Story added: 5:00pm Wed Oct 24, 2012
Patron relives memories of time with Donald Wolfit
Sunday 21st October, 2012 - Newark Town Hall ballroom
By Dawn Bond
The Wolfit LectureGERALDINE McEWAN, left, with José King, Wolfit Endowment Fund trustee and Robin Hood Theatre director, and Richard Digby Day.
A packed audience in Newark Town Hall’s ballroom were treated to a delightful and interesting talk from actress Geraldine McEwan for the 11th Wolfit Lecture on Sunday.
At the event, run by the Wolfit Endowment Fund, Geraldine spoke about her life and career in a question and answer session, fronted by former Nottingham Playhouse director Richard Digby Day.
The pair first met 40 years ago but it was not until ten years later that they worked together, with Geraldine starring in a one-woman play about Jane Austen.
Richard said they decided to try it out at the Robin Hood Theatre, Averham, for a private viewing before putting it on for a run at the Nottingham Playhouse and it went down well, cutting 20-minutes off the running time because of her nervousness and excitement.
Geraldine, who is a patron of the Robin Hood Theatre, said she was from an Irish background and most her family could sing.
She said: “I was painfully shy as a child. I was given a poem to read out when I was nine so I rehearsed and rehearsed it, said it, and it gave me such a wonderful feeling when everyone clapped that I knew this was how I was going to live the rest of my life.
“I used to be taken to the theatre on a Monday night, when tickets were two for the price of one, and I would sit in the gods lapping everything up. I was from a working class family but my mother managed to pay for me to have elocution lessons. I remember when I was 11 being given a speech by Lady Macbeth and it was as if I had been given a pot of gold. I understood everything instinctively.”
Although she never received any formal training she and her friend were asked to be extras on stage when they were 14 and she did many walk-on parts. At 16 when she left school she could not afford to go to a drama school but realised the theatre’s assistant stage manager was leaving. She asked for the job, got it and her career flourished.
Over the years she has worked with some great actors including Sir Laurence Olivier, Ralph Richardson, Leslie Phillips, and even did a bit of radio work with Sir Donald Wolfit, the Balderton-born actor manager.
Geraldine said: “I was about 20 when I was asked to do The Provoked Wife with Donald on the radio and it was quite an experience. He was rather a larger than life character who was very kind to me and thoughtful. There was an element of danger about him.”
She said she had played many parts over the years but her favourite pieces were Oranges Are Not The Hidden Fruit, The Magdalene Sisters and The Prime Of Miss Jean Brodie — DAB.
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