Curtain closes for talented stage designers at Uppermill Stage Society

AN exploding stove, a hanging dead body and fired shotguns are just some of the more challenging creations tackled by a theatre-loving trio over the last 16 years.

Joyce, Geoff and Janet

But now after countless hours of hard work creating sets and scenery for Uppermill Stage Society (USS), Janet and Geoff Iles and Joyce Mallalieu are hanging up their brushes.

From stations, living rooms, and a church, to gardens, the seaside, and even a jungle, they have transformed the stage at Ebenezer Church time and time again beyond recognition.

But now they are calling time on their labour of love, which started in 2002 and included at least three shows a year, and looking back at their creations with fond memories.

Janet explained: “We were asked if we would do backstage work on ‘When We Are Married’ for USS in 2002. We’d never done it before but decided to give it a go – and we were hooked!

“Our budget it not very big and we are a small committee but we have done the best we can.

“It has been hard work and there have been times when we argued and shouted at each other!

“But we have loved it. We’ve made a lot of friends and have a lot of memories and funny stories.”

Their sets have included ‘The Hollow’, in which Janet’s and Geoff’s son Richard played the lead role, ‘South Pacific’, ‘Be My Baby’, ‘Billy Liar’, ‘Dial M for Murder’, and ‘Seaside Frolics’.

They have created backdrops from scratch, with Janet designing and drawing out her vision which was then created with the help of Joyce and Geoff.

Tasks have included painting intricate wallpaper stencils, building staircases, making a fake cake, and creating a stag’s head using chicken wire and papier mache.

“The biggest challenge we ever had was ‘I’ll be Back Before Midnight’ with an exploding stove, hanging dead body and shotgun we had to fire,” revealed Janet.

“We had to write a two-page risk assessment for stove and get a licence for the gun, so there was a lot more to think about than just painting the backdrop!”

“We have been lucky to work with Dave Millett who does the lighting, and he is fantastic,” added Geoff, who also acts in numerous productions. “We wouldn’t have been able to do it without him.

“And Reg Guerin has helped with the sets over the last couple of years and he has been a godsend.

“But now it has just got too much. I’m turning 70 next year and it’s time to hand over to someone else.”

The trio also helped over the years with scenery for musicals at Saddleworth School, St Chad’s All Stars, and end-of-term productions in Dobcross and Diggle.

And the productions have won rave reviews and praise in various magazines and newspapers and well as prestigious nominations and awards.

They were kindly supported by Delph and Droyslden theatres, as well as hiring or buying furniture from Emmaus Mossley.

Joyce, who also acts, said: “I have been involved with amateur dramatics since I was 15. It has been my life. But all good things must come to an end.”

 

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