Obituary: Peggy Ann Wood

PEGGY ANN Wood made an important contribution to theatrical life in Bristol and beyond, in partnership with her husband Ronald Russell. Together they ran the Rapier Players, managing the Little Theatre at the Colston Hall in Bristol for 28 years between 1935 and 1963, presenting over 900 productions (ranging from Strindberg and Chekhov to Coward and Rattigan, and including nearly 50 world premieres) and employing dozens of actors who later established themselves elsewhere as well-known names or useful company members.

Among them were Michael Hordern, Mervyn Johns, Constance Chapman, Peter Jeffery, Clifford Rose, Jean Watts, Malcolm Farquhar, Sheila Allen, John Warner, and Lockwood West, whose actor son Timothy recalls:

The Rapier Players kept going all that time without any kind of subsidy from local or central government. While Ronnie was in the police force during the [Second World] War - along with my father,

who was their leading man at the time - Peggy Ann practically ran the theatre single-handed and kept going with one show a week. We've lost an important link with a theatrical past that young people can hardly recognise or scarcely believe in - the world of constant weekly rep, 48 shows a year.

Born in 1912, Peggy Ann Wood was the daughter of Arthur Wood, a conductor in London theatre and, incidentally, the composer of "Barwick Green", the long-lasting theme tune of the radio soap opera The Archers.

Educated at St Paul's School, in London, she first met Ronald Russell in 1931 in repertory at Rochester, in Kent, where they became a much-loved pair of juvenile leads. She came to Bristol to join his first company at the Little Theatre in 1935, and they married in 1937. Constance Chapman, who was one of the Rapier Players between 1942 and 1947, recalls:

All through the war, the Rapier Players were a little beacon of light, lifting the spirits of the audi-

ence. Peggy Ann not only played dozens of leading roles - in anything from a Ben Travers farce to Ibsen's A Doll's House - but she often directed the productions, and had a hand in the management and the programming. The company was a Bristol institution - even when I was appearing on television, members of the public who approached me would more often talk about the famous Rapier Players' "two for the price of one" Monday night shows!

When the Colston Hall burnt down in 1945, the Little Theatre reopened within five days despite losing all the records, costumes and properties in the fire. From 1949, the Rapier Players worked as a fortnightly rep until 1963 when the Little Theatre was taken over by the subsidised Bristol Old Vic (BOV) Company.

With money left over after the Rapier Players were wound up, the Russells set up a lasting scholarship for the benefit of Bristol University drama students who went on to the BOV Theatre School for vocational training.

Wood continued working as an actress until shortly before her husband's death in 1994, her last television role being Vera Poling, the grandmother's diffident friend, in the ITV series After Henry, with Prunella Scales.

Peggy Ann Wood, actress, director and theatre manager: born London 14 June 1912; married 1937 Ronald Russell (died 1994); died Bristol 30 May 1998.

Arts and Entertainment
'Banksy Does New York' Film - 2014

Art Somebody is going around telling people he's Banksy - but it isn't the street artist

Arts and Entertainment
Woody Allen and Placido Domingo will work together on Puccini's Schicchi

Theatre

Arts and Entertainment
The sixteen celebrities taking part in The Jump 2015

TV

Arts and Entertainment
British author Helen Macdonald, pictured with Costa book of the year, 'H is for Hawk'
booksPanel hail Helen Macdonald's 'brilliantly written, muscular prose' in memoir of a grief-stricken daughter who became obsessed with training a goshawk
Arts and Entertainment
Tom DeLonge has announced his departure from Blink-182

music
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
In the picture: Anthony LaPaglia and Martin Freeman in 'The Eichmann Show'

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Anne Kirkbride and Bill Roache as Deirdre and Ken Barlow in Coronation Street

tvThe actress has died aged 60
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Marianne Jean-Baptiste defends Joe Miller in Broadchurch series two

tv
Arts and Entertainment
The frill of it all: Hattie Morahan in 'The Changeling'

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Gillian Anderson and David Duchovny may reunite for The X Files

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Jeremy Clarkson, left, and Richard Hammond upset the locals in South America
TV
News
A young woman punched a police officer after attending a gig by US rapper Snoop Dogg
people
Arts and Entertainment
Reese Witherspoon starring in 'Wild'

It's hard not to warm to Reese Witherspoon's heroismfilm
Arts and Entertainment
Word up: Robbie Coltrane as dictionary guru Doctor Johnson in the classic sitcom Blackadder the Third
books

Arts and Entertainment
The Oscar nominations are due to be announced today

Oscars 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Hacked off: Maisie Williams in ‘Cyberbully’

Maisie Williams single-handedly rises to the challenge

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne in The Theory of Everything and Benedict Cumberbatch in The Imitation Game are both nominated at the Bafta Film Awards
Arts and Entertainment

Academy criticised after no non-white actors nominated

Arts and Entertainment
Damian Lewis shooting a scene as Henry VIII in Wolf Hall
TV

Arts and Entertainment
A history of violence: ‘Angry, White and Proud’ looked at the rise of far-right groups

tv

An expose of hooliganism masquerading as an ideological battle

Arts and Entertainment

art

Lee Hadwin can't draw when he's awake, but by night he's an artist

Arts and Entertainment

TV

Arts and Entertainment
Michael Keaton in the 1998 Beetlejuice original

film

Arts and Entertainment
Olivia Colman and David Tennant star in 'Broadchurch'

TV

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Greece elections: In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza

    Greece elections

    In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza, says Patrick Cockburn
    Holocaust Memorial Day: Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears

    Holocaust Memorial Day

    Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears over Europe
    Fortitude and the Arctic attraction: Our fascination with the last great wilderness

    Magnetic north

    The Arctic has always exerted a pull, from Greek myth to new thriller Fortitude. Gerard Gilbert considers what's behind our fascination with the last great wilderness
    Homeless Veterans appeal: Homeless in Wales can find inspiration from Daniel’s story

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    Homeless in Wales can find inspiration from Daniel’s story
    Front National family feud? Marine Le Pen and her relatives clash over French far-right party's response to Paris terror attacks

    Front National family feud?

    Marine Le Pen and her relatives clash over French far-right party's response to Paris terror attacks
    Pot of gold: tasting the world’s most expensive tea

    Pot of gold

    Tasting the world’s most expensive tea
    10 best wildlife-watching experiences: From hen harriers to porpoises

    From hen harriers to porpoises: 10 best wildlife-watching experiences

    While many of Britain's birds have flown south for the winter, it's still a great time to get outside for a spot of twitching
    Nick Easter: 'I don’t want just to hold tackle bags, I want to be out there'

    'I don’t want just to hold tackle bags, I want to be out there'

    Nick Easter targeting World Cup place after England recall
    DSK, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel

    The inside track on France's trial of the year

    Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel:
    As provocative now as they ever were

    Sarah Kane season

    Why her plays are as provocative now as when they were written
    Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of a killing in Iraq 11 years ago

    Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of another killing

    Japanese mood was against what was seen as irresponsible trips to a vicious war zone
    Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

    Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

    One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
    The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

    The enemy within

    People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
    'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

    'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

    Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
    Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

    Autumn/winter menswear 2015

    The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore