Curtain up

The Rhyl Children’s Theatre Club was not a two-hour Saturday morning session to get children out of the house.

Any parent who wanted that could just as easily give their child a couple of bob and send them to the Odeon on the other side of the Vale Road bridge.

This was no oversized dolls’ house but a fully working theatre with stage, auditorium, box-office, dressing rooms, lighting booth and a fly gallery.

By this time the youngsters who had taken the early lessons from the rep company actors Joe and Angela, were now grown and many had stayed to help pass on to a new generation what they had learned.

Theatrecraft is more than remembering lines and wearing greasepaint to create an illusion of a 60-year-old where once there was a 13-year-old boy.

A flat cap, a raincoat and a bit of talc on your hair does not turn you into an old man. In this publicity shot from The Rocking Horse winner I am the one on the left.

Illusion is created by a judicious use of greasepaint, clothes, stance and lighting. Each on its own means nothing but put them all together and you will see an old man walk across the stage, not a young boy.

By this time Angela was no longer Day but Thomas as she had married a local jeweller, Vincent Thomas, who was also a member of the adult group at the theatre called Group 200.

She instilled in her charges a love of the theatre and even if they went on to become accountants, shopkeepers or librarians rather than actors they retained that love.

One of the best ways to put theory into practice was to take part in a production. This could be a simple one-act play, a three-act play, a seasonal cavalcade, a panto or even a piece of Shakespeare.

In the plays the characters could be children or adults or a mixture of both. In one play I took part in all but one of the characters was a puppet.

Children’s classics were a favourite, such as Heidi.

A scene from a production of Heidi. I assisted the chief electrician with the lighting during the run of this play.

I may be wrong but I believe the girl in the centre is Carol Dean and the maid is Christine Roberts, one of three sisters who were mainstays of the theatre.

As so often happened my theatrical life was not separated from other areas of my life. In one play I took part in three of the boys taking part were in my school year.

On the other hand one of the girls, Karen Lees, was the daughter of Bert Lees from Rhyl Yacht Club were her older brother Peter “Gus” Lees was also a member.

Having first trod the boards of this wonderful stage as a fish I did move on to bigger parts and even appeared in my favourite playwright’s Scottish play.

Oddly that not only provided me with a relatively major role as Malcolm, son of the murdered king Duncan, but also as an “extra” at the banquet scene with my back to the audience and bereft of the magnificent red cloak and horned helmet I wore as Malcolm.

There are so many great memories of those nine years but for now I leave you with one of my favourite plays – The Deserted House.

The German officer, assisted by his henchmen, confronts the brave young resistance fighters.

This play, performed over the years by others in Rhyl, was all about a group of children in war torn France who hide in an old house and attempt to act as junior resistance fighters.

Things change when a real resistance fighter turns up with German soldiers in hot pursuit.

This picture reminds me of how small I was in my early teens. I did have a growth spurt later to end up a quarter of an inch short of six foot.

In the picture above the German soldiers have found some of the junior resistance fighters

From left: Tony Roberts (schoolfriend), Karen Lees, David Shepherd (schoolfriend), the mini-me, Paul Williams (Carpenter?) and Paul Brown (a schoolfriend who is sadly no longer with us).

Next time: behind the scenes at pantomime time.

Published by Robin

I'm a retired journalist who still has stories to tell. This seems to be a good place to tell them.

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