Sheila Robbins on the Early Days of The Bishopsteignton Players

A transcription and sound recording of an interview with Sheila Robbins, one of the originators of the Bishopsteignton Players, where she talks about how the Players started in the 1960s

In 2021 Yvonne Hellin Hobbs interviewed Sheila Robbins about the early days of the Bishopsteignton Players, showing her the photographs and press reviews that Sheila had collected in a scrapbook back in the 1960s, which resideds in the Bishopsteignton Heritage Archive. This is the recording and transcription of that interview.

Photograph of Sheila Robbins in costume
A young Sheila Robbins as principal boy

Yvonne: When you were doing the pantos, had you already started The Players by then, was it the players doing the pantomimes or was that before The Players?

Sheila: No, The Players were started, and then The Players were all adults and we had got a certain amount of teenagers plus children that wanted to be in it so The Players weren’t too keen to have children at the rehearsals – fair enough – so that was when they started the pantomimes, but the pantomimes were mostly to raise funds for the village.  We used to have our rehearsals free at the village hall which helped them with their expenses but the money we made, they would choose a project and one year it would be two beds for Teignmouth Hospital, another time it was for the church, another time it was for heating for the school but various things like that.  After the pantomime, we then formed – it was called Sheila’s Superstars – because it was children and adults that gave their time to raise £100 for the band which we had to pay upfront for the carnival.  So that was separate again, and then of course when The Players started, that was when we did Children’s Theatre to use the children that weren’t in The Players.  That’s the order of things.

Yvonne: So, the pantomime started when?  When were the first pantomimes?

Sheila: The first pantomime I would think was Mother Goose.

Yvonne: What sort of year was that then?

Sheila: Sixties

Yvonne: Right, so The Players started in ’62, didn’t they, because I think the earliest play, we’ve got in these albums is 1962.  See what’s in there because it will probably bring back some memories for you.

Photograph of Bishopsteignton Players wearing Easter Bonnets
Photograph of Bishopsteignton Players wearing Easter Bonnets

Sheila: Yes, this was an Easter Bonnet do that The Players put on purely to get ……    people that would be interested.  Now The Players were formed – it was a Mrs Ruth that lived in Radway House, with a lot of other people she thought it would be a good idea and the first meeting for interested folks was at her house in Radway.  I don’t know if you know Radway House, do you?  Anyway, it sort of came from there.  There was an Officer over at Huntly, because that was the Officers’ retirement home and he was very interested – a Captain Hakeley.  There is a bench in his memory opposite the pub.  Yes, he was a good chap.  Now this Ladies in Retirement, that was an early one, but there was another one called Orange Blossom – that was one of the first.  Ladies in Retirement, yes, that was a good one.

Photograph of cast in the play Ladies in Retirement presented by Bishopsteignton Players

The cast of Ladies in Retirement

Photograph of Bishopsteignton Players, drinking a toast at the wedding reception in the play 'Orange Blossom'
Photograph of some of the Bishopsteignton Players, drinking a toast at the wedding reception in the play ‘Orange Blossom’

Yvonne: So, were you in all of these?

Sheila: No, the people.  Yes, that’s Edward Perkin, Joan Adams, I think she’s called Britton?

Yvonne: Which play is this with the nun?  Is that Ladies in Retirement?  That’s all the same one, isn’t it?

Sheila: Yes, I think it is Ladies in Retirement but Joan Adams – this one – she was related to Robert Donat, the film star.  She was excellent.  The Blue Goose – ah now this was another one because that’s my little Gaynor and that was just a one act that we did called Out Patients, that one.  And that’s Jane Caldwell

Photograph of the cast in the play 'Out Patients' presented by the Bishopsteignton Players
Photograph of the cast in the play ‘Out Patients’ presented by the Bishopsteignton Players

Yvonne: Right, she went on to help you with the Children’s Theatre, didn’t she?

Sheila: Yes, but it was Bob Caldwell that produced most of these.  Jane Steps Out – that was another good one.

Yvonne: Edward Perkin was in a lot of them, wasn’t he?

Sheila: Yes, he was more or less the leading man in those days.

Yvonne: And he was in right from the beginning, so do you remember the first group?  Do you remember the names of the first group?

Sheila: Well yes, it would be all the Ladies in Retirement people.  That’s Bob Caldwell of course and that was our first Stage Manager.

Yvonne: So presumably the cast is in there?

Sheila: Yes, that’s right.  Yes, they would be some of the very first ones.

Yvonne: We had a photo sent in from Linda Brannan and it was a play that she played a waitress in and then that’s the lady you said grew up with Robert Donat – Jane Adams – she was also in it.

Photograph of the cast in the play 'The Blue Goose' presented by Bishopsteignton Players in 1961
The cast of The Blue Goose, Bishopsteignton Players

Sheila: The Blue Goose – yes.  Jane Steps Out.  That was a fun one.

Yvonne: Who wrote these?  Were they local people that wrote them?

Sheila: Oh no, they were professional.  They had to pay royalties on all of them.  This takes me back!

Yvonne: That’s what I thought.  That’s why I said to Imogen that I would like to bring it because I knew that …

Photograph of cast members in a scene from the play 'Jane Steps Out'
The cast in a scen from Jane Steps Out, Bishopsteignton Players, 1962

Sheila: That’s another Jane Steps Out

Yvonne: I see, she’s put that in there because there’s one missing that needs to be ….  These are nice photos.

Sheila: This is – I can tell you; I produced this one.  This lad is Colin Back who I think has made contact with you.

Yvonne: Yes, he has.  What’s this one called?

Sheila: Ring of Roses

Photograph of actors in a scene from the play 'Ring O'Roses' performed by the Bishopsteignton Players in the 1960s
The cast of Ring o’ Roses, Colin Back on the right with Cynthia Hepworth

Yvonne: Which one’s your daughter?

Sheila: This one

Photograph of children, Albert Heal and Gaynor Robbins in a play presented by Bishopsteignton Players
Albert Heal and Gaynor Robbins in Ring O Roses Bishopsteignton Players

Yvonne: Oh, the little one

Sheila: But this was all for a Players’ evening.

Yvonne: So, did you used to do one or two plays a year?

Sheila: No, they used to raise funds.  We would have an evening for The Players and they would all come and pay a fee to come in and we would entertain them.

Yvonne: And when you did these plays, did you do two or three a year, or was there a schedule?

Sheila: Depending if you could get a producer, because Bob Caldwell mostly did it.  Now this was a fun one – House by the Lake.  It was at the dress rehearsal and I had to murder Julian Perkin and he had to do this terrible collapse on the floor, which he did brilliantly.  Anyway, the photographer wanted him to get up and move on and so I did, because I was the murderess, and kicked him and said, “Julian, get up”.  He said, “I can’t”.  I said, “Come on, they’re waiting”.  “No”, he said, “It’s my side”, and he had actually cracked two ribs, but he didn’t get much sympathy, poor Julian.

Photograph of actors in a scene from the play 'House by the Lake' performed by the Bishopsteignton Players in the 1960s
Sheila Robbins and Julian Perkin in House by the Lake, 1962

Yvonne: Was Julian Edward’s brother?

Sheila: Yes, he was very good.  He had a lovely speaking voice.

Yvonne: And Edward played the Dame a lot, didn’t he?  Because I’ve seen lots of photographs of him – I assume it’s him – in women’s clothing.  These are little ones here, look.  That’s Blue Goose, isn’t it?

Sheila: That’s Jane Steps Out

Yvonne: Now this is Blue Goose.  Somebody has written on them.  They are all Blue Goose but they are just miniature ones of ones we have already got, I think.

Sheila: Haul for the Shore.  Yes, this is when Cynthia Hepworth came on the scene.

Photograph of a scene from the play 'Haul for the Shore' presented by Bishopsteignton Players in 1963
Photograph of a scene from the play ‘Haul for the Shore’ presented by Bishopsteignton Players in 1963

Yvonne: Oh, is that Peter’s mother?

Sheila: Yes.  No, no – Aunt.  Cynthia died quite young.

Yvonne: Peter was in one of the shows – it was Babes in the Wood, I think.  Ingersoll the Watch Dog

Sheila: Oh yes, these were little children’s ones.

Yvonne: Yes.  What was that one then?

Sheila: This was again an evening thing that we did, and their mothers would have been in The Players, and this was The Bishop’s Candlesticks.  That was very good.  I don’t’ know if you know Les Miserables but there’s a story within a story and The Bishop’s Candlesticks is the story of the convict who takes the candlesticks and that’s how the whole of Les Miserables starts and this was The Bishop’s Candlesticks.  There’s Bob Caldwell, he was the bishop.  Yes, that was a good one.  Wolf’s Clothing – yes.

Photograph of a scene from the play 'Bishop's Candlesticks' presented by Bishopsteignton Players
A scene from The Bishop’s candlesticks, Dec 1969

Yvonne: It’s good that you have kept this scrapbook.

Sheila: Yes, now I gave the museum the ones of the pantomime.  You’ve got all those, have you?

Yvonne: I’ve got another box of stuff here, so we’ll have a look at that later.

Photograph of the cast in a scene from the play 'Wolf's Clothing' presented by Bishopsteignton Players in 1964
Cast of Wolf’s Clothing, Bishopsteignton Players, 1964

Sheila: Wolf’s Clothing – yes.  Jill Alsop.  A Quiet Weekend – I don’t remember that one.  Love from a Stranger – yes.  They used to do quite a few;  they would have one running and one rehearsing.  You could get enough people to cast it.  At this time Tapley Gardens was being built and several teachers bought those, so they all came on into The Players.

Photograph of the cast in a scene from the play 'Love from a Stranger' presented by Bishopsteignton Players
Cast of Love from a Stranger, Bishopsteignton Players, 1965

Yvonne: You talk about Mr Lascelles in your previous interview.

Sheila: Yes, well he lived at Tapley House of course

Yvonne: During the wartime, wasn’t it?

Sheila: Yes, but previous to the war starting lived there, and he of course was related to the royal family – the Lascelles, but he was a great benefactor to the school.  I suppose it was pre-war, he used to treat the children – the whole school – to the pantomime at Exeter.  I can remember this wonderful scene with this water on the stage cascading down, and I think that was my first love of theatre.  Yes, Love from a Stranger, that was excellent. Bonaventure, that was an excellent one too.  Yes, there are several of the teachers in that one.  Now this set was very cleverly done because of course it was all curtains and they built this set.

Yvonne: Bonaventure

Photograph of the cast in a scene from the play 'Bonaventure' presented by Bishopsteignton Players
Cast of Bonaventure, Bishopsteignton Players 1966

Sheila: Again, teachers.  That was good, and I think that’s Julian Perkin.  Edward used to say that he had learned the lesson – you know, all his words – when he was up milking the cows, because he had a lot of parts.

Yvonne: Yes, he was very much involved with the Council and all of that stuff as well, wasn’t he?

Sheila: Yes, he did.  I don’t think he was Chairman at that time but he was certainly a Councillor.  Here We Come Gathering ……

Photograph of the cast in a scene from the play 'Here We Come Gathering' presented by Bishopsteignton Players
Cast of Here we come Gathering, Bishopsteignton Players 1967

Yvonne: I did speak to Cindy a couple of years ago.  She lives over in Luton or somewhere now – Ideford.

Sheila: Yes, that was a really fun one to do.  This is when Dick Searle moved to the village.

Yvonne: Right.  Which one is this one?  You’ve missed one here.

Sheila: Here We Come Gathering, and she was excellent.  That was Rosemary Harris.  She used to play the piano for me for the children.  Oh gosh, this takes me back.

Yvonne: That’s why I thought you would like to see it today.

Sheila: Yes, they are lovely.

Yvonne: We’ve got most of these.  I don’t think we’ve got all of them yet but we’ve got most of them on the website for people to use in articles or to look at once it all goes public.

Sheila: There’s Dick Searle, and his wife came to Bishop School for her first teaching job, I understand.

Yvonne: Who’s this doing the makeup on there.

Sheila: That would be Joy Sercombe.  She was a great one in The Players.

Photograph of the cast in a scene from the play 'Here We Come Gathering' presented by Bishopsteignton Players
Joy Sercombe applying make up for Here we come Gathering,

Yvonne: Her son has been in touch – I think it’s the son, Peter?

Sheila: Yes, it would be.  Now, you haven’t got …  Oh, yes you have.  You’ve got some more.  There was one that Joy did.  It was called The something Ghost, and she was the ghost.  It was a bit like Blithe Spirit.  She did it brilliantly.  Intent to Murder.  Of course, we got better and better as the years went on.  Here you are, The Jilted Ghost

Photograph of the cast in a scene from the play 'The Jilted Ghost' presented by Bishopsteignton Players
Cast of The Jilted Ghost, Bishopsteignton players 1968
Programme for the play 'Intent to Murder' presented by Bishopsteignton Players front
Programme for the Play Intent to Murder 1968

Yvonne: Was Brenda Gilpin involved with you then?  Was she involved with The Players then?

Sheila: I don’t think she had come quite then, but she did come on.  She’s a clever artist and she did that one. (points to pen and ink drawing of children playing outside the old school)

Yvonne: Oh, did she.  Isn’t that lovely.  I haven’t seen that before.  That’s delightful.

Sheila: Yes, she’s a clever girl.  I did The Wizard of Oz with the children and I wanted a skeleton outfit, and do you know she did it, and then we copied it but it was brilliant.  She would be an excellent one to have.

Yvonne: Did she used to be involved in the sets, or anything like that – painting the sets – or did she just do the publicity?

Sheila: No, only the arty side of it.  She would design something and then somebody would copy it but the costumes, for me, she was spot on.  The Haxtons – again ……

Photograph showing the cast in a scene from the play 'The Haxtons' performed by Bishopsteignton Players
The cast of The Haxtons, Bishopsteignton Players Jan 1969

Yvonne: Where did you find all these plays?

Sheila: This is what I call newer people to the actual old Bishop Players although I shouldn’t say that, should I?

Yvonne: So, this is 1961 to 1969, this book?

Sheila: Yes, that would be!

Yvonne: So, were you still with them in 1969?

Sheila: Sort of.  Well, my children would be …  David would be 10.

Yvonne: Well, these newspaper articles in here actually will  help me with the story, to fill in the bits that I don’t know about.  They are lovely photographs though, aren’t they?

Sheila: They are lovely to see.  A wonderful record

Yvonne: This one over here.  There was a separate ring binder.  Now this is the contents of the photo album.  It was in a ring binder and it was all going rusty so Imogen has taken them out and individually packaged them.  So, this one’s The Camel’s Back.  This is obviously the same set, isn’t it?

Sheila: Yes, that would be it.  Now that is one of the very first ones.  That’s The Camel’s Back.  There’s Edward, there’s me, Stan Glover and Bob.  She was a Paynter, Rose Paynter

Photograph of the actors in a scene from the 1960s play 'The Camel's Back' performed by the Bishopsteignton Players
Photograph of the actors in a scene from the 1960s play ‘The Camel’s Back’ performed by the Bishopsteignton Players

Yvonne: Yes, these have been taken out.  They’ve only been taken out of the ring binder because it was getting really rusty.

Sheila: Yes, but that’s certainly The Camel’s Back and that would be the first one we ever did.

Yvonne: This is Ladies in Retirement.  Now these are probably copies of the same photos that you had in the other album.

Photograph of some of the Bishopsteignton Players, in a scene from the 1960s play 'Ladies in Retirement'
Cast of Ladies in Retirement, Bishopsteignton Players 1961

Sheila: Yes, that’s right.  That’s Jean Knapman

Yvonne: Oh, is it?  As a nun?

Sheila: And actually, she was expecting, I think it was Kathy because Kathy was one of twins because we used to pull her leg about the nun being expecting.

Yvonne: And this is Julian Perkin, is it – not Edward?

Sheila: No, that’s Edward

Yvonne: They look very similar, don’t they?

Sheila: Yes, they do.  Yes, that’s certainly that one.  Oh, they’ve got The Camel’s Back on there.

Yvonne: This is The Blue Goose.  Who’s this with the chain?

Photograph of actors in a scene from the 1960s play 'Blue Goose' performed by the Bishopsteignton Players
Cast of The Blue Goose, Bishopsteignton Players 1961

Sheila: That’s Edward.  Yes, and he was called Richardson. (Man in white trousers) His dad was the Devon Surveyor.  That’s John Turner (with glasses) and she used to live down at Coombe.  That’s Cindy Perkin

Yvonne: Which one is Cindy?  The one in the middle

Sheila: And that’s Matthew Shadbolt. (far left of the photo) I can’t remember her name;  she wasn’t with us for very long.

Yvonne: So, you weren’t in this one Sheila?

Sheila: No, not The Blue Goose.  That’s Edward and that’s Jane Caldwell.

Yvonne: What was the story of this one?  Do you remember?  The story of The Blue Goose?

Sheila: Not really

Yvonne: There’s one more there.

Photograph of actors in a scene from the 1960s play 'Blue Goose' performed by the Bishopsteignton Players
Mathew Shadbolt and Jane Caldwell in The Blue Goose 1961

Sheila: Yes, now that’s Matthew Shadbolt and Jane Caldwell and she was marvellous because she was very deaf so she used to wear a hearing aid which she would hide but if she was the wrong side of you on the stage you were in trouble, but a very clever woman – very talented.

Yvonne: There’s a lovely photo of the Babes in the Wood and it’s the tall guy who played the Dame person, who is obviously a man, and he had the two Caldwells.  He had his arm around her.

Sheila: Oh yes, that was Babes in the Wood.  Oh yes, this is Jane Steps Out.  Well, if you’ve got a programme, you could find her name.  Yes, that’s Rose Painter, then Edward, Julian, John Turner.  Gosh, that takes me back!

Photograph of actors in a scene from the 1960s play 'Jane Steps Out' performed by the Bishopsteignton Players
Cast of Jane Steps Out 1962

Yvonne: That’s why I thought you would like to see them because so often things get put away.

Sheila: I’ve probably got them upstairs somewhere.  Oh yes, they were a grand crew to work with.

Yvonne: Is this you?

Sheila: I’m just trying to work out – now which one was that.

Yvonne: This one’s called Akin to Love.  This looks like you.

Photograph of actors in a scene from the 1960s play 'Akin to Love' performed by the Bishopsteignton Players
Cast of Akin to Love

Sheila: No love, it isn’t.  It’s somebody Britton, she was called.  A lot of them came to the village but didn’t stay terribly long but you can see what they did with the sets.  They were absolutely cleverly done.

Yvonne: And this was all in the village hall, was it?

Sheila: All in the village hall

Yvonne: I mean, The Players are still going, and still going strong.

Sheila: Yes, well I’m delighted.

Yvonne: This one’s Haul for the Shore.

Photograph of actors in a scene from the play 'Haul For The Shore' performed by the Bishopsteignton Players in the 1960s
Cast of Haul for the Shore, Bishopsteignton Players 1963

Sheila: Yes, now this was the year that my father died, so I knew it was going on but I didn’t have much to do with this but again, you can see the windows.

Yvonne: They probably used those windows and curtains quite a lot, didn’t they

Sheila: Yes, and Jane’s dresser.  The wedding cake they hired from a firm at Newton Abbot.  Yes, brilliant!  That’s lovely dear.

Yvonne: This one is Wolf’s Clothing.

Photograph of the cast in a scene from the play 'Wolf's Clothing' presented by Bishopsteignton Players 1964
Cast of Wolf’s Clothing, Bishopsteignton Players 1964

Sheila: Wolf’s Clothing – now this was a good one.  Now she was called Jill Alsop.  She married a chap and they moved to The Bahamas.

Yvonne: Is this Edward Perkin she’s dancing with?

Sheila: No, that’s Julian

Yvonne: Gosh, they are hard to tell apart, aren’t they?

Sheila: And that girl was called Audrey Barker.  She was only here for a little while.

Yvonne: It was good that people came and joined The Players even if they moved out later.

Sheila: Well, they either came and bought a house and then didn’t stay or else they just came.  Oh, now this is the story I was telling you about.  This is the collapse.

Yvonne: So that’s you.

Sheila: That’s me, and that’s again Edward and that’s Joy Sercombe and again I think that’s Edward.  Yes, it is.  Oh yes, and I remember having this situation because if you are not careful, you get your heel caught in your skirt, and it’s very difficult to get up, particularly when you are supposed to be the murderess.

Photograph of actors in a scene from the play 'House by the Lake' performed by the Bishopsteignton Players in the 1960s
House by the Lake 1962

Yvonne: Love from a Stranger

Photograph of actors in a scene from the play 'Love from a Stranger' performed by the Bishopsteignton Players in the 1960s
Cast of Love From a Stranger, 1965
Photograph of actors in a scene from the play 'Love from a Stranger' performed by the Bishopsteignton Players in the 1960s
Cast of Love from a Stranger 1965

Sheila: Now let’s see.  That’s Ann Cook – her husband was a teacher, and so was she.  Again, Jane Caldwell.  That’s Matthew Shadbolt.  Now he came to Children’s Theatre but only when he was semi-grown up and he went for an audition at RADA but he didn’t get anywhere with it.  There is such a thing as being over-confident but he was a very nice lad and very talented, but you always have to go and produce work that you are really interested in and it’s such a shame he didn’t get through because he would have done well.  That’s John Turner who kept the newsagent and that’s Edward and I think that’s Diane Leeson.  She was here for quite some time.  Yes, here we are.  Jane was always fussy about how you sat on the stage, and you watch her legs in everything she was in.  She was always sitting absolutely spot on.

Yvonne: Like a model

Sheila: Gosh, you have got a collection.

Yvonne: This is Love from a Stranger too

Sheila: Yes, that’s Diane Leeson and Ann Cook.  Now who’s that?  Oh, that looks like Jane Martin.  Yes, I think it is.  Now she was Children’s Theatre, not Children’s Theatre – she was in the pantomimes.  We always seemed to be bumping people off, didn’t we?

Yvonne: Well, it’s quite the same now.  They do like their murder mysteries.  This is Bonaventure with the nurses and the nuns.

Photograph of actors in a scene from the play 'Bonaventure' performed by the Bishopsteignton Players in the 1960s
Cast of Bonaventure, Bishopsteignton Players 1966

Sheila: Oh yes, that was lovely.  Joy Sercombe was absolutely outstanding.  Yes, that was Diane Leeson – she was very good.

Yvonne: Interesting to read these and see what the stories are.  There are a few more yet.  Right, this is Intent to Murder – another murder.  You seem to have a lot of nuns and a lot of murders.

Photograph of actors in a scene from the play 'Intent to Murder' performed by the Bishopsteignton Players in the 1960s
Scene from Intent to Murder 1968

Sheila: Yes, well I think it was to keep people on their toes.  That’s Diane Leeson again.  They’re brilliant.  You see we were very lucky having a lot of men because usually you get a lot of women, but not so much the men.

Yvonne: That’s very true.  Here We Come Gathering – and we’ve found in recent years it’s difficult to get the younger….

Photograph of actors in a scene from the play 'Here We Come Gathering' performed by the Bishopsteignton Players in the 1960s
Scene from Here We Come Gathering 1967

Sheila: Oh, this again is Here We Come Gathering.  That’s Dick Searle and Edward, of course.  Me, Rosie Harris and Pat Brown.  I seem to be killing people off, here I go again.

Yvonne: Typecast

Sheila: In the nicest possible way

Photograph of actors in a scene from the play 'Orange Blossom' performed by the Bishopsteignton Players in the 1960s.
Cast of Orange Blossom

Yvonne: Orange Blossom.  Who was the bride?

Sheila: Now that’s Penny Watkinson.

Yvonne: On the left, yes

Sheila: I don’t recognise the bride lady.  I ought to remember it.

Yvonne: I’ll have a look and see if we’ve got a programme.

Photograph of the cast in the play 'Out Patients' presented by the Bishopsteignton Players
Photograph of the cast in the play ‘Out Patients’ presented by the Bishopsteignton Players

Sheila: Yes, John Turner, Edward of course.  She was Bessie Martin.  Now she was a good soul as well.  Now there’s Joy and Gaynor and Bessie Martin.  Now he was caretaker over at Huntly for a while but I’ve forgotten his name.  There’s Jim Hakely who did such a lot for The Players.

Yvonne: On the left in a cap

Sheila: And that’s Hilda Beer.  She was a lot to do with The British Legion in the village.  I don’t know that lady.  That’s Matthew of course, and that’s Daisy Paynter.  There were two sisters that used to do a lot of work in the village.

Photograph of actors in a scene from the play 'Mystery Cottage' performed by the Bishopsteignton Players in the 1960s
Cast of Mystery Cottage

Yvonne: Mystery Cottage

Sheila: Oh yes.  I rather think I produced this one.  It was for the youngsters because we had a lot of them coming on but it’s very difficult to get a play where there’s a lot of youngsters.  I mean, the adults obviously had to take the more serious ones but that’s the same photograph.

Yvonne: The same people.  So, who is the girl in the striped shorts?

Sheila: That’s Wendy Cowling.  She lived at Ashburton House.  Diana Mariga, Angela Osborne,  that’s Dorothy Tewson – this one

Yvonne: Yes, standing up

Sheila: That’s Bessie Martin, Jill Alsop, and she was a Sharland.  That was a fun one.

Yvonne: What year was that?  Well, you wouldn’t remember but we’ve got it somewhere, haven’t we?

Sheila: Yes, but that would certainly be Mystery Cottage.  They were all coming up – well not to get in The Players – but they were like a junior version and Dorothy of course, she was a schoolteacher and she played the film star that they were finding in the mystery cottage and of course you do need an adult to give them confidence when they first start.

Yvonne: We found it quite hard to get youngsters, actually.  We have had a few good ones but they are all grown up now.

Photograph of cast members in the play 'Ring o' Roses
Cast of Ring O Roses

Sheila: Yes, this is another one I produced.  Now that’s Colin Back, Cynthia Hepworth and Diana Beatty, Wendy Cowling, Diana Maraga and Ray Watkinson and that’s Ray, and they actually married afterwards.

Yvonne: Did they?

Sheila: A few years on, yes, and that’s Cynth Hepworth – that’s Peter Hepworth’s aunt.  She died quite young, Cynth, but she and I were great pals.  Yes, this is the same one – Colin – and that’s Diane Maraga.  Well, I never.  Isn’t it lovely to see them when they were young?  Bless their hearts.

Yvonne: I haven’t actually met Colin but I’ve been in touch with him.

Sheila: He would be a good one because his memories of the village would be fresher than mine really.

Photograph of actors and/or crew from the Bishopsteignton Players, at a social gathering in the 1960s
Cast of The Haxtons, 1969

Yvonne: This is The Haxtons That was quite a big cast, wasn’t it?

Sheila: That’s Venice Ford.  I don’t know if you have come across Venice.  She’s a friend of Brenda Gilpin.

Yvonne: Yes, I have met Venice.

Sheila: She would be able to tell you.  That’s Lucy Searle, Dick Searle’s wife

Yvonne: Who’s the gentleman …

Sheila: Julian Perkin.  Pat Brown.  I don’t recognise him.  They were very, very keen which was lovely.

Yvonne: There’s another one there of the swing seat with you.  You produced that, did you?

Photograph of backstage crew of the play 'Ring O'Roses' performed by the Bishopsteignton Players in the 1960s
Backstage crew of Ring o’ Roses 1962

Sheila: I did, yes.  That’s Wendy Cowling’s dad and I am not sure, he had a connection with the London Palladium.  That’s Wilf Turner.  I think it’s all the people who helped me put it on.

Yvonne: Oh, I see, these are the backstage crew.

Sheila: Yes, it is, because that’s Bobby Palmer.  They are all the backroom boys which you can’t do without.

Yvonne: Absolutely not.  Peter Hepworth and Marilyn do all the sets now for The Players and have done for some years.  The Jilted Ghost.

Photograph of the cast in a scene from the play 'The Jilted Ghost' presented by Bishopsteignton Players
Scene from the Jilted Ghost 1968

Sheila: Ah, now this is the one I was telling you about that Joy…     She was just such a delight in it because to actually see her, but you’re not supposed to, is very difficult to put over the stage.  Yes, that was a good one.  The Jilted Ghost.  My word!

Yvonne: Good job we kept it all.

Sheila: Makes me wonder how I managed to bring two children up, doesn’t it?

Yvonne: You certainly were busy.  Now, we have put this one up recently.  A couple of people were identified but I don’t know who these gentlemen were and I don’t know what play it is.

Photograph of actors in an unknown play performed by the Bishopsteignton Players in the 1960s
Actors in an unknown play by the Bishopsteignton Players

Sheila: That’s Dorothy of course, Dorothy Bernard.  I know his face; I can’t remember his name.  He wasn’t here very long.

Yvonne: Who’s the chap in the middle?

Sheila: I’m just looking, I’m not sure.  That’s Pat Brown.  I’m not sure who the one in the moustache is either and this was a new lady to the village but I can’t remember what her name was.  It will probably be on the programmes.

Yvonne: Do you remember what it was called, that one?

Sheila: I think that he was here for a short while but he produced and was in it but I can’t remember his name.  There’s Dorothy.  No, I’m sorry, I can’t help you there.

Yvonne: You don’ know what the production was called, this one?

Sheila: Have they got a programme?

Yvonne: No, there’s just these photos of them at the table.

Sheila: I don’t even remember the place.  I think she was wife to one of….

Yvonne: Well, I’ll find out what that was called.  These are the photos I remember seeing.

Sheila: They were not exactly after my time but, yes, that’s definitely Dorothy and she used to do a lot for The Children’s Theatre.  She was a good soul.  Her son still lives in the village – Tim.

Yvonne: What’s his surname?

Sheila: Bernard – Tim Bernard

Photograph of some of the Bishopsteignton Players at the Church Fete 1974 showing a banner 'Bishopsteignton Players Founded 1960' and a poster 'Ladies in Retirement'.
Photograph of some of the Bishopsteignton Players at the Church Fete 1974 showing a banner ‘Bishopsteignton Players Founded 1960’ and a poster ‘Ladies in Retirement’.

Yvonne: Look, these are ones I remember seeing before.  Now this must have been at a carnival or something.  It says “Church Fete, 22.6.74.  Bishopsteignton Players founded 1960”.

Sheila: Again, everybody used to put things into the church fete.

Yvonne: Do you know who that chap is with the moustache?

Sheila: No, I don’t.  I don’t really recognise any of them to be quite honest.

Yvonne: Well, “1974 Reid”, it says.

Sheila: But you see, probably I was busy with The Children’s Theatre when all these were going on.

Yvonne: Yes, that’s what I was thinking.  I knew I had seen that one of them with the placard saying 1960.

Sheila: Gosh, you have carried a lot for me to see, haven’t you?

Yvonne: Well, I just thought it would jog your memory to see them all.

Sheila: Yes, it’s grand.

Yvonne: I’ll leave those like that because I will need to relook at them.  So, you said you had a photo?

Sheila: I have dear.  Now this is the one taken – is that the sort of thing you want?

Yvonne: Oh, that’s lovely.  That’s gorgeous, isn’t it?  That’s the Lord Lieutenant, is it?

Sheila: Yes.  It’s written on the back, I think.

Yvonne: Investiture at County Hall, Exeter [indistinct] Sir Edward Dancer, October 2014

Photograph of Sheila Robbins with an unidentified man
Sheila Robbins receiving her British Empire Medal

Sheila: Yes, he was the High Commissioner of Devon at that time.  Of course, they change every so often.  Yes, that was a lovely day.  And this is the one – blow the cobwebs off – this is my husband.

Yvonne: Your husband took this one?

Sheila: No, it was taken for publicity purposes and Dave liked it so much he got it blown up.  That’s Dave my husband, not my son.

Yvonne: Was this Dandini or something?

Sheila: I was – now, I’ve got to think – Principal Boy it’s best to say.  I think it’s Newton Abbot pantomime.  If you want to take it and take a photograph, I’m quite happy for you to do that.

Yvonne: That would be lovely.  Could I do it with that one as well?

Sheila: Yes, of course.

Yvonne: I will get them scanned and then I’ll bring them back because you get a good copy then.

Sheila: Well, Yvonne, I’ll trust you with them because it’s the only ones I’ve got.

Yvonne: Oh, absolutely.  Don’t you worry, they are safe with me.  That’s lovely, isn’t it.  The one I’ve put on the article on your recorded interview with Luke, we found you as Personality Queen in 1951 on the carnival, so we’ve got that one.

Mounted photograph of Bishopsteignton Carnival 1951 Personality Queen and two others
Sheila Robbins as Personality Queen 1951

Sheila: 19, that was!  That was the year mum had died.

Yvonne: It’s a beautiful photo.

Sheila: The year I grew up.

Yvonne: It’s a lovely photo and so many people have commented on it, saying, “Oh, Sheila was like my other mum” and things like that.  So many of the ladies who obviously worked with you in The Children’s Theatre.

Sheila: Oh, that’s lovely

Yvonne: You don’t have internet here, do you?

Sheila: No, I don’t, but my granddaughters do.  Just before you came my daughter rang and said, “Hey Mum, how about coming up, because she lives at Wolfsgrove, you know the farm at the top?”  I said I would love to but I’ve got Yvonne coming and she said we’ll make it another day, and she said, “Hey, what about you on Facebook?” so she’s obviously seen it.

Yvonne: When you go up there, get them to show you and also get them to show you the articles on the actual website because there’s a whole article about The Children’s Theatre written by Luke and Catherine Whitehouse, but her name wasn’t that then.  Rogers?  No, I can’t remember.

Sheila: Oh, Karen Cummings

Yvonne: Yes!  That’s right – Karen Cummings.

Sheila: She was a little girl, a rather clever little girl, and she used to come to all the rehearsals going to be a Munchkin in The Wizard of Oz so she used to come, and then Dorothy, who was the star of the show, was playing netball, fell over and broke – I don’t know if it was her knee or her ankle so she was completely out of the story and I thought, “What on earth am I going to do?”  Anyway, I suddenly realised that this little ten-year-old knew all the words and she used to come here and rehearse and she took the part and she did it, and she did it very well.  That was little Karen Cummings.

Bishopsteignton Children's Theatre Wizard of Oz, 1972/3
Bishopsteignton Children’s Theatre Wizard of Oz, 1972/3

Yvonne: She sent me some photos of her in that and I’ve put those up as well so if you can get someone to bring it up on the computer – Bishopsteignton Heritage.

Sheila: Do you know if Dave’s got it?  You know, my son who lives in the village.

Yvonne: Well, he’ll have the internet, won’t he so he should be able to look at it.  It’s up there on the website so anyone can look at it.  You’ve just got to go into Bishopsteignton Heritage and if you put up Children’s Theatre.

 

If you would like to read more about the early history of the Bishopsteignton Players, please look here;www.bishopsteigntonheritage.co.uk/people/organisations/the-bishopsteignton-players-how-it-all-began/

 

If you would like to read more about the Bishopsteignton Children’s Theatre, please look here; www.bishopsteigntonheritage.co.uk/people/organisations/bishopsteignton-childrens-theatre-interview-with-sheila-robbins/