The End of the Pier
No, no! You sit there. I’ve got everything ready. Tea ok for you? Earl Grey with lemon? I could make coffee if you prefer?
Tea is so English isn’t it? I feel that coffee is too American. We really should maintain our traditions shouldn’t we? Not allow the Americans to take over and change our society.
I’m so flattered that you want to include me in your book. It’s quite gratifying that someone of your age should have an interest in the theatre, and to have an interest in me! And after all these years.
Now, where shall we begin?
Here it is, my photo album; I sorted it out when I got your phone call.
You have such a lovely telephone voice you know. Have you had any theatre training? No! I’m surprised. Something you should consider one day.
Where were we? Oh yes, my album. The best quality tooled leather. I just knew that I’d have plenty to put into it. I bought it with my first week’s wages, missed a couple of meals so that I could get it. Good for the figure though. Everything I’ve done is in here.
I’ve never wanted to do anything else, just be on the stage. Even when I was fiveI could recite poems and I just loved to dress up in my mother’s high heelsand fur coat. Always got the lead parts in school plays.
There’s just one photograph from that time.
This is it. It’s very faded and creased.
Father kept it in his wallet till the day he died.
I never even knew he had it!
Shall I pour? The china was my mothers, only two cups and saucers left now. She always liked to buy the best, liked to make an impression! Tea is so much nicer out of china cups don’t you think? I keep these for special visitors. They were father’s favourites! He loved the tradition of afternoon tea.
My mother did all the right things of course. Sent me to dance and elocution lessons, took me to the theatre to see suitable plays and even arranged for piano tuition. See, this is a picture of me with my first tap shoes. I was never very musical; it was always being someone else that I loved. Father wasn’t keen on all the theatre business. Thought a girl should get a good education, marry well and have a family.
Maybe he was right!
That, was my first job after I left drama school. Just a part of the crowd scene but it was a start. It’s only the playbill but you can see my name in tiny writing at the bottom.
The trouble was there were so many of us. All wanting fame and to be loved by the audience. You needed something. Something that made you different made you stand out. I must have had it because I began to get jobs.
This was my first real stage role, I was only eighteen.
That’s me! The one at the back there. The one with long blonde hair and legs that seem to go on forever. It’s the varicose veins that seem to go on forever now!
You need smile; it will come to you, hopefully a long time from now.
Everything was possible then. Stars in my eyes and eyes set on stardom.
Here I am. Charmian in Anthony and Cleopatra. It wasn’t with a big repertory company like the Royal Shakespeare but it got good reviews. This is the cutting. Even mentions my name! Mother actually got father to come to see that one. He didn’t say much but I could see that he was as pleased as punch.
It was after that that I met Richie.
All of the girls in the company were head over heels in love with him. He was, of course, usually cast in the leading role. He had such a presence on stage, and those looks! I didn’t think I stood a chance but he asked me out and people began to see us as a couple. Mother was delighted.
Here we are in ‘The Importance of Being Ernest.’ Wasn’t he handsome? And those eyes! I really fell for him. We had a thing going for a while.
Began to think I might leave the stage, settle down and have some kids. Father tried to persuade me that I was too young, not ready to settle down.
I suppose he was looking out for his little girl.
I think he guessed about the miscarriage.
He never said anything.
It was just the sad looks he gave me.
Mother of course didn’t have a clue. Too wrapped up in my possible fame and fortune.
It was the only time in my life that the theatre took second place.
Sorry, I’m rambling again Let’s get on.
Then Andrea, Andrea Aspiro joined the company. I can see you recognise the name.
‘The name is pronounced Andraya not Andreea’, she had snootily told me. I think there’s a photo of her somewhere.
Now where is it?
She’s with Richie. He was Hamlet. She was Ophelia. Rave reviews for that production.
Quite stunning wasn’t she? That dark hair, those intense eyes! I have to admit she had talent, and she knew it! She set her eyes on him and was determined to get him.
Soon after that they went to Hollywood.
The rest you know.
I continued working on the stage, got some leading roles.
This was my favourite, Beverley in Abigail’s Party even Mike Leigh commented on my interpretation.
Father was too ill by then to come and see it.
He would have been so proud.
He died about a month after it finished its run.
Mother kept all the cuttings; here they are in the album.
How she had time when she was looking after father I don’t know.
Do excuse me for a moment there’s something in my eye. No you stay there I’ll be fine. I’ll just go into the kitchen.
There, that’s better. I’ve brought us each a small sherry and some Madeira cake. Father loved his sherry. Mother wouldn’t touch it, said it was the ‘devil’s brew’. I find it a good tonic for the nerves, especially at about this time in the afternoon.
Now where were we?
Here we are, this is Richie and her in a play on Broadway. Names up in lights the lot. They had children, one of each. Paid a nanny to look after them, careers came first.
I would have given up the theatre for children.
I kept in touch with Richie for a while but SHE put a stop to that!
Last I heard he’d got Alzheimer’s and she was doing American chat shows. She was on one of the Sky channels once. Still looks stunning. I suppose she can afford to ‘enhance’ her looks. If you know what I mean!
Don’t know what happened to the children!
Would you like a top up dear? No! I think I will. All of this talking is making me very dry.
Eventually my style of acting wasn’t popular any more.
My agent suggested that if I was nicer to the director I might get more parts. I knew exactly what he meant but I only wanted to get parts on my acting ability, nothing else.
Oh this was such fun, a walk on part in Coronation Street. I suppose if Ian MacKellan can do it there’s no reason why I shouldn’t. It is, like the theatre, a great British institution after all.
With the wig and make up it is difficult to identify me. They had to age me quite a bit but I think the eyes give it away. They’ve always been one of my best features.
I could have extended my contract and done more TV work but the stage always beckoned.
I did get a few more parts in provincial rep.
There! That’s me behind the sofa. Don’t you just love the costume?
The last thing I did was a television advertisement. You must have seen it. It’s the one about dog food, the one with the Labradoodle. It got lots of awards. You don’t actually see me; I did the voice over for the granny.
They have suggested that there might be more parts for me.
In fact I’ve just heard from my agent. He’s got me an audition.
It’s to play the Wicked Stepmother in a Christmas Panto up in the North of England somewhere, a Winter Garden or a theatre on a pier I think.
The only time I ever remember going to a theatre on a pier was with Father. I was ten and we were on holiday in Brighton. Mother wasn’t feeling well so she stayed in bed. We saw the concert advertised and went to get out of the rain. It was great, not ‘real’ theatre but such fun. Father warned me not to tell Mother, she would not have approved of such frivolity!
I think maybe he’ll look down on me if I get the Wicked Stepmother part and chuckle about what my mother would have said.
I still miss him you know!
Are you sure you have to go? Have you got everything you need? Just call if there’s anything else.
Of course you can have copies of any of the items in my album. But I must have the originals back.
It is my life after all!
You will let me have a copy of the book when it’s finished won’t you?
So glad you came dear. I’m impressed that someone so young should have any interest in the theatre. And especially my part in it.
I’m sure, there isn’t any thing I would change!