working once more with Alan Kingshott, Ian also completed
mr Scrooge - a new musical version of A Christmas Carol which YT staged - again very successfully -
as part of their 40th anniversary in 2004. He also wrote the lyrics for Mark Britton‘s one act musical, Three Trees,
which was premiered in 2007 and subsequently revised for production at the Wycombe Swan Theatre in September 2008
As well as directing most of his own original plays and adaptations, his numerous
directing credits include Toad of Toad Hall; The Deserted House; The Beeple; The Critic & Last of
The Wizards - all for The Young Theatre (at either Harrow or Beaconsfield) and he co-directed Tom &
Viv for the NSYT. He also directed the critically acclaimed Silver Jubilee production of The Crucible
for The Young Theatre at Beaconsfield - and has directed equally successfully for Chesham Youth Theatre. In 1999,
with Aviva Wiseman, he directed his first Shakespeare production with the highly acclaimed open air production of
Twelfth Night for the Chiltern Shakespeare Company.
Acting credits include leading roles in Bell, Book & Candle; Sweeny Todd; Man of
Destiny; The Vigil; Halfway Up The Tree; Photo-Finish; Our Town; Smike & Last of the Wizards - as well as playing
Gestapo officer Captain Weiner in The Deserted House on two occasions 24 years apart!
Lighting credits include productions by The Young Theatre and the Beaconsfield Theatre
Group; and more recently Our Town; Christmas Carol; Godspell; Chicago; The Knocky & Bugsy
Malone for the Misbourne School for whom he has also been a technical consultant, as well as running stage
lighting courses for the students.
With his wife Sue - who was very much involved in the early days of YT at Beaconsfield,
and who was responsible for designing and making the odd costume or ten for his productions! He has two daughters, both
of whom have been active and enthusiastic members of YT at Beaconsfield. Rebecca preferred mainly backstage work,
especially costume design and making; whilst Helen was involved in a variety of ways both off stage and on it
(including playing Mary Warren in The Crucible which Ian directed) as well as serving on the committee ..
and it was a particular pleasure for Ian when they both appeared onstage with him in his production of Last Of
The Wizards in 1989.
Since retiring from the BBC, Ian has been largely engaged in writing, and working with youth drama groups and schools as a drama consultant. He is also a ”Friend• of The Globe Theatre.
In 2006, Ian was invited to become a Director and Chairman of Troublemaker Theatre Company based in Maidenhead. The company, which was formed by Dave Farey and Catherine Lambert - two ex-members of The Young Theatre at Beaconsfield - also employs several more XYT-ites on contract and specialises in Theatre in Education (working with schools in Berks, Bucks & Herts). It also runs a number of youth drama groups in at the Norden Farm Arts Centre in Maidenhead, as well as organising drama workshops as far afield as Shrewsbury!
Ian is currently involved in various writing projects, as well as helping to maintain The Young Theatre Archive with the expert assistance of Tim Hill. He resigned as President of The Young Theatre at Beaconsfield in 2009.
AVIVA WISEMAN (1920-2002)
Vice-President of The Young Theatre (at Beaconsfield) 1997-2002
Honorary Life Member of The Young Theatre from 1980
Born in Jerusalem in 1920, Aviva's passion for the theatre began at the age of three
when she appeared as Mustard Seed in A Midsummer Night's Dream. Thence via school and university
productions to the Playgoers of Amersham for whom her first role was as her husband Mchael's mother! She was in
Michael, the first of the Beaconsfield New Theatre Group plays and subsequently appeared in many others
from The Barretts of Wimpole Street, Waters of the Moon, and The Eagle Has Two Heads to
Queen Mary in Crown Matrimonial; whilst also doing her fair share of stage-managing, scene-painting and
And it was with BNTG where, in 1968, she met Ian who, two years later, invited her to
join him in the exciting project of forming The Young Theatre at Beaconsfield, and together they saw it grow
rapidly to become an important part of the Beaconsfield theatrical scene, with not only a well deserved reputation
for fine presentations and a centre for training in all aspects of stage craft, but particularly for imbuing in
young people a love of the theatre and the team spirit which was, and is, such a factor in the success of every
venture. Aviva served on the Executive Committee as Deputy Group Director during those early days; and for many
years co-directed and directed - particularly the highly sucessful Our Town (1974) & They Came To
A City (1977); she also worked behind the scenes; or appeared on stage - including a particularly memorable
Mrs. Squeers, playing opposite Ian, in the musical Smike in 1981, and an outstanding performance as Mother
Superior in Agnes of God in 1995. Her contribution to the life and success of The Young Theatre has been
immeasurable and she is sorely missed.
Other members of the family have also been very much involved with The Young Theatre at
Beaconsfield. Felicity was Coral one of the daughters in the group's first production The Sea-King's
Daughter; played Delphine in The Deserted House in 1973 - which was directed by her brother Martin !
- and was also in the award winning one-act play The Cloak; as well as serving on the Executive Committee
in a number of roles. Sister Liz played one of Aslan's lions in The Lion, The Witch & The Wardrobe
- whilst Martin, in addition to his directing, was actively involved in backstage work and training, particularly
with stage lighting.
Aviva had an enthusiastic and highly knowledgeable interest in the works of William
Shakespeare, and in 1990 she became Artistic Director of the Clivedon National Trust Shakespeare Festival.
Unsurprisingly, she had also already been heavily involved with The Chiltern Shakespeare Company,
which she and her husband, Michael, had established in 1987. Not only did she direct a number of very successful
productions for them at the Open-Air Theatre at Hall Barn, Beaconsfield - the last of which was "Twelfth
Night" in 1999 which she directed jointly with Ian Wallace - but she also was an invaluable
administrator for the company; and since 1997 she had been their Vice-President.
MICHAEL WISEMAN (1912-1997)
Vice-President of The Young Theatre (at Beaconsfield) : 1970-1997
Michael came to Beaconsfield after a long and distinguished career as a navigator in the
Royal Air Force, during which he flew 109 sorties over enemy territory and was awarded the Distinguished Flying
Back in civilian life, he came to live in Little Chalfont, and was a founder, and very
active, member of The Playgoers at Amersham. When he and Aviva and the family moved to Beaconsfield in 1950, he
attended the first meeting called by Bernard Cane to inaugurate the Beaconsfield New Theatre Group and became much
involved on all fronts - acting, directing and backstage.
When The Young Theatre started in Beaconsfield in 1970, he added this venture to his
interests, supporting all their activities, and occasionally directing - including the very successful festival
entry The Cage Birds in 1979.
In 1986, he conceived the brilliant notion of forming The Chiltern Shakespeare
Company, which since 1989 has presented productions in the Open-Air Theatre in the grounds of Hall Barn in
He loved all aspects of the theatre, and was meticulous about the care and detail and
interpretations that went into all the productions in which he played a part - indeed when he died in 1997, the
Buckinghamshire Advertiser described him as Beaconsfield's "Mr. Theatre".
In a tribute to him , The Young Theatre at Beaconsfield have dedicated their annual
Artistic Director's award for the most significant theatrical achievement during the season to his