Written by Joann Rae
A very successful repertory company was based at Theatr Colwyn for many years – the first season was a spectacular success and in 18 weeks over 35,000 people saw plays performed in weekly repertory. The rep company was responsible for launching the careers of several actors and actresses who later became well known figures in the entertainment world. One of these actors was Charles Dance ………
Walter Charles Dance was born in 1946 and grew up on the edge of Dartmoor. He was apparently a nervous child who suffered from both a stammer and dyslexia. Leaving school at 16, he found work as a window-dresser and a plumber’s mate before encountering, in a pub in Plymouth, a couple of retired actors who helped him on his way to becoming a performer.
His theatrical career began in weekly rep at Theatr Colwyn in 1972, after moving from behind the scenes where he worked as a stage manager to in front of the footlights as an actor. In 1975 at the age of 29, he joined the Royal Shakespeare Company, graduating from minor parts to the title role of Henry V during a Broadway stint.
It was his screen role as Guy Perron in the landmark 1984 mini-series, The Jewel in The Crown, which is regarded as his breakthrough role. For the next 2 decades his film career soared and he has worked with Hollywood’s most impressive talent. In addition, he was the screenwriter and director of the film Ladies in Lavender. To recognise his prestigious career in the performing world, he was awarded the OBE in 2006.
Joann, our Marketing Officer, contacted Charles to inform him that we had placed a seat plaque in Theatr Colwyn bearing his name. He replied with a lovely card saying
that he felt honoured and added “I wish you much good luck and I’m so glad to hear the old place is still thriving”
CHARLES DANCE'S FIRST FAN
Written by Dorothy, a Friend of Theatr Colwyn
Reading the article about Charles Dance brought back vivid memories of our early days in Colwyn Bay, and a special visit to the Old Prince of Wales Theatre, as it was then known. We saw a delightful and very funny production of “Charlie’s Aunt” and my daughter, Shân, then aged about 10 or 11 was enthralled with one of the actors – Charles Dance. We didn’t know it then, but it was in fact his debut on stage (Yes! In Colwyn Bay!). Shân immediately dashed off a letter to her “hero”, and a couple of days later we were devastated to find that he and his wife had actually called at our house, and we were out! However, there was some consternation when a beautifully written letter arrived later - a “treasure” still.
A few years later when Shân was in the Sixth Form at Eirias High, we went to see a performance at the Shakespeare Memorial Theatre in Stratford on Avon, and on the programme amongst the “sword bearers” Shân spotted the name of Charles Dance. She dashed off another letter, as was her wont, and I think she asked if he could possibly be the same Charles Dance who had had appeared in Colwyn Bay in the early 70’s. Another beautifully written and interesting letter arrived. Another “treasure”, still revered. What excitement!
We have always followed Charles Dance’s career with special interest. I am sure it is
typical of the man who took such pains to foster a young person’s interest in the theatre that, despite his fame, he has graciously acknowledged his debt to Colwyn Bay by saying he felt honoured to have a seat plaque with his name, and to wish the
theatre much good luck for the future. Bravo Charles Dance!!
Of course, Shân claims with good evidence that she was Charles Dance’s first “fan”.
FRIENDS OF THEATR COLWYN
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