RETIREMENT - A LOOK BACK
As well as helping with tea at rehearsals Brenda has organised and run the Green Room Tea Bar from 1976 right up to “Oliver”. Prior to that, the Theatre ran a Tea Bar there themselves. Brenda has also enjoyed for a few years helping with the GET IN on tech rehearsal day.
I joined York Light by invitation as Treasurer in June 1970, volunteering also to act as Business Manager in October 1972 when we were completely stuck. In those days the Theatre Box Office only opened for our shows a fortnight before the show so at least 80% of the sales were through the Business Manager Which was a huge task running from September until mid-January. I certainly couldn’t have tackled it if Brenda hadn’t agreed to share the load. Gradually we got them to start earlier, particularly when they became computerised around 1990. From then right up until 2015 when the Theatre closed for its major revamp we sold the tickets from September until the second week of December at which point they took over.
When they reopened in 2016 the Theatre were keen to start earlier so they sold tickets from day one and I just helped by offering some of our regular group bookers the chance to book initially through the Company on credit. Interesting to note that for my First Show as Bus. Manager “Hello Dolly” in January 1973 the top ticket price was just 75p!
Whilst I‘ve enjoyed all the 50 main shows in which I have been involved, one stands out clearly as our favourite:- “Bitter Sweet”. I think everyone involved in that show felt it was particularly special. For the Committee its success was a great relief. We had originally chosen it in desperation at quarter past midnight at the Chairman’s house before realising the next day our mistake. 5 years later Saddlers Wells staged a revival and the whole Committee took the train to London to see it, deciding on the return journey to do it despite its huge challenges. The main Press reviewer described it as the finest production of a musical by Amateurs he had ever seen and referred to the extraordinarily moving emotional rapport between the two leading characters. Connie Bateson, the then NODA representative, thought it the best thing we had ever done and came again to see it the following week.
My earliest theatrical memory is of coming through to York’s Theatre Royal panto in the late 1940s and early 1950s. A memorable feature of those shows was always “Kirby’s Flying Ballet” and “Francis Laidlaw’s Sunbeams”. My first introduction to Shakespeare was seeing “As You Like It” as a 10year old on Malton Grammar School’s permanent outdoor theatre. In the 1950s and 1960s, York Theatre Royal had a regular Rep Company doing a different play each week which was great.
Among favourite York Light memories were Brian Hassall playing a brilliant “Pickwick” in 1974, having real rain on the stage for “Singing in the Rain” in 1997 and also having an actual waterfall and stream on stage during our third production of “Brigadoon” in 1993. Also, the opening of Act Two of “Orpheus” at JR Theatre in 1999 when our son Paul made his York Light debut dressed as a milkman and delivering milk bottles to all the sleeping cast, a typical genius comedy touch of Bev’s!
I’ve felt so proud standing in the Theatre Royal foyer every night to welcome folks on behalf of a Company bringing professional standard shows to the people of York and beyond and often hearing glowing comments as people left after the performance. I’ve been so fortunate to not have missed a single performance in all 50 wonderful years.