Annalyn met up with Paul Copley, another founder member of the company, last week while he was in Yorkshire filming Last Tango in Halifax. They shared a few memories of the early days over afternoon tea in the Tiled Hall Cafe, followed by a “scrumptious” dinner at the Thai Aroy Dee and a nightcap at Whitelocks! And this week Paul emailed us this.
“Not only did Leeds Theatre in Education change my professional life and give me the start to the career I had previously thought not possible, but the work we did in schools and elsewhere gave me insights into my own strengths and weaknesses, as an actor/writer and in general, that have stayed with me ever since.
I was teaching, or endeavouring to teach, English and Drama in London when a former drama tutor from Northern Counties College (where I trained as a teacher), Jack Ousbey, wrote to me out of the blue in late 1969 telling of a new Theatre in Education company directed by Roger Chapman in Leeds attached to the Playhouse. There was a vacancy for an actor/teacher to join their group and Jack obviously felt that I may be suited to the role. It seems he was more aware of what might suit me best than I was myself!
I went after the job with such application – I remember the bliss and relief at being offered it – and then the group, amazingly warm, welcoming and friendly, was so frighteningly professional and talented that I knew I had to step up and prove my worth if I was to survive.
During the two years that I spent with Leeds TiE, Annalyn, John, Jim, Libby and me devised programmes for infants, for junior school children and for older audiences. We presented them predominantly in Leeds schools with the occasional foray further afield, taking ‘Snap Out Of It’, a programme probing the treatment and issues of mental health to London and then to Berlin’s Akademie der Kunste before reunification.
The group seemed to me infinitely inventive and resourceful. John taught me to believe totally in the characters I played – he was the guy who could walk into a classroom during a historical programme about disputed land in a medieval village, announce that he was an emissary from King John and be believed completely! I hugely admired, and still do, Annalyn’s talent, tenacity and energy and her support and encouragement for the group and importantly for the programme participants in schools and colleges.
Our TiE programmes, be they comic, historical or tackling social issues, aimed to entertain and inform but also to give participants the wherewithal to work through concerns and problems thrown up by the content. Immersive drama such as we were striving to produce can empower and enable participants to find a way through these problems and hopefully, perhaps later, to use the experience more widely in their own lives.
As Leeds Theatre in Education continues to try to change peoples’ lives for the better, I can only say with sincerity – it certainly did that for me!” Paul Copley (Company member 1970-1973)