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The Shop at Sly Corner

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For their 1950 production, Martins Bank’s North Eastern Players stage a production Edward Percy’s “The Shop at Sly Corner”, which runs over four nights in November 1950 at Gateshead’s Little Theatre. As usual Martins Bank Magazine went along to one of the performances to produce the article shown below. On this occasion they are very keen to praise the standards of production and the quality of the acting.  This particular offering by the Players is directed by H Rowland Child, who joined the bank in 1920 is an accomplished actor performer and writer, who works extensively with the productions of Martins Bank’s North Eastern players. There are four production photos, and we also have a copy of the original programme, which is reproduced further down this page…

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The presentation of Edward Percy's “The Shop at Sly Corner” at the Little Theatre. Gateshead, for four nights, November 15th, 16th, 17th and 18th added fresh laurels to an already distinguished Company. The play is a good one, full of tense situations demanding strong and realistic acting and the character parts give full scope to all the talent which the actors possess. In less capable hands this has its dangers but in the care of artistes of the calibre of Stephen Futers, Nora Wilkie and Ally Taylor the play was safe. Descius Heiss is a receiver of stolen jewellery which he breaks up for resale, melting the precious metal in an electric furnace concealed at the back of the fireplace.

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Left to Right: Stephen Futers, Gordon Weatherburn, Gerald Evans, Norah Wilkie, Donald Thompson, Irene Tait and Pat Wallace

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One day his shop assistant overhears a “deal” conducted at the back of the shop which forms the stage setting and blackmails the old man as the price of keeping the information about his activities from the daughter whom the old man worships, and who is engaged to be married to Robert Graham, a ship's doctor. Eventually the blackmailer goes too far and Heiss murders him, killing himself with a poisoned dart when he thinks the hunt is up, though all the detective in charge of the case has returned for was to purchase a suit of armour he fancied, displayed for sale in the old man's shop.

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Pat Wallace and Donald Thompson

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Bill Mackay, Stephen Futurs and Norah Wilkie

It is a tidy play, with the wrongdoers neatly disposed of without forfeit of the sympathy of the audience for those who are more sinned against than sinning. Stephen Futers as the old jeweller gave us the performance of his career up to date. His irascibility, his tenderness towards his daughter, his brilliant handling of the murder scene and his hysterical breakdown at the end when he realises he has needlessly ended his life, were acting of a high order. Nora Wilkie as Mathilde Heiss had to play the contrasting part, complicated by a foreign accent, which she delivered convincingly, and never allowed her performance to distract undue attention from the principal. Mrs. Catt, as the " daily help " provided the comic relief and Ally Taylor's interpretation of the part left nothing to be desired. From being one of the old ladies in last year's production of “Arsenic and Old Lace “to the part she played in the new show was a test of her versatility and from our point of view additional enjoyment and appreciation of her acting was gained by virtue of having seen her other performance.

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Gordon Weatherburn and Ally Taylor

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Donald Thompson made a convincing young doctor and Irene Tait as Margaret Heiss a most charming fiancee and daughter. It was her first appearance with the Players. Another newcomer was Pat Wallace as Margaret Heiss's friend. She too, gave a most promising performance. The villain, Archie Fellowes, por­trayed by Bill Mackay was a villain indeed. We hated him and were glad when he met his violent end. What more praise can we give than that ? The part of the burglar was taken by William McAndrew and if he upset our preconceived “Burglar Bill” ideas by being too smart and debonair, that is probably how it is nowadays and we are not going to take marks off for that. Gordon Weatherburn took the part of the new shop assistant adequatelyand Gerald Eaves, now apparently doomed to be typed as a representative of the law, plain clothes or uniformed, took the part of the Inspector from Scotland Yard, his diction and general bearing suiting the part admirably.

The play was directed by Rowland Child and the Stage Manager was Sidney Bates, assisted by his two sons, one of whom is on the staff of our Gosforth branch. Altogether an excellent production, well in keeping with the tradition of the Players.

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