Penny Plain features a wide range of performers, from promising young teenagers to experienced and even semi-retired professionals. Past and present, on and off stage they are:
From Peter Pan to Demetrius, not to mention Scrooge, though the baby of the company Tom had amassed a great track record of leading roles with several local amateur groups including Burnsall, Grassington Players and Grassington Pantoloons, before being scooped up by Penny Plain. His skills, honed by Drama & Theatre Studies at Craven College, were thoroughly tried and tested as we threw him in at the deep end of a rapper sword dance set at his first rehearsal.
In a rare fit of public spiritedness, Hardcastle’s snatched young Dickun away from his tormentors as he was being beaten black and blue in a street in Leeds. He was a chimney sweep, whose height and bountiful head of hair had once served him very usefully in his occupation, alas, he had grown too big for the chimneys, and was now cruelly beaten. Having been swept up into the ample bosom of Hardcastle’s and finding life on the road agreeable (he is the only one who does), they are stuck with him. It is they who now beat him black and blue.
Another all-rounder, John has been acting and singing for many years, alongside running a leisure development business. A comic actor above all else, his timing and expressions are enough to get any audience laughing. We also plundered his business skills shamelessly, and made him our Chairman.
Quite how they came to have a minister in their ranks, the troupe can’t remember. They all wonder why he refuses to let them perform at Upton Snodsbury where he was formerly the incumbent, before succumbing to the pleasures of the bottle and a Mrs Bone. He attends to the spiritual needs of the troupe, which are not great.
Despite his boyish good looks, Mark has been acting, in one form or another, for almost 35 years. Starting with children’s theatre in the Dales, he has manifested his talents in places as diverse as Woking, Aldershot, Bristol and London, performing in almost every type of production from Shakespeare to panto and back again via farce and community theatre. Now back in the Dales, he has fulfilled part of his lifetime ambition by spending most of his time rehearsing and acting but unfortunately without the concomitant necessity of earning a living from it. Please give generously to…
The owner and actor-manager of the Mighty Excelsior theatre, Malvolio is a showman, despite being much beset about with trouble – from his wife, his troupe, poverty, sheriff’s officers, and, well, life. He’s led his motley cast through everything, and will ever hope for the money and recognition they so richly don’t deserve.
New to the company in 2009 having returned to the family home in the Dales, Tristan brings both youth and experience to the company. At the tender age of ten he played Oliver on Cornwall’s magnificent outdoor stage at the Minack Theatre. He was trained at the London Studio Centre and worked in Germany with White Horse Theatre Company.
A charming pathological liar, Thaddeus was orphaned at an early age, and survived living off his wits as a pickpocket. After being framed for a crime that he did not commit, he had a narrow escape from prison and is now exploring the length and breadth of the country for new opportunities. He travels freely over hill and dale, trading the merchandise, from horse flesh to silverware, that he acquires on route.
Tim was born into a musical family in Linton, Wharfedale. His father taught him the violin along with many other local pupils. Through his interest in folk music Tim met Jackie Beresford of Buckden, from a very famous family of dales musicians. As well as marrying his daughter Rosemary, Tim learned to play the accordion from him and her uncle Harry Cockerill. Joining them when they played for dances he learned the tradition he carries on today with his own dance band.
Josiah is the son of a Dales farmer who had the benefit of a wild and mis-spent youth. After a debauched night in a Cracoe pub he forgot to rub down his sweaty horse and it caught the wheezy staggers. To avoid the wrath of his father he decided to run away to Keighley but due to a problem with map reading he ended up in Canada. After 10 long years he returned to find the horse hadn’t died but his father threw him out anyway for deserting the farm. He took to the road but after only 200 yards he fell over Malvolio Hardcastle who had just been thrown out of the Fountaine at Linton. As luck would have it they also threw out an accordion because the landlord’s wife said it was either her or it. The rest is history.
To describe Nick as brave and determined would not do the words, or him, justice. His long battle with cancer that ended on 18th December was one of the most inspiring one could imagine. He came to Penny Plain through his children Jo and Alex, firstly as a minder, then as a stage hand and finally as an actor and even a singer, of sorts. He was unfailingly cheerful despite the vicissitudes of his condition and was always on hand to help wherever he could. We shall remember him best, clad in a bear skin coat and lustily singing The Christmas Tree song. Happy days…
A tribute to the late ABNER ARBUTHNOT
At the time of writing we have no idea as to the medical condition or otherwise of Mr Arbuthnot, but we do know that he is late. Over the years many of the members of our troupe have been late for their stage call, Mr Tripswitch once arrived to give his opening line just as the final scene was ending, but no-one has yet managed to exceed Mr Arbuthnot’s current record of 6 months.
He was last seen by Bessie as he hopped lightly from the back of the moving stage, somewhere between Landywood and Bloxwich and said that he was ‘nipping behind that tree to sweep a dirty crossing’. He has not been seen since. As there didn’t appear to be even a blade of grass or a road crossing for miles we assumed that he was employing a euphemism…but then again…
If anyone has any news of his whereabouts please contact Hardcastles as he has taken all the carefully torn newspaper with him.
Having attended his local surgery regarding a mild asthmatic attack Steve was somewhat surprised to receive a call from his doctor (Andrew Jackson aka Sudbury Spoone) some days later. Worriedly he took the call, not thinking that his condition was life threatening, only to be asked to take on the role of Squire Ratchet. Steve is still trying to work out the connections that led from one to the other. However he has also been seen treading the boards locally with Skipton Operatic Society, Skipton Little Theatre and The Jay Walkers where he took the role of Richard Hannay in ‘The 39 Steps’.
Ratchett is the local Justice of the Peace who fiercely defends the reputation of his daughter Dorothy whilst keeping her in abject poverty. There must have been a wife around once upon a time but she has mysteriously disappeared allowing Ratchet to chase any floozy who happens to wander through his fiefdom. Spotting virgins at a hundred paces is his speciality.
From ‘The Mikado’ to ‘Daisy Pulls it Off’, ‘Lark Rise’ to ‘Les Liaisons Dangereux’ Jane has played a host of leading roles. Selected to tour France with Northamptonshire County Youth Theatre at the age of 14 in ‘Look Back in Anger’ and ‘Savages’ she went on to perform with several Midlands companies. Since moving to Yorkshire in 1990 she has worked regularly with the Dales Theatre Group and Grassington Players, performing and directing. A folk singer with a lovely voice, and a morris dancer, too!
Scooped up by Mrs Hardcastle as an abandoned child, Tess remains sickly, consumptive and terrified by life in general. She worries and frets and makes the whole troupe nervous, but get her on stage, and off she goes…
There can’t be a show written that Richard hasn’t been in at some time or other. He has taken both acting and singing roles in some of the most prestigious shows to be performed in Yorkshire. Anyway, he’d got a good lot of costumes, so we had to have him, really. He also directs for us, not to mention building our travelling theatre almost single-handedly. He has recently retired from his own engineering business.
The only one of the company that really does anything. He can actually act, sing, and make and mend the set and props. No-one’s sure why he’s still with them, and neither is he (It was some trifling matter the police are still fussing about.)
Alex Hornsey, aspiring stage crew member of the Grassington Pantoloons…
An annoying small boy who we keep on because of his talent for pickpocketing members of the audience. He is also useful for ‘gathering prey’ for the troupe’s hotpot.
One of the youngest members of the cast, Jo aspires to a theatrical life and is already well on the way. A dedicated member of the Grassington Pantoloons since she was nine, all the important roles she has undertaken have been male, though she insists the directors weren’t trying to tell her something. Jo is a member of The Northern Dance Centre and her musical talents include playing the guitar, piano, and, on occasion, to sing.
A young girl from somewhere, nobody really knows where. Emma ran away from her parents and stole away with the company, though they didn’t find out till the next morning. Nancy adopted her as a stage hand as she is a simple girl who doesn’t really say much, just wandering around smiling when she isn’t needed to be a coat stand for Mr. Hardcastle. She is handy when fights get out of hand – which they frequently do – as the company’s own Florence Nightingale.
Another founding member, and the one that writes the scripts, such as they are. Andrew has been involved with theatre all his life, from school to professional rep in Edinburgh, and all during his career as a doctor. From Solness in the “Master Builder” to the dame in Cinderella, including his own one-man show at the Edinburgh festival, he’s played hundreds of parts, as well as directed and written extensively for the theatre. He has now dropped a considerable amount of the doctoring to concentrate on acting. He’s almost as foolish as…
Mr Spoone not only acts terribly, but writes the worst scripts you could imagine. He’s the only one who can write, though, so they have to put them on. A tortured soul, he is certain of his, as yet undiscovered, genius. A genius so great that mundane things like washing and being nice to people are out of the question.
Considering that his parents were the famed theatrical stars Titania Kidneigh and Sydney Kidneigh, Oberon had the best start an actor could wish for. Alas, bad luck and a complete lack of talent led quickly to destitution and the bottle. Hardcastle’s troupe rescued him from ruin, convinced they could coax out his inherited genius. As usual, they were very wrong.
Formerly first mate on the Endeavour, Geoff came late into acting, and surprised everyone with a great talent and dedication. Appearances include King Arthur, Edwin in “The Crossroads”, Gerald in “Rumours”, and many panto roles. Quite good at knots, too. Oh, and an electrician as well, but that’s no good when you’re being Victorian…
Now in the sunset of a rather miserable acting career, Mr Tripswitch has rather turned to the bottle and his memories for consolation. As far as he remembers, he used to be a great tragic actor. He is, of course, wrong: it was life that was tragic.
Hails from the heady halls of Halifax in variety and musicals, but lured into the lights of London to be launched into TV and opera, then gravitated, via Glyndebourne, to the Grand Opera theatres of Germany, eventually to reach the culmination of a career in the creative cacophony of comedy drama in the Yorkshire Dales. Oh well.
Life with Mr Hardcastle has taken its toll on Gladys. Always the power behind his throne, but a trifle unreliable about paying wages. She gives of herself tirelessly, even though no-one wants to take her. Increasingly dependent on the medicinal qualities of juniper berries.
Part of the local players for some years, Judith’s taken part in many village productions, sung with various choirs, and has been known to compose the odd ode or two. She takes a deal of the stage management burden from Helen.
A mother figure for the troupe, but only to the extent of beating them regularly and cooking some rather strange dishes, washing some rather strange clothes and on the whole – rather strange.
Mesmerised by the stage from an early age, Lorraine has been involved in all aspects of theatre for many years. In the last twenty years she has played a variety of comedic roles with local theatre groups in Grassington. She is invariably cast in ‘breeches’ roles so playing a woman is something of a novelty.
A somewhat intellectually challenged individual inclined to vacant expressions, indicative of someone who is slightly out of step with the world. Daisy’s inability to comprehend fully the complexities of life means that she is invariably on the receiving end of Mr Hardcastle’s boot!
Has a performing arts background in acting, directing, writing, filming and getting money out of the EU, ‘tho not a lot. She devises and delivers arts projects for the voluntary sector in Leeds with her company Loud Minority, in between nipping round the Balkans, the Baltic and other assorted states with a band of performing artists from across Europe and lots of young people. She first saw Penny Plain as a member of the audience in 2007 and the image stuck…
Daphne has a past but can’t quite get to grips with it. Certainly a husband or two and several assorted children. She took to the open road in her middle years and sometime ago the troupe found her snoring in the wagon, sadly not on it. She was a bit of a dead weight to push off so she’s been carted round with the company ever since and anyway they needed an extra… In her more concentrated moments she can be found attempting to unearth her hidden artistic talents but so far they remain elusive.
Trained in drama at Cardiff, and has acted and directed a wide variety of traditional and experimental work, both in this country and in Europe. Her work as an Arts Officer and events organiser has come in very handy for advising us about development and funding sources.
A refugee from the potato famine and taken on by Hardcastle because of her huge talent (or two huge talents, to be exact), Fenoulagh’s temper is as fiery as her hair. At her best in one of the frequent public-house brawls that seem to break out whenever the troupe are around.
From Tasmania, although we try not to hold that against her, Helen’s main calling is as an artist and designer, in which capacity she worked for many years as set designer for the BBC, especially in period productions, so has amassed a great knowledge of costume and historical detail. She is still a professional artist, besides spending a lot of time at sea and has been crew on board the Endeavour. She’s our stage manager, so there’s not much difference between her and…
Originally transported to Australia for stealing, she more recently transported herself back to England and joined Hardcastle’s lot who happened to be playing in the port she landed in. A cheerful, if bossy disposition, and much given to singing sea shanties; both traits succeeding in getting up everybody’s noses. She is the present stage manager, but trying to get herself transported back to Australia.
Having done a bit of acting at school it wasn’t until working with the Prospice Company at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, playing Owen Glendower in Henry !V, that he was taken seriously. He has since performed in all forms of productions, including musicals and operas, and in all sorts of places from Skegness to Skipton. He puts on shows in Burnsall that bring together anybody from the community that wants to have a go on stage. This is normally panto, but has included Oliver, Fiddler and in 2008 Oklahoma! Despite all this his main love is music. As a teacher he has taken String Orchestras and Choirs on many musical tours across Europe. Very proud of his Welsh heritage, as is…..
The musician of the group; Iffor joined the company to escape creditors after a failed business enterprise in Wales. He was Chapel organist in Ystradgynlais and had a vision of mining for seaweed in the Brecon Beacons. He persuaded a rich American to bankroll his project and money poured in. After drilling for three years it proved, amazingly, to be a fruitless venture and just as he was about to be arrested for corruption and fraud, he left his wife Ida, and joined the players, who were performing nearby in Ystalyfera.