In the Spotlight: Sue Wilkinson
How long have you been a Loft member?
Six years. I joined to stage manage Beautiful Thing in May 2001 and liked it so much I stayed.
How many Loft productions have you been involved with?
20, either as SM, lighting operator, actor or gofer. I just love theatre; the dust, heat and smell of the place when it’s in operation is a tonic for me, so any excuse to get involved and I’m there. I try to be sensible because I don’t live locally. But sense often doesn’t prevail. I’m very proud of the Loft Theatre, and if I can make a positive difference I will try my best.
What has been your principal area of involvement so far?
The bulk of my involvement has been backstage, as a stage manager, operator etc. I was also a bar manager for a while after Alan died. I’ve appeared in a couple of productions and I’m heavily involved with the day to day running of the theatre business previously as treasurer and now taking on the task of vice chairwoman.
Are you involved with other theatre groups/societies?
No. The Loft takes up all my time! Part of me would like to be a ‘jobbing actor’ moving between the local theatres and appearing in plays with less extracurricular work to take up my time. But I know I couldn’t do it. I like my involvement here too much.
Which is your favourite of the Loft shows you’ve worked on so far?
Well I’ve been involved with quite a few I have enjoyed (and some I’ve not!) but I have to say my favourite was Brief Encounter in 2004, directed by Vanessa Comer. For me, as stage manager, it had everything I needed. A great team spirit, professional level acting, a very sad and moving story, a great romance and moody set and soaring music! I was in my element.
Have you experienced any backstage or onstage disasters?
No, because whatever happens the show does have to carry on so nothing should be considered a disaster. The closest I’ve come has been having to evacuate the audience and cast mid-act on a Saturday matinée because the fire alarm went off. But all went very smoothly, and when we were allowed to continue the cast just picked straight up from where they left off and carried on beautifully. I think the biggest danger we have these days, with our far-flung membership, is that of an actor getting stranded somewhere and unable to arrive in time to go on. That has happened, but not to shows I’ve been working on. Even then we usually manage to get around the problem somehow. Communication is key, and with mobiles that’s easy now.
Have you had any form of theatre training?
No, just a long apprenticeship. I fell in love with theatre at a Belgrade Theatre panto of Dick Whittington starring Anita Harris when I was about six or seven (I can still remember the thrill of the lights, scenery and costumes) and I’ve been actively involved somehow or other since I was 13 years old. It has been a valuable training ground for all sorts of things and I met my husband in theatre too.
What do you do for a living?
All sorts! I don’t have a ‘proper’ job; I do some computer work, some building conservation work and some painting (using traditional materials preferably). I also spend far too much of my working day doing things for the Loft.
Besides theatre, what are your main pastimes?
There’s not a lot of time left, but I love to read. We are rebels and don’t have a TV in the house, so reading is very important to us. I like always to be doing something, so if I’m not reading I’m making something. I love to be outside and like nothing better than to be grubbing around in my workshop repairing some abandoned antique or other such relic. I also like to dance with a hula hoop to music, something I discovered this summer and am now totally addicted to.
What would be your dream show to be involved with at the Loft?
I love the play Arcadia by Tom Stoppard. I would enjoy being involved with that. But I would also love the opportunity to work on Ayckbourn’s House and Garden. An almost impossible piece, requiring two venues within sprinting distance of each other, this pair of linked plays is a mammoth feat of technical wizardry and timing, requiring more than the odd burst of speed from the actors dashing between the two. The audience sees the indoor play one night in one venue and the outdoor play another night in the second venue, with the same actors appearing in both plays at the same time! We possibly have a once in a lifetime opportunity to consider this production if the proposed move to the church happens. That cross-over point where we could use both venues one for the last time and one for the first time might make it possible; and I like a challenge!