Unforgettable Scenes Of City's Funny Girl

Cassandra Stone, now company secretary of the Nottingham Arts Theatre, has contributed so much to the theatre over many years.

She freely admits she has done just about everything: acting, singing, wardrobe, ticket sales, coffee bar etc.

She and her sister, Julia Hull, who sang with the theatre's opera group, made their first stage appearances at St Jude's Church, Mapperley, when Cassandra was about six.

It was in their genes. Grandmother had been on stage at the Nottingham Hippodrome and her grandfather had also briefly been an actor.

Nothing - except courage - could have prepared Cassandra for one of her recent and memorable roles at the theatre.... as the Stripper in The Graduate, complete with tassles!

In a fond and funny look back at a memorable time at the theatre, in shows with Su Pollard, Cassandra recalls: "My only claim to fame is that I was behind Su Pollard in the 'Hup, two, three, four' cross by the nurses in the 1960s production of South Pacific.

"It was my first show. We had learned all the songs and Jeff Bowley, the producer, was setting the scene.

"Hey up" she said "What's your name? I'm Su.

"At that time, she had the most beautiful, long, blonde plait and, from what I remember, wore relatively normal clothes, a nice lilac coat and a boater hat, when out round Nottingham. She looked like the rest of us.

"The next year she got the lead in the Student Prince by Sigmund Romberg, playing Kathy.

"That must have been the turning point, because, for some inexplicable reason, she had cropped her hair short, just when two Teutonic plaits would have been absolutely spot-on for the part.

"She played opposite Paul Greensmith as the Prince and I recall her standing on a table in the cafe scene, effortlessly reaching top C as the motley crew of 'students' (not one under 30) marched round the stage.

"That was when the wonderfully eccentric clothes started to appear. This was after all the sixties.

"She caught her bus on Derby Road near the Cathedral. The Jaeger Shop was next door. John Pierrepont worked there and she took delight in gesticulating wildly to him through the window in ever more bizarre clothes as he was trying to take the inside leg measurements of sedate, middle class gentlemen.

"A year later she played Henrietta in Robert and Elizabeth, by Ron Grainger, a much-underrated British musical of the life of Robert Browning and Elizabeth Barrett.

"Henrietta, Elizabeth's sister, is hopelessly in love with Captain Surtees Cooke, played in full regimentals (this was the sixties!) by John Constable. I can remember the costumes came with the names of the London cast written inside them: June Bronhill, John Clements, Jeremy Lloyd, Angela Richards.

"I'd seen the show in London and loved it, so I couldn't wait to be in the chorus anywhere.

"However, in the interim Su had played one of the women trapped in Lorca's The House of Bernada Alba.

"There was nothing musical or comic in that play and Su was brilliant.

"The following year, we did My Fair Lady and again Su was in the chorus. I can recollect that the costumes for the Ascot scene came terribly crumpled after their journey from Berman's and I don't remember Su ever ironing hers! Perhaps the creases fell out as the week progressed.

"The next show, we both auditioned for was Oklahoma!. She got the part of Ado Annie. Who else could have played it? "And if I remember rightly, she wore the same gingham dress from our wardrobe when she sang I'm Just a Girl Who Cain't Say No on Opportunity Knocks (for the under 40s that was the Britain's Got Talent of its day).

"And the rest, as they say, is history.

She came second in the finals to a singing dog! But she was on her way...."

Nottingham Evening Post
16th October 2010