Obituary: Peggy Ann Wood
Friday 26 June 1998
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.
TV review Nick Hewer, the man whose eyebrows speak a thousand words, is set to leave The Apprentice
Film The critics but sneer but these unfashionable festive films are our favourites
TV We're so close to knowing what happened to Oliver Hughes, but a last-minute bluff crushes expectations
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Nigel Farage: Me vs Russell Brand on Question Time – he's got the chest hair but where are his ideas?
- 2 Harry Potter fans can apply to the Hogwarts-inspired College of Wizardry
- 3 Jessica Chambers: 19-year-old woman 'doused with lighter fluid and burned alive' in the US
- 4 Russell Brand calls Nigel Farage 'poundshop Enoch Powell' in BBC Question Time debate
- 5 Orange Wednesdays are no more
Peter Lik: The self-proclaimed 'fine-art photographer' whose work sells for millions
The best underrated Christmas movies from Love, Actually to While You Were Sleeping
Grace Dent on TV: The Lost Honour of Christopher Jefferies was a beautifully shot, immensely considered drama
The Lost Honour of Christopher Jefferies, review: Jason Watkins is brilliant, but real victim Joanna Yeates is reduced to a footnote
Marilyn Manson denies involvement in shocking Lana Del Rey rape video
Disgruntled RBS worker writes hilarious open letter to Russell Brand after anti-capitalist publicity stunt leaves him hungry
Shock poll shows voters believe Ukip is to the left of the Tories
Nigel Farage's approval rating hits 'record low' as popularity suffers in wake of Ukip sex scandal
Nigel Farage defends Kerry Smith 'ch***y' comment: 'If you are going for a Chinese, what do you say you’re going for?'
Ukip candidate jokes about 'shooting peasants' in racist and homophobic rant
Pakistan school attack live: Taliban kill at least 132 children in 'horrifying' massacre