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
Nick Hewer is to leave The Apprentice after 10 years

TV review Nick Hewer, the man whose eyebrows speak a thousand words, is set to leave The Apprentice

Arts and Entertainment
Female fans want more explicit male sex in Game of Thrones, George R R Martin says

film George RR Martin owns a cinema in Santa Fe

Arts and Entertainment
Clued up: John Lynch and Gillian Anderson in ‘The Fall’

TV review

Arts and Entertainment
The Baker (James Corden) struggles with Lilla Crawford’s Little Red Riding Hood

film...all the better to bamboozle us
Arts and Entertainment
English: Romantic Landscape

art
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Mark, Katie and Sanjay in The Apprentice boardroom
TV
Arts and Entertainment

Film The critics but sneer but these unfashionable festive films are our favourites

Arts and Entertainment
Frances O'Connor and James Nesbitt in 'The Missing'

TV We're so close to knowing what happened to Oliver Hughes, but a last-minute bluff crushes expectations

Arts and Entertainment
Joey Essex will be hitting the slopes for series two of The Jump

TV

Who is taking the plunge?
Arts and Entertainment
Katy Perry as an Ancient Egyptian princess in her latest music video for 'Dark Horse'

music
Arts and Entertainment
Dame Judi Dench, as M in Skyfall

film
Arts and Entertainment
Morrissey, 1988

TV
Arts and Entertainment
William Pooley from Suffolk is flying out to Free Town, Sierra Leone, to continue working in health centres to fight Ebola after surviving the disease himself

music
Arts and Entertainment
The Newsroom creator Aaron Sorkin

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Matt Berry (centre), the star of Channel 4 sitcom 'Toast of London'

TVA disappointingly dull denouement
Arts and Entertainment
Tales from the cryptanalyst: Benedict Cumberbatch in 'The Imitation Game'

film
Arts and Entertainment
Pixie Lott has been voted off Strictly Come Dancing 2014

Strictly
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.

    Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
    Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

    Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

    As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
    The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

    The Interview movie review

    You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
    Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

    How podcasts became mainstream

    People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
    Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

    Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

    Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
    Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

    A memorable year for science – if not for mice

    The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
    Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

    Christmas cocktails to make you merry

    Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
    5 best activity trackers

    Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

    Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
    Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

    Paul Scholes column

    It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
    Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

    Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

    Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
    Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

    Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

    2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
    Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

    Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

    Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
    Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

    Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

    The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
    Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

    Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

    The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
    Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

    The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

    Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas