Bright and breezy treatment of seaside farce

Those taking part in St Peter’s (Accrington) Junior Operatic & Dramatic Society’s production of Leslie Sand’s farce “Beside the Seaside” on Friday & Saturday nights were: back row (left to right) – K Robinson, S Twissell, A. Isherwood, M. Greenhalgh, D. Kerr, F.S.C. Burnett; front row – D Sibbering, P. Taylor, P Price. The play was reviewed in Tuesday’s Observer. (Photo: Garth Dawson)

Bravo the teenagers of St. Peter Church Accrington, who on Friday night made their first attempt at drama and what a successful debut it was. Nine competent youngsters gave a bright and breezy treatment to Leslie Sands's farce "Beside the Seaside" and provided two hours of almost non-stop laughter to a large audience.
Farce is one of the most difficult types of play to interpret, dependent as it is on snappy exchanges of dialogue and quick moving action, and the thought of young people attempting it was not a very happy one. But the St. Peters group had a certain quality, which made this an above-average performance
Perhaps it was the unaffected manner in which each individual approached his or her part, but whatever it was the overall effect was successful and gave ultimate proof to the theory that young people are natural actors,
It must have been the characters who made the play and not vice-versa for the plot was nothing out of the ordinary it was a typical seaside boarding-house farce complete with odd assortment of boarders.

“Repel all boarders”

There was the usual acid faced "repel all boarders type of landlady whose greatest enjoyment seems to come from reading to all and sundry her rigid set of house rules There was the typical holiday family from 'Uddersfield, the "newly weds" and a couple of performers from the pier - in fact everyone to be expected in such a sordid establishment.
Without a deep understanding of the play then, this could have been a dismal failure but these youngsters made sure that it was just the opposite. They made the most of their chances to emulate grown-ups and their obvious enjoyment was wonderfully infectious Much of the credit must go to Lewis Greenhalgh the producer who was responsible for such a happy choice of characters and a sound knowledge of the play's requirements.


Outstanding member of the cast was Frederick S.C. Burnett as Wilf Pearson head of the 'Uddersfield contingent A member of the audience described this lad as a "natural comedian" at the best of times and nothing was detracted from his natural humour at the thought of having to perform before an audience. He showed a deep understanding of the part, he was word perfect and his stage manner was confident. So well did he succeed in extracting every ounce of humour from his fun-laden part, in fact, so outstandingly successful was he that on more than one occasion he had the remainder of the cast striving hard to conceal their laughter.


As his wife Ethel, Maureen Greenhalgh gave a first-rate performance. Strident of voice and decisive of action she was an admirable foil to her "husband". She was typical worrying, nagging mother who was more concerned about her poor mother in 'Uddersfield (much to her husband's disgust) than enjoying the holiday.

So shy

The starry-eyed honeymoon couple, Mr. and Mrs. Pepper, were delightfully portrayed by Derek Sibbering and Patricia Taylor. This shy young couple were shown no mercy by the tactless remainder of the guests and the rather tactless maid, Florrie (Anne Isherwood). Derek Sibbering was a maddeningly naive husband and the scene where Mr. Pearson was trying to explain to him the age-old mystery of the birds and the bees was one of the plays big highlights.
The plot concerned itself mainly with the illicit love affair of Sally Pearson (Dorothy Kerr) and debonair pier performer Tony Brett (Keith Robinson). This susceptible young girl fell for the romantic patter of Brett and to everyone's consternation they ran off together. Mrs. Pearson, who from the first expressed a profound mistrust of "the acting profession", became almost hysterical, but no one was more perturbed than Pat Marlowe (Shirley Twistle) who turned out to be Brett's secretly married wife.

At a days notice

Miss Twissell gave a competent performance and one could level nothing but amazement when it was announced that she had taken the part over from a sick friend at a days notice.

As the hatchet-faced mercenary landlady (sixpence extra for a bath), Pamela Price gave a good performance after some early dialogue lapses.

This play, then, had everything, but most of all it had a most enjoyable amount of infectious humour which adults never seem able to catch no matter how hard they try - in fact, they probably try too hard.   -  P.S.

Those taking part were - Keith Robinson, Shirley Twissell, Anne Isherwood, Maureen Greenhalgh (RIP), Dorothy. Kerr, Fred Burnett, Derek Sibbering, Pat Taylor and Pauline Price.

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Can anybody tell me the date? circa 1957/8?

Fred Burnett

10/07/15 - John Sharples writes ...

Hi Fred

Your photo of the St Peters players brought back many memories, I knew them all though shirley Twissel was older than us, a friend of my cousin Kathleen who we still meet for lunch every fortnight. I am just back from two weeks on the yacht and am due at the Ribchester Arms with Eileen for a meal.   Belated congratulations on a brilliant revue!

Best wishes John Sharples

15/07/15 - Derek Sibbering writes ...

I enjoyed so many years with St Peters Amateur Dramatics acting, painting sets and just enjoying being in the company of friends, TV hadn't taken over peoples lives then.
I was interested to read your story and can see you are enjoying life just want to give you a short history of my life.
I think our play took place around 1955/6 I would be 15 (born Sept 1941) I went on to do several plays at St Peters after leaving school I worked for Althams Travel in Accrington, In January 1959 I was in my last play at St Peters finishing Saturday night after dismantling the stage and on the Sunday morning left Accrington to fly to Jersey to take up a job in  a Travel Company.
I remained in Jersey until 1966 and came to London to take up a position in Global Travel. I planned to be in London for a couple of years and am still here!
I worked in Travel all my working life, after Global, I joined Horizon Group until they went bust before joining Yugotours the Yugoslav Tour Company ending up as General Manager. I made many friends there but when the Yugoslav War came had a very stressful time having to bring home over 5000 passengers from the war zone.
Remained with Yugotours until after the war ended but it was a difficult time trying to diversify to cover other destinations but after many set backs the company closed UK operations.
After a brief spell of unemployment I was asked to help Croatia Airlines open operations to Croatia and remained with them until I retired in 2011.
I still live in London and have a flat in Notting Hill where I have lived for over 33 years.
I have some good friends, many ex colleagues from the various companies I worked for. In fact, in April I helped to arrange a Yugotours Reunion we managed to trace over 40 ex colleagues who we hadn't seen for almost 24 years the internet was a great help.  
I don't get up to Lancashire very often now have a couple of cousins and an Uncle who is 91. My father died in 1974 and my mother in 1988. My brother Kenneth now lives in Wales with his wife Susan who is the Manager of a care home on Anglesey.
I remember going with you to Derby to stay with your relatives one time it is amazing to be in contact with you after all this time have you heard from any of the others in the photo?  I can remember all the cast.
I was a good friend of a guy called Jim Corbridge who was in the Dramatic Society he died about 4 years ago I went back to Accrington for his funeral at St Peters Church and saw several friends from the  past.
Sorry to have gone on so long but wanted to make contact with you, if you have made contact with anyone please pass my contact  details as I would love to hear from you all.
Best Regards

19/07/15 - Hi Fred,

You most likely won't remember me, I am Mick Crook's young brother Peter, but I remember you and your sister and if I remember correctly you lived in Lindadale Ave. I think that I remember that particular play when at the end of which you left the boarding house taking the cruet with you stating that it was a "blooming bargain at five bob".

I still attend St. Peter's in fact, I am a churchwarden, unfortunately none of those in the photo still go to St. Peter's many of them having moved away but many of those at church remember those in the photo Eunice Whittaker, Irene Rawcliffe (nee Davenport) John Thompson, Derrick Brockbank who is still organist. The Dramatic Society was a very active group in the past and I remember putting up the stage having the final dress rehearsal on the Wednesday night, the actual production on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights and then pulling the stage down on Saturday night.

I have a number of photos of the various plays that were put on in the old school but I don't have any of the junior society productions so the one that put on the website will be added to the collection. I am sorry but I cannot find out the actual date of "Beside the seaside" but if I get into the library I will have a look at the old copies of the Observer and get back to you.

Peter Crook

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