So, you want to act?’ This was how I was welcomed as a new member of Saddleworth Players in 1972. Having finished University in 1972 I knew I would be living and working in Saddleworth and, having given up on the idea of possibly trying to go to Drama College, a relative told me about Saddleworth Players moving across to the Millgate. I was met by Joan Nuttal and Millicent Mallalieu (both legendary figures ) as I soon discovered and, having filled in my new membership form, I was given a paint brush and told to start straight away with painting the auditorium which was beginning to take shape…
Our first play was in October 1973 ‘The Italian Straw Hat’ and I was cast as ‘Felix’ manservant to another legendary actor John Kenworthy. And an array of the best acting talent playing the eccentric characters needed for this fabulous French Farce.
At that time we put on 4 plays a year (with an additional play put on for the Festival every 4 years)
And the shows ran for 6 nights with a gap between Saturday and Tuesday which always felt like a 1st night again.
1974 ‘The Daughter In Law’ Directed by Ian Perks; I played the son to Millicent Mallalieu and memorably the only time I have ever been asked to use a Northern accent!
‘You just can’t drop your ‘H’s John.
1975 ‘All Things Bright and Beautiful’ described by one newspaper crit as ‘A glorified Coronation Street’ and my 2nd partnering with Patricia Redshaw.
From what I can remember that whilst Joan Nuttall was the lead; Tony Doherty (the Architect who designed our beautiful theatre and who later on in life married Joan!) stole the show playing Jake a geriatric lavatory sitter! (Read the play!).
1975 ‘Arsenic & Old Lace’ Fabulous fun with one of my highlights being when John Winterbottom (our Bar Manager) was persuaded (forced) to come on as a Policeman with one line scripted – He came on forgot his line muttered ‘Bugger’ (which everyone heard) and walked off. It happens to the best of us or is it just me that forgets lines?
1976 ‘Trevor’ a short play as part of a 2 play billing (Little Boxes) which I think occasionally is a good format in a season.
A three hander with Patricia and June playing lesbian lovers (shock and horror!) who invite Trevor to act as their boyfriends in front of their unsuspecting parents.
Very funny play particularly when one of the flats fell down mid performance – Happy Days!
1977 ‘Pride & Prejudice’ I read the crit and maybe it wasn’t that good (My D’Arcy being particularly weak) but who could not have fun when Derek Clegg was directing, Ruth Clegg making costumes and his immortal advice being ‘I will produce, design and stage a beautiful beginning and end – just try and act in the middle’.
1977/1978 At this point I ventured off to Crompton Stage Society being in ‘Vivat Vivat Regina’
And then ‘On Approval’ – this play was put on in 2 weeks following the cancellation of ‘Five Finger Exercise’ and I had the privilege of playing with 3 fantastic actors Sheila Price, Joanne McKrell and Leonard Thompson (he and I spent a great deal of time adlibbing!) and I miss them all.
1979 ‘Charley’s Aunt’ So finally it is a Festival play well known to all and the second time I have been in the play.
Yet again I was taught the art of adlibbing and playing to the crowd with disgraceful high jinks with guess who?– John Kenworthy.
Do you have a tale to tell about your time with Saddleworth Players at the
Millgate? If so, please do get in touch