In the Spotlight: Helen Ashbourne
How long have you been a Loft member?
I’ve just notched up 40 years. Time someone put me out to grass!
How many Loft productions have you been involved with?
As an actor about 42. I also did wardrobe for a couple of shows and have handled the PR and photography for more than I can remember.
What has been your principal area of involvement so far?
In the past it was acting; these days it’s more PR and photography – there are not that many roles for senile old bats!
Are you involved with other theatre groups/societies?
Over the years, as a performer, I’ve been involved with Spa Opera, Leamington and Warwick Musical Society, Spa Theatre Company and, way back, the Talisman. Currently my involvement is more photographic.
Which is your favourite of the Loft shows you’ve worked on so far?
This is really tough. I’ve loved so many and worked with some superb directors. Most recently I found Brassed Off a truly liberating experience. Similarly I enjoyed Mrs Peachum in The Threepenny Opera. Other favourites include Three Sisters, Lady Windermere’s Fan (lovely frocks!), Salome, See How They Run, Tom Jones and many more. Photographically: Mother Courage, Sweeney Todd, the McDonagh season and Amadeus – but I always moan about the challenge of low lighting.
Have you experienced any backstage or onstage disasters?
Yes, but I try to forget them. I’ve missed a couple of entrances over the years, for very legitimate reasons, but you feel dreadful for your fellow actors. Then there’s the one when the phone does not ring and it’s your line. When I danced the White Rabbit in Toad of Toad Hall, David Biddle nicknamed me Thumper! I once played Titania in A Midsummer Night’s Dream at Charlecote Park. I was supposed to arrive by punt down the river but it blew a gale one night and the fairies had trouble docking and I was frozen in chiffon! In Tom Jones I was supposed to throw myself onto a bed in a cramped, raised bit of set and missed one night, ending up on the floor, blooded but unbowed. There were some fun moments in musicals too. I remember falling off the stage in a blackout at the old Jephson Gardens Pavilion, landing on concrete behind the double bass. We were both a bit surprised.
Have you had any form of theatre training?
Not formal but as a youngster I took ballet and singing lessons for years – not sure the latter did any good but it helped to give me a loud voice! I did some training with the late, great Pauline Wattis. I’ve also benefited from Ann Mulraine’s help and, like so many, I owe a great deal to Phyl Harris.
What do you do for a living?
I’m semi-retired now but still do some photography, copywriting and PR.
Besides theatre, what are your main pastimes?
Photography – I’m chairman and publicity officer for Leamington Spa Photographic Society. I enjoy (fair weather) walking – and travelling when funds permit. Hate gardening!
What would be your dream show to be involved with at the Loft?
It’s always the next one.