How and when did you discover Adel Players?
Back in 1953 a colleague came into the office one day and said, "My drama group, Adel Players, are looking for new members - anyone interested?". I had always wanted to act, so I went to a reading for "The Man in Grey" and was asked to do Wardrobe (wildly unsuitable as it was a full costume play and I knew zilch about how to go about it) and to understudy for the part of the Marchioness Clarissa Rohan. For anyone who saw the old black and white movie, this was the Phyllis Calvert part. Three weeks before opening night the lady originally cast fell ill and had to drop out, so that's how I got my first part - on any stage.
What different roles have you done within the group?
Of course, I just wanted to act, but I soon realised what a complete team effort is involved in creating a successful production, so over the years I've had a go at directing, prompting, front of house, costumes (because I've learned a bit in the ensuing years) and props. I love the challenge of making some special prop, and once I've thought out how to do it I can't rest until I've made it, and I'm especially pleased with myself if I haven't had to buy anything - I love to make something from nothing. The 'corpse' I made for "Stage Struck" took me a day to make and involved a pillow, a wooden coat hanger, a polystyrene wig block, old sponges and bits of foam, loppings from a tree in my garden, kitchen roll middles and heaven knows what else, but it looked (more or less) like Susie Stakes [the Adel Players actress] in the end.
What is involved in working with Adel War Memorial Association?
Of course, you can't join the Adel Players without joining Adel War Memorial Association. Back in the fifties the AWMA Management Committee consisted of two members elected by each Section and before the decade was out I was one of them. I've been on the Management Committee, now called the Executive, ever since, in various capacities from Membership Secretary to General Secretary to Minutes Secretary. In the beginning I used to cycle all the way from Beeston (about a 15 mile round trip) or, in bad weather, I'd chain up my bike in the city centre and travel from there on the Samuel Ledgard bus, or even on the tram which terminated at Lawnswood.
What was your favourite production that you have been involved in?
I've enjoyed nearly all the productions I've been involved in. I loved being a modern witch in "Bell Book and Candle" (in the fifties) complete with live Siamese cat. At that time we used to play the National Anthem before curtain-up; I was on stage lying on a sofa with the cat on my chest and, I swear by all that's holy, that cat howled in tune with the music.
We did a Victorian melodrama called "The Drunkard", where I played a dotty old spinster miss Spindle, with ginger ringlets and convoluted vocabulary. I had to sing a bit in that one too and wear lovely costumes, including a black straw hat which I made myself from black plastic bin liners - it has been worn often since.
In fact I particularly enjoy playing barmy old birds. (Let no-one say I'm just playing to type!). A particular favourite was Mrs Hardcastle in "She Stoops to Conquer"; for that I made a golden bird in a silver cage as an ornament for my elaborate wig. Mrs H says, "I declare I dressed it myself".
Mum in "Mr Wonderful", played entirely in bed, was a lot of fun, though I did get a bit choked-off with liquorice allsorts, of which I had to consume large quantities.
Not favourite, but memorable, was my role in "Murder in Mind", when I was shut in a trunk while the baddie (John Stakes, who played baddies par excellence), prowled round the room looking for me to throw acid in my face. He truly terrified me; I became hysterical and needed the whole of the interval to recover some sort of equilibrium.
These are all acting involvements, but I've prompted plays where I've laughed so much, every night, that if I'd been needed I couldn't have read the script for tears of laughter.
Tell us about a particularly memorable incident that you recall at Adel Players.
Fortunately I relinquished my Wardrobe responsibilities. I think Michael Armstrong's mother took over that job, and one or two huge skips of costumes were hired from a London costumier, carried by rail to Leeds and reeking of dry-cleaning fluid. Barbara Trickett played a gipsy girl, befriended by the Marchioness, who'd given her some of her cast-off dresses. At one bit she flies into a strop, demanding, "...give me back my own clothes, they smell better". At first dress rehearsal Barbara and I totally corpsed at this; indeed we struggled valiantly to remain in character every time the line came up.
What makes Adel Players so special?
There have been some marvellous characters in Adel Players over the years - funny, eccentric, dedicated, talented (or not, but eager to learn) - and I count myself privileged to have known them. There has been scarcely any temperamentality, ie actors behaving badly if they didn't get a part they coveted. The group has been enormously important in my life for well over 50 years and for every bit of effort I have put into it I've been rewarded tenfold in sheer enjoyment, satisfaction and socialbility.
What are your favourite social activities with the group?
I've always loved the end-of-show parties which, again, are largely a team effort, with everyone bringing a different dish, although of course we mainly depend on some kind hearted member with a large house, a lot of patience and tolerant neighbours, to host the event. This is our opportunity to relax over a drink and congratulate ourselves on a job well done; there's always a lot of laughter and a happy glow. Theatre outings and annual dinners are also super elements in Adel Players life.
What would you say to someone who is considering joining Adel Players?
To anyone considering joining Adel Players I would say - do it. You'll learn something, you will make friends, you will be part of a team whose efforts show a tangible result. If you are cast in a play you can step out of your own skin and into someone else's for a while, which is often quite liberating, healing even. Be prepared to put the effort in and what you get out of it will surprise and delight you.