Swansong for theatre company's founder and leading light

Young actors and singers have been inspired by the guiding light of a woman who has nurtured budding talent in north Derbyshire for a quarter of a century.

Dot Clarke, founder of Inspirations Theatre Company
Dot Clarke, founder of Inspirations Theatre Company

Dot Clarke has played a pivotal role in directing fledgling performers towards a dream career on the professional stage.

But at the age of 71 and suffering mobility problems after hip operations, she is bowing out of the amateur theatre company which she built from scratch.

She said: “I am sad but it is time to go...I can’t get around very easily these days.”

Her swansong will be directing Inspirations Theatre Company in The Addams Family musical at Chesterfield’s Pomegranate Theatre next week.

Dot’s exit from the company doesn’t spell the end of Inspirations as she has entrusted its future to one of her former students, Josh Mason. She said: “I told him he could have it lock, stock and barrel as long as he kept it going.”

Her former students have gone onto great things over the years. Drew Mason said: “The passion that Dot poured into her productions and more importantly her ‘children’ gave myself and countless others the skills to embrace the world and explore everything it has to offer. With her help I was able to secure a place at The Guildford School of Action. Upon graduation, I landed a part in the London production of Mamma Mia! before joining the UK tour of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat.”

Tom Hargreaves has made musical theatre his profession, performing We Will Rock You in Germany, playing the lead role in Rock of Ages when its star Shayne Ward was ill and touring in the musical 9 To 5. He said: “I learned many a lesson from Dot which I have taken into my professional career. I would never have been where I am today without her.”

Tom’s many roles with Inspirations included Javert in Les Miserables at the Pomegranate Theatre where the cast included Carly Hopkinson, who is now making a name for herself on the world stage as opera singer Carly Paolo.

Ed Gregory has also made great strides in entertaining people across the globe. He said: “It was Dot’s constant pushing of my performance skills and boundaries that led me to study at East 15 acting school. She gave me the foundation skills that have taken me around the world as a performer for the world famous, international award-winning Blue Man Group.”

Dot made her debut in amateur dramatics in The Importance of Being Earnest for The Chameleons theatre company in Essex.

On her return to the East Midlands, she joined Bolsover Drama Group where she performed in musicals and latterly directed an award-winning production of Big Al for the group’s youngest members.

She said: “I really wanted to work with young people so I set up a new company. At first the group was called Young Inpsirations but I dropped the Young because I felt some people would think it’s only kids and they wouldn’t bother to go and see it. They don’t realise that young people can match any of the adults.”

The Addams Family Musical runs at the Pomegranate Theatre on March 22 and 23 at 7.15pm.

To find out more about Dot’s life on and off the stage, see this week’s Derbyshire Times, published on March 17, 2016.