Memories of Nairobi City Players
At about eight years old, or maybe a bit older, I was a monkey in a play about Noah’s Ark with a local drama group in Hertfordshire in the UK. I have no idea how this came about, but I caught the ‘bug’ then, which continued for a large part of my life. I was in all the House Plays and sone school plays at grammar school and in 1963 I arrived in Nairobi, but did no more drama until the early 70s, when I joined Lavington Players and then, after becoming a bit more confident, branched out into other productions including some with James Falkland and Nairobi City Players, ending up with joining the Donovan Maule company both acting and stage management for eighteen months part time and a further eighteen months full time before leaving Kenya in 1983.
‘A Voyage Round My Father’ was my first part with NCP in 1973 in which I had two small roles. The first was Miss Baker, which I do not remember at all and the second was as the First ATS Girl. That part I do remember. The Second ATS Girl was Julie Anderson. We were playing lesbians. Today that is fine, but in the 70s, it was not acceptable. One night, Julie and I were lying on our fronts side by side right at the front edge of the stage at the Kenya National Theatre. I think I had my arm round her, nothing more, but there were two elderly (like me now!) ladies sitting in the front row and we could quite clearly hear one say to the other, ‘That is disgusting!’ It was very difficult not to ‘corpse’!!
In 1974 I was cast as Mrs Bedwin in ‘Oliver’, which was a great production and thoroughly enjoyable to be a part of with the wonderful Ann Tobin as Nancy, becoming Anny Tobin in the UK when she turned professional, but who is sadly now no longer with us. David Kelsey was a wonderful Director. It was a privilege to be under his direction.
I was also part of The Company in ‘Another Opening’ and was in three sketches in that as well. This was a very happy production, also in the National Theatre.
The other productions in which I was involved were ‘Conduct Unbecoming’ in 1973 as a Production Assistant, ‘Godspell’ in 1974 as part of the lighting crew, operating a follow spot, ‘An Inspector Calls’ in 1974 set painting with my then young son Darrell, ‘Hostile Witness’ was props and for ‘The Merry Widow’ I was doing Front of House.
However, my favourite time of all was to be in every show of ‘The Minstrels’ between 1974 and 1978. It was a fabulous time travelling with a variety show to many different venues around Kenya, not just Nairobi, and on one occasion going over the border to Arusha, Tanzania. What a time we had, and I know there were many very amusing incidents.
Unfortunately, my memory of a lot of them is quite sparse. It is over 40 years ago after all! However, one or two things come to mind. I think it was the very first show we put on at the Nairobi Club. We had to make our company entrances from outside at the back of the club, climb in through the window of the gents’ loos and enter the Gentlemen’s Lounge. The stage was at the far end of the lounge. When we first arrived, we had to be shown the route obviously and as we entered the lounge, the newspapers being held by some of the gentlemen in the leather chairs positively quivered. I believe we were the first women ever to be allowed into this room and to come in from the gents’ loos ……….! Well……….! The only other incident which I can remember is when we went to Arusha, taking all our props etc with us. In the boot of one of the cars was a stack of obviously fake, flat, wooden rifles for one of the numbers, but of course the border officials had a lot of questions for the car driver, as to why we were taking guns into Tanzania! I cannot remember who the driver was, which is probably just as well!
So, all those very happy memories. How I wish one could turn back the clock. I would give a lot to be able to go back in time!
I am still ‘treading the boards’ in the UK and for the last seven years have been in various amateur productions in Stratford-upon-Avon, the last being a production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream in February. Unfortunately, the pandemic put paid to a production of A Woman in White, which should have been in July, but we are hoping to put it on some time next year. For the moment, I am hoping to have a part in The Shakespeare Revue in February next year, Covid willing!
Thank you, Nairobi City Players, for the fun and the lasting friendships.
27 November 2020