Your Memories of Fifty Years at Nottingham Playhouse

Throughout our 50th anniversary season, we’ve been inviting attenders old and new to share their favourite memories of Nottingham Playhouse – either in the “Memory Chair” installation on our Upper Foyer or online. Nottingham Playhouse is dear to many a heart and we’ve loved reading the responses. Here is a sample of your memories.

I came with my son to see Tracey Beaker in about 2006. We are back tonight to see 1984 together. I love the way the theatre continues to offer new and interesting experiences for us to share together as he grows up – long may it continue.
Teresa Randon

I was there, in the second row back in 1971, “Waiting for Godot”. Peter O’Toole had a streaming cold, but the show went on…
Peter Green

My memory was when during one of the pantomimes the cast did Gangnam Style in Robin Hood.
Lucy Cox

I’m 62 but can remember the old Playhouse. It was so exciting to get the new one. The bolts etc in the interior blew Nottingham minds! I used to queue for cheap seats and saw so many productions. However my most memorable performance (a schools performance) I cannot remember the title of. I know it was a Shakespeare history. The actors came out in codpieces! The audience laughed for – no exaggeration – at least 10 minutes. The actors stood straight-faced waiting for us to stop. I’ve never experienced anything like it since!

What a wonderful addition to Nottingham this place is.
Catherine Burns

My momory at the Playhouse is where everyone’s shouting their behind you and yes he is. My other memory is all the pretty costumes.
Kian (aged 8)

I came to see jack & the bean stalk. It was with PASIC and my family. Special cuz I got to spend time with my family + the panto was gr8

I remember one of my first Critics’ Circle nights. The show – Vertigo. This was one of the biggest, in theatre terms, SCORCH MOMENTS of my life.

Let me explain: in the performance, there is a moment where a character falls from quite a height. Of course, the actor could not fall/jump, so to symbolize the death, a soaking wet white towel was thrown on stage. SIMPLE. Yet effective enough to shock me and memorable enough to be one of the biggest lessons the Playhouse has taught me – think out of the box to be powerful.
Anisah Osman Britton

Many years ago my husband (a fan of the Albion Band) came to see your excellent production of “Lark Rise to Candleford”. I can still see the sun shining on the cornfields and hear the bucolic songs. It reminded me of the “tales my mother told me” of her rural childhood in North Surrey before the urban sprawl of London took over.

We have supported the Playhouse for many years, but this performance remains “close to my heart”!

PS. I also loved the “John Dory” song and the “them” (“gentry”) and “us” inferences!! (Still relevant.)
Jill Boothroyd

First ever Panto here!

I remember being absolutely mesmerized by the first panto I saw here, it was ‘Aladdin’ in 2008/09 with Critics’ Circle. We were taken on a tour backstage and shown how the set and costumes were made, it was amazing! The actual show was spectacular. I remember clearly that my mouth muscles were hurting by the end of it due to the constant smiling and laughing!

Thank you! xxx
Alia Britton

Scoffing sweets and watching guys dancing energetically & creatively across the stage – great choreography! Inspired me to move (or at least toe tap).
Hannah Green

My very first memory of Nottingham Playhouse was @ Saturday morning workshops with John Neville. Oh… the crassness of youth; taking it all for granted! It was a truly amazing experience and started my life-long affection for this place. It was very exciting being a teenager in the 1960s. After working hard with Mr Neville we went to the Kardomah for coffee, with the boys; that too was special as I went to an all-girls’ school so it was a great opportunity to socialise and flirt… How fab was that?

When I was older and legally allowed to drink I came here on Saturday evenings for “Folk under the Mural”. I remember seeing and hearing Martin Carthy from Steeleye Span. There was always a great atmosphere and I enjoyed myself very much. That is a lovely memory, all about being young and having a good time.

Al the things I have seen over the years have made an impact on me at the time but become replace by the next performances. Recently, The Kite Runner was exceptional from every aspect for me, I was so impressed with how it became such a wonderful –lay – I was mesmerised and I believe that Giles Croft is a genius!

I am 63 years old now. I love the Playhouse more and more and I realise what a huge part it has played in my appreciation of theatre. Thank you.
Jacqueline Skinner

There was a plea in the Nottingham Evening Post for a hare to take part in Tom Stoppard’s play ‘Jumpers’ starring Sandra Dickinson. My Belgian hare named Hartley came for the audition and got the part.

I had to bring him along every evening and leave him here over the weekend for the matinee performance. It was wonderful meeting the people behind the scenes and Sandra and the other cast.

I received complimentary tickets for the show. This must have been in the 1970s.
Barbara Roberts

I remember coming to the Playhouse in 1972 or 1973 as a student and seeing an exhibition of paintings from someone who painted from a glider aerial paintings. I could not afford to buy one then, but would do now!
Prakash Ross

1969 – I think? – 8 years old, came to see production of The Three Musketeers. Went backstage and was photographed by the Evening Post having a swordfight with d’Artagnan. It was published in the Post but sadly I have lost the photo :-(
Ian Peace

Short term memory poor. Can remember a play – I think by Bertholt Brecht – when I first came to Nottingham to teach, 1967.

Today staff here marvellous. Partially sighted and slow on walking after knee operation. Again – thank you to your staff who have been fantastic!

Enjoyed talking to Kenneth Alan Taylor. A great character.
Peter Spearing

I arrived in Nottingham to study classics in September 1963. My route into the city was along the Derby Road. On Fridays the bus stopped outside the Albert Hotel, which had the best selection of beers in town. On Sundays it was the same route for evening mass at St Barnabas’ Cathedral. The arrival of the Playhouse in close proximity to the Albert and Cathedral went largely unnoticed until John Neville’s marvellous Oedipus the King. in the autumn of 1984. Sophocles was a set author that year at university, and this performance breathed life into one of the greatest tragedies ever written. I think every student who witnessed this play regretted that it was not possible to see each one of our set plays in live performance. As a teacher in Newcastle-under-Lyme, I taught the daughter of the late Peter Cheeseman, who made a massive contribution to ‘theatre in the round’ at the Victoria Theatre. After telling him about the impact of Neville’s Oedipus at a parents’ evening, he put on Plautus’ Comedy of Errors just before the move to the new site in Basford, because he felt the experience would be beneficial to the development of the repertory company. The schools from a wide radius just could not believe their luck. My own home town had no professional theatre, so the medium of live drama was relatively new to me, but Neville, who came to the city from the London stage, left a deep impression on many. The entire company at the Playhouse was indeed fortunate to work with a relatively unheralded master of his art. My final positive about my Playhouse experience was the theatre’s proximity to the every student’s final port of call in the 60s, the Salutation Inn, and the late night bus back to campus. It was great to relive the past at a performance of Richard III earlier this (November), and the Cathedral was in the same place, but sadly the Albert had disappeared with the development of Derby Road and Wellington Circus.
Graham Knight

Been coming here for the last 18 years, every year to the Panto with our 2 daughters, and to many more shows besides. The theatre allows us to escape, brings us together as a family and stretches and broadens our minds. Well done, all at the Playhouse.
Sibby Buckle

Some productions have left a lasting impression. ‘Celebration’ I really enjoyed. Such wonderful working-class North Country characters as Waterhouse and Hall always created.
‘Julius Caesar’ was set in the 1930s with Ronald Magill dressed like Mussolini.
‘Salad Days’ was wonderful, but I’m not sure if my memories are of the Playhouse production, the original London production which I saw as a student, or 2 or 3 more recent productions I have attended, all very enjoyable. Always came out of the theatre almost singing the many memorable tunes in it!
Also I very much enjoyed ‘When We Are Married’, particularly remembering Ursula Smith’s performance as Maria Helliwell – stiff-backed and corseted – one could almost hear the creak of those Edwardian corsets as she sat down!
Another memorable performance was John Neville’s ‘Richard II’ and another I enjoyed was Robert Ryan as Othello, although I don’t think the theatre critics liked it much!
Wendy Acres

My parents introduced us to the new Nottingham Playhouse in the early 1960s. My father, the late Dr Frank Foden MBE was an academic – very instrumental in the development of Nottingham Playhouse – when we moved from Hampshire – visiting many plays from 1963 onwards.

I did train in theatre studies in Cardiff and have memories of coming to Nottingham Playhouse for various productions – especially Ibsen.

Having been “persuaded” to go into teaching/lecturing – I had put all theatre participation on hold until retirement from the teaching profession – having recently joined a theatre group, have been in several plays then joined Ensemble – which has been the best fun especially being in the production of “The Kite Runner” – this has been an amazing experience – working with professional actors on stage.

The whole experience has been worthwhile. I will continue to support the productions at Nottingham Playhouse and look forward to the next 50 years.

Well done Nottingham Playhouse – for continuing to produce plays that push the boundaries – continuing in the spirit of John Neville.
Rosemary Nightingale

One rainy evening in Derby in 1965 or ’66, feeling a need to do something uplifting, I took a ride on a double decker bus to Nottingham (I well remember passing Boots the Chemist’s factory) and went to see The Country Wife, and from my seat in the Gods, saw a young Judy Dench strut her stuff. Alas, the Dame and I never met.
John Johnston

We have 2 wonderful memories connected to the Playhouse. The first was December 2004 when we brought our our first granddaughter aged 3 years to see her first Pantomime. It was Cinderella and she was mesmerized by the occasion. As it was near her birthday on the 13th of December I had informed the staff and she was asked to go up to collect a goodies bag! This really did make her afternoon.

The second occasion was when we took our third grand daughter aged 3 years again to see her first Pantomime, again it was Cinderella! This was in December 2011. Another child was overwhelmed by the experience and so remembered it that when some weeks later she saw a card advertising the show she burst out saying, that’s Cinderella that I saw!
Shirley and David Green

Many highlights:
The Ruling Class – Derek Godfrey hanging wearing a ballet tutu
Every minute of “Pocket Dream” – first version
Little Mrs Foster Show – a mid show game of bingo and Bill Maynard wandering around carrying a severed leg.
A couple of “lowlights”“
“Paradise” what was that all about!
The “western” version of Macbeth. Thanks for the memories. *Barbara Robinson *

When we were first in touch about the opening of the Neville Studio, I mentioned a moment which was typical of John’s kindness and concern for others, and especially of his love of children. In preparation for the rôle of Kattrin in Mother Courage, I had spent some time at the school for deaf children in Nottingham, and a group of them came to the final dress rehearsal of the production. They sat in the circle, and watched the show quietly, but during the scene towards the end of the play where Kattrin is on the roof of a shed, beating her drum to warn the people of Halle of danger, they became increasingly agitated, and when she was shot and slid from the roof (to blackout, so I was caught) they made noises of great distress. John had been watching the play from the stalls, and he dashed out. When the lights came up at the end, we could see that he had run up to the circle to comfort the children, and had his arms around as many of them as he could reach.
Alan Dossor, who directed Mother Courage, will perhaps remember this – I hope so.
John worked incredibly hard and had a wicked sense of humour; he was an inspiring leader, and demanded high standards of himself and everyone else. He challenged us with opportunities to succeed and was a wonderful rôle model.
With kind regards,
Christine Godwin (née Welch)

Anticipation – Sadness & Tears – Hilarity – Drama & Suspense
these emotions sum up my many visits to the Nottingham
Playhouse over a period of 49 years.

A favourite many years ago was Judi Dench with an
outstanding portrayal of ‘St. Joan’.
Another favourite was a wonderful play about the life
& music of Edith Piaf.
A more recent play ‘Forever Young’ a comedy by
well known faces from the pantomine.

May the magic of Nottingham Playhouse continue
for the next 50 years.

After my husband died, I started taking my two young grandaughters
to see the pantomines. This became a family tradition, and after
20 years we still come every year. Our favourite scene was – Nightie nightie, pyjamas, pyjamas.
Joyce Priestley

I was lucky enough to begin my career there in 1967 and learnt my trade from some of the best actors and actresses of the day. Throughout the 50 years, the high standard and variety of productions has been maintained and the staff, both in front and behind have strived to ensure its success. Happy birthday, to the most complete and admirable community theatre in the UK. Evadne Fisher