Photograph and Report of the Headley Theatre Club's production of 'Ladies in Retirement', May 1973


A moment of anguish from the Headley Theatre Club's presentation, "Ladies in Retirement." Ellen played by Dawn Lewock, centre, comforts Emily (Rie Gerstel) on the left, and Louisa (Doreen Keen).

Report by Jo Fisher:

Murder most foul in an old Tudor house on marshes in the Thames estuary was the basis of the spine-chilling thriller, "Ladies in Retirement" by Edward Percy and Reginald Denham, presented by the Headley Theatre Club last Friday and Saturday.
The plot revolves around Miss Ellen Creed; housekeeper and companion to Miss Leonora Fiske, who plans to murder her mistress so that she may take over the house and provide a home for her two half-witted sisters, Louisa and Emily, and to obtain Miss Fiske's money.
Although Miss Fiske has lived a full life, being an ex-show girl, and being kept by a string of previous conquests, she admits to Ellen that she could die and no one would be any the wiser.
At this, an evil idea begins to evolve in Ellen's mind culminating with her strangling Leonora and hiding her body in a bread oven in the wall of the house - a place usually used by her mistress as a safe for her jewellery and money.
The oven is bricked up and all seems well but Ellen had not reckoned on her own conscience or the unexpected arrival of her ne'er-do-well nephew, Albert.
Ellen was brilliantly played by Dawn Lewcock and effected a very grim atmosphere to the action, while Esther Lucas was the exact opposite in her portrayal of the frivolous Miss Fiske, surrounded by her own things and appearing to be completely carefree.
The two mad sisters, Louisa and Emily, were played most realistically by Doreen Keen and Rie Gerstel. Louisa was a rather lovable character and kept up an incessant chatter, to the irritation of the more staid Emily, who spent her time bringing home driftwood and dead birds!
Making his stage debut as Albert was Philip Longhurst, who added just the right amount of "caddishness" to the part, and his accomplice, Lucy, was charmingly played by Liz Dhillon. Eileen Callaghan played a rosy-cheeked nun, Sister Theresa from the nearby Priory, and Bates, the local horse-drawn "taxi-service," was portrayed, in a brief appearance, by Brian Olof.
Production by Marie Bryan was brilliant. The whole play reeked of evil and mystery throughout and the set was remarkable. Not a detail of authenticity had been overlooked in the stone-walled room filled with Victorian bric-a-brac and antique furniture.
At times the action called for special lighting and this was provided competently by the backstage crew, David Bryan, Don Brewster, and George Fisher.
Sheila Green was the prompter, Phyllis Brewster handled the props, and Vicki Cook did the floral arrangements. Ray Pascoe was house manager.

Postscript – Found but still lost:

The men's section of the Headley Royal British Legion is still 'red-faced' over the recent sale of a gate-legged table at its jumble sale.
The table, the property of the Headley Theatre Club and belonging to the set of their current production, was sold by mistake for a few pence.
After extensive enquiries the purchaser was found. However, after transporting the table home he had spent a considerable time stripping it down and carrying out renovation works and had subsequently sold it!

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