ILKLEY Playhouse President Roger Davy wears many hats. He is currently enjoying his role as stage manager for our production of JB Priestley’s Eden End. He has also organised a gala evening for local Ilkley charities and organisations to launch our new season, and has forged links with The Priestley Society who are sponsoring this production. Roger also has a ‘Playhouse history’ hat which keeps him interested in the Playhouse’s long and vibrant theatrical past.

It was while Roger was wearing his ‘history’ hat that he fell into cheerful conversation with long-standing member and former leading lady Mary Ambler. Roger was telling Mary that the season would launch with Eden End, when Mary recalled that the Playhouse had produced Eden End before – indeed, that she had been in it!

Roger donned his ‘archive’ hat and discovered that the The Ilkley Players along with The Burley Players had performed Eden End in May 1950. Along with a collection of photos, Roger was delighted to find a copy of the programme.

And yes, 67 years ago, Mary Ambler took the role of Sarah, whom Priestly describes as “an old North country nurse, now about seventy, a queer old creature, at once simple and shrewd and very earthy”. That this description is so far from Mary’s character (and her age at the time!) gives you some idea of her talent.

Mary has fond memories of her time in Eden End and is delighted to be able to see this beautiful, thoughtful drama again. She is amazed how clever and creative modern sets are and is keen to see director Andrew Leggott’s production. Mary recalls her time in Eden End fondly; it seems from her recollections that even in 1950 the Playhouse boasted a handsome and charming collection of actors!

Mary went on to become a leading lady for many years at Ilkley Playhouse. She rejoined the Ilkley Players after she left the WRENS at the age of 22, and was soon offered leading roles. A highlight during her time was performing at the Minack Theatre in Cornwall.

It seems she also performed with a young man for whom the role of a ‘monkey’ was his first brush with fame. In 1963 this young actor was recruited by David Wildman to perform in The Hut, a play set on a desert island. The monkey had to sit in a palm tree and throw nuts and bananas onto the actors below. One of the actors was Mary Ambler and the monkey ordinarily went by the name of Alan Titchmarsh!

Mary also played the role of Hester Collyer in Terrence Rattigan’s The Deep Blue Sea many years ago, and thoroughly enjoyed seeing Louise Button in the same part last July. She is looking forward to seeing her friend Kay Vann in the role of Sarah in Eden End this week.

During the run of Eden End we are delighted to welcome an exhibition by members from Outside The Box Arthouse. The display will be up until September 23, and is open to the public between 6.45pm and 7.30pm daily.

The Arthouse project was set up in 2014 as a creative space for adults and young people with a learning disability. It provides creative activities which build confidence, teach new skills and bring people together to have fun. The Playhouse are looking forward to bringing the exhibition to the wider public and hope that local residents will come to see the fruits of this wonderful project.

Finally, we also have acting opportunities coming up. Ilkley Playhouse Fringe committee are planning to put on a piece of new writing in The Wildman Studio in May 2018. The Bench has opportunities for more than 14 actors. It comprises eight contrasting scenes, each of ten minutes or so, which take place on the same park bench at different times on the same day.

We are looking for anyone who is thinking about joining Ilkley Playhouse but is perhaps a little by a larger production; new and old members who don’t yet have a part in this year’s season; or indeed anyone who is interested in a play that doesn’t have large parts to learn and or who can’t commit to a long run.

If you would be interested in taking part, would just like to know more, or just fancy a pleasant evening at a play reading, then please come along on Wednesday, October 18 at 7.30 in the Greenroom. Please contact the Playhouse office in advance to register your interest.

We are also looking for female actors for a physically stylised production of Molliere’s The Misanthrope next year. There will be a casting workshop at 8pm on Wednesday, September 20. If you would like to know more about this please contact the office.

Eden End by J.B.Priestley is on from September 13 to 23.

To book tickets for any of our productions, please visit or phone the box office on 01943 609539. You can also follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for all the latest news and backstage gossip!

by Claire Emmott