Scarlet Pimpernel



by Joann Rae

A link between Theatr Colwyn and a theatrical acting dynasty has come to light when a photograph – previously thought to have been a stage prop – was revealed to be a genuine picture of an actor who achieved great fame in his time. The large, framed photograph of actor/theatre manager/producer Fred Terry - the first person to ever play The Scarlet Pimpernel on stage - had been in the storeroom at Theatr Colwyn, Colwyn Bay, for many years and staff always thought that it had been used as a prop in a play.

It was only recently the photograph was taken out of the storeroom to be looked at in detail and a visitor to theatre pointed out that far from being a prop, it was something of significant importance to the theatre’s long history. After some research, it came to light that the man in the photograph, dressed in stage costume, was Fred Terry, brother of Dame Ellen Terry – one of the first modern stars of the British stage, who was known as ‘The Queen of Theatre’.

On the photograph is a dedication to Stanley Ravenscroft, who led the highly successful repertory company at Theatr Colwyn during the 1930s, 40s and 50s and actually lived at the theatre during his time as the company’s director. The dedication was written by Julia Neilson, wife of Fred Terry and a famous actress in her own right, having appeared in countless stage plays on the West End and in New York, including the first production of Oscar Wilde’s plays An Ideal Husband.

Joann Rae said: “Finding out that the photograph was real, not a prop, and that it had been given to Stanley Ravenscroft, by actors of such fame, has created much excitement at the theatre. We know very little about Mr Ravenscroft, other than that under his leadership the repertory company was incredibly successful, that he was a stage actor in his youth and that he lived in a flat in the theatre for many years. Unfortunately, there are no clues as to how he knew Fred Terry and Julia Neilson, although the dedication does mention ‘just for remembrance’ so maybe they worked together at some point or were friends."

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