Director steps up to cover for injured actor

Old Tupton Chapel Players, Rock A Bye Sailor, Jean Shaw, Ann Walters, Matthew Joynes, Barry Johnson, Sally Mason, Colin Sorrell, Jo Bissell, Grace Shepherd and Tom Bannister
Old Tupton Chapel Players, Rock A Bye Sailor, Jean Shaw, Ann Walters, Matthew Joynes, Barry Johnson, Sally Mason, Colin Sorrell, Jo Bissell, Grace Shepherd and Tom Bannister

Thespian Ann Walters put a new spin on the old showbiz adage ‘break a leg’ when she fractured her hip.

She fell after taking part in the first night performance of Old Tupton Chapel Players show on Tuesday.

While the saying is supposed to wish an actor good luck, it wasn’t so for Ann. She had to have a hip replacement which forced her to bow out of the production.

Director John Harrop stepped into the role, donning a wig, housecoat, cardigan, knee-high socks and slippers to play Aunt Edie in the comedy Rock-A-Bye Sailor.

He navigated the role with book in hand last night (Wednesday, November 13) pulling off a brave performance which earned applause from cast members and audience.

John’s exaggerated facial expressions and occasional hesitancy while he found his place in the script pointed up the dotty and forgetful elderly aunt at the centre of calamitous situations. He nearly lost his wig as he emerged from under a table in a moment of comedy gold while scenes where items crashed out of a cluttered cupboard and tumbled out of a suitcase were equally funny.

Most of the hilarity was generated by Sally Mason, cast as the aptly named Emma Hornett whose waspish tongue took no prisoners. Playing up to her character’s dominant personality, she buzzed around stage barking out orders, casting withering looks and leaving a trail of fed-up, irritated housemates in her wake. Her role as overbearing matriarch was a marathon challenge but one which Sally rose to in style.

Balancing Emna’s volatile, outspoken traits were her husband Henry’s long-suffering, quiet and timid characteristics, with actor Barry Johnson ticking all the boxes.

Tom Bannister played likeable seafarer Albert, for whom recent fatherhood or sailing the ocean was a breeze compared to tackling his mother in law. His scene with Matthew Joynes, playing kilt-wearing knitter Carnoustie was one of the best in the show as the Scotsman shared his intelligent thoughts on the fairer sex.

Their wives were played by Jo Bissell and Grace Shepherd, cooing over their newborns and fretting over how to handle the domineering Emma.

Jean Shaw played the busybody neighbour Florrie Lack, poised to step into Emma’s shoes the moment she threatened to leave her husband.

In a minor role as the Queen’s envoy, Colin Sorrell achieved the rare feat of appearing in all three of the ‘Sailor’ trilogies which the Chapel Players first embarked on 24 years ago.

Sound effects of babies crying and a car pulling up on a rainy night added to the atmosphere, while Silver Cross prams, Bakelite light switches, flying ducks mural and references to matinee idol Trevor Howard harked back to the early Sixties.

There’s still time to see Rock-A-Bye Baby which is attracting large audiences to Old Tupton Methodist Churchn schoolroom. The production runs every night at 7.15pm until Saturday, November 16.

GAY BOLTON