Philip Hickson as The Reverend Sam Weech: has been acting , chiefly in comedy parts, for as long as he can remember. Having started in South-West London, after a terrific run in the West End – he missed the bus – Philip felt the call to come to Stratford-upon-Avon during the 1990’s and has taken various roles with The Phoenix Players and Bear Pit Theatre. He seems, however, to have cornered the market in ecclesiastical parts, having at various times played The Revd Chasuble in The Importance of Being Earnest, The Bishop of Lax in See How they Run, a dead vicar in Entertaining Angels, and now the Revd Sam Weech in tonight’s extravaganza. He is very pleased to be back with The Phoenix, doing what they do best – good, very entertaining comedy.
Linda Burridge as Miss Coggett and Mrs Bottomley: I put the ‘amateur’ into dramatics. I trod the boards whilst at school but sadly for me it was the day after a rather dramatic perm, so no one heard my witty repartee or amazing character satire above the witty remarks from my smooth-haired non-ginger peers. No training, as will become painfully apparent. But in my defence I only started with The Phoenix Players this year, and was amazingly, offered a small part with them, I eagerly learnt my lines, but not necessarily in the right order, then was asked to forget them and step into the role of a bossy-know-it-all old woman: Agatha Crusty…. She had lots of lines, and having whet my thespian soul and I came, tentatively back for more. Having got to know the Director through the last play I went along to the readings of The Titfield Thunderbolt knowing he would put his inimitable sense of comedy into rehearsals as well as the script. I was cast as an alcohol-infused, tango loving old woman and a music hall lush. I would say talent at being able to portray ‘old’, ‘lush’ and ‘alcoholic’ within one production – others may say type casting….
Neil McBride as Vernon Crump [the villain]: This is my fourth role in a year. From Daddy Bear in Panto [what else would you be a Daddy Bear in? Ibsen?] to an incompetent detective who, to this day, still believes he solved the crime, by way of being a murderer (oh no, hang on, it wasn’t me that did it). So . . . I thought I would have a go at a “wrong un” this time, and hope you enjoy it. Thanks as always to Vanessa & Gala for their help and support and the Phoenix for letting me have a go at this acting lark…
Margot Mc Cleary, as Lady Edna Chesterford: She grew tall whilst still at her (all girls) school, and says it was inevitable that early in her thespian career she should be cast in male roles, as a progression of dukes, jesters and moustache-twirling villains. She recalls her first part ever, when she played a pirate king in an outdoor summer production. Her chief memory is of the greenfly and midges which came literally to a sticky end as they shipwrecked on the greasepaint spread liberally over her eleven year old face. Since attaining her comfortable mid-forties (some mumbltey years ago), she has enjoyed being cast in her amdram activities, as a succession of old dears, old bats and old dragons. From murder victim to murder suspect, from dotty tour guide to righteous puritan matron, from wicked stepmother in pantomime to forsaken queen in Shakespeare… whether they are mad, bad, sad or glad, Margot has relished bringing them to life on stage. She has trodden the boards in widow’s weeds and strumpet’s scarlet, felt hats, farthingales and feather boas, and looks forward in “The Titfield Thunderbolt” to a new adventure in railway guard’s uniform alternating with the tweed skirts of a country gentlewoman.
Andi Hardy as Joan Weech – our heroine: “Only having been in the Phoenix since January, the part of Joan is massive for a wee Scottish lass! And I seem to have taken on parts that are drawn to pub life: in the last play I was running the Squeaky Ferret pub [or whatever it was called]. This was a tenancy for a brewery called “Firkin Ales”, which is an innocuous enough title until you try saying it with a Glasgow accent. And now I’m in a pub again! But I’m not complaining. I’m looking forward to the challenge of “Titfield” – and whatever else comes along!
Wayne Bartlett as Harry Crump and Sgt Wilson: Acting has always been great fun for me, appearing in many short films as part of my media degree. I found it great fun and stress free knowing that you can edit all the mistakes out or at least do the scene again. The idea of performing on stage without this safety belt terrified me but the Phoenix Players were desperate so I agreed to help out in Murder on the Nile directed by Richard Ball. I was then asked to help out on their panto Snow White as the Prince’s assistant. Who knew what stunt work was involved? I then went through the auditioning process for Goldilocks and won the part of TomTom. Followed by Agatha Crusty and the Village Hall Murders, I played the role of Toby the vicar – a suspect amongst many. This has been a really enjoyable experience which will only snowball with the Titfield Thunderbolt. However, playing two characters will be an interesting challenge but they are such fun characters to play. I have only been with the Phoenix Players for a couple of years but I truly hope there will be many years more to come.
Kirsty Asad as the Choirmaster and Clifton: I started acting when I was about 8, in a children’s am dram group in Truro. I continued my passion with GCSE and A level drama. As I headed to University to do a degree crunch time hit…music or drama… I chose music. I am now, and have been for 9 years, a secondary school teacher of music. My passion for drama relit last year in Kent, and when I moved to Stratford I decided to join the Phoenix Players, not realising that I would inherit a second family. The rest as they say is history…
Fiona Robson as Miss Ruddock: I’ve been a member of the Phoenix Players since 1992. My very first part was as that well-known pantomime character, Pongo the Pig in Cinderella. I’ve been lucky enough to play some cracking parts along the way, favourites being Dora Bunner in ‘A Murder is Announced’ and Miss Skillon in ‘See How They Run’. There have been plenty of roles in panto too, where, of course, my favourite was playing the Evil Queen Bee in this year’s production of ‘Goldilocks!’ Being part of the Phoenix Players hasn’t always been about being on stage for me though. I’m often to be seen Front of House on shows and have also been prompt and stage manager on occasions. Somehow, I ended up as Chairman of the Society three years ago and am still going strong with a great committee in place. Again, I’ve been lucky with my timing as I had the great honour of receiving a Pride of Stratford Award on behalf of the group at this year’s awards and all the fun of the 70th anniversary celebrations this year too.
Ticket sales are going well so who knows, it could be standing room only! Don’t miss getting your seat, book your ticket now from the Stratford Artshouse Box Office – click here or call 01789 207100. All departures 7:30pm.