CHAIN smoking became a charade for Blackpool’s renowned Green Room Players in one of their many productions, recalls member Neil Kendall.
They were performing Noel Coward’s classic Hay Fever at the Jubilee Theatre above the Co-operative Emporium in Coronation Street in March 1950.
Acknowledged producer Wilson Barnes was well-known for following his hunches when casting, as Neil recalls: “I was one who earlier he visualised as being ideal for the son in his own original comedy Cock A Doodle Do, which had premiered at the Oldham Coliseum with a professional company.
“Then it was re-staged for a week at the Grand with his own group and I played Tom Butterworth very successfully.”
So with Hay Fever, Wilson felt his leading lady, an ex-showbiz artist, would be ideally played by such a person.
He cast Constance Korris, wife of famous Arcadian Follies star Harry in this inconic role, a part played recently in the West End by top actress Judi Dench.
But as Neil reveals: “Alas, it was a disaster from the very start.”
It was a big part and Constance has done no acting for a long time which resulted in difficulty in remembering lines.
Neil says: “Wilson suggested if she ‘dried’ to ask for a cigarette while she either thought of her line or got a prompt. Towards the end of rehearsals poor Connie was asking for another cigarette while still smoking one!”
As well as Neil and Connie, the Hay Fever cast included Dorothy Bolton, Bernard Lewis, Marjorie Higham, John Benson, Pauline Ainsworth, Eileen Cook and Bernard McNamee.
Neil says: “I know Marjorie and John have sadly passed on but wonder if any of the other members are still with us and recall this rare misconception of the late Wilson Barnes and what a gracious lady Mrs Korris was?”