‘It was the shock of being so close to the actors’

CRUCIBLE PHOTCALL  Daniel Evans and Wendy Nottingham in 'Cloud Nine'  at The Crucible.                        1 June 2004
CRUCIBLE PHOTCALL Daniel Evans and Wendy Nottingham in 'Cloud Nine' at The Crucible. 1 June 2004


I saw the very first production in 1971 but I don’t actually remember much about the acting, it was more the shock of being in the audience so close to the actors and looking around the auditorium.

Theatre in the round with no curtain and a thrust stage were so new in those days.

Some of my friends were horrifed but I loved it straight away. As to my favourite things, there was The Tempest with Derek Jacobi – and the present artistic director, Daniel Evans, a wonderful Ariel.

There are memories of going with the children to things like The Wiz with Derek Griffiths and I also remember Brief Lives in which Roy Dotrice was the only actor on stage and peed in a pot right there.

Often it’s the sets you remember more than anything such as When We Were Married and, more recently, Hobson’s Choice.

lSheffield printmaking artist and at 87 the oldest member of Sheffield Popular Theatre’s cast of Lives in Art


It had to be a Sheffield-based play which featured highly in my early recollections of the Crucible opening. After all, where else in the world is there a theatre more appropriately named than ‘the Crucible’?

The play in question which I had enjoyed at the old Playhouse was Stirrings in Sheffield on a Saturday Night. I think we were all sceptical about the new configuration with the stage thrust out into the audience but 40 years on nobody mentions it at all!

What is good about the Crucible today is the variety of events, big and small, which are promoted in the theatres and I hope that despite the financial situation that more of these presentations will be possible alongside, of course, the repertory theatre. May it go from strength to strength as part of the wider campus of Sheffield theatres.

lMP for Hillsborough and Brightside, former Home Secretary, Education Secretary and leader of Sheffield City Council


Other people had Saturday jobs, I worked as an usherette at the Crucible three nights a week. Down from High Storrs to the Central Library where I could get in two-and-a-half hours’ homework before going over to the Crucible and putting on the simply hideous grey uniform.

Seeing play after play was the best thing an aspiring playwright could have done. I learnt to watch the audience and see how they were responding to what was on stage. I also learnt that a theatre piece is never the same two nights running. The laughs change, the applause changes and every audience is individual.

Two shows stand out like beacons from that time, Oh, What a Lovely War because it taught me that seriousness doesn’t have to be sombre, and Noel Coward’s Tonight at 8.30. It had the most gorgeous 1930s frocks. I’ve just done a stage adaptation of Fashion in Shrouds by Margery Allingham and in my head the heroine wears the identical pink frock to the one I saw then.

lPlaywright and former scriptwriter for The Archers who grew up in Sheffield


It was relief at first, then dawning excitement.

After Peer Gynt, The Shoemaker’s Holiday and Treasure Island in that opening season Shelagh Delaney’s A Taste of Honey proved the thrust stage didn’t have to be about rushing hither and yon all the time but could share with you the still, intimate moments in which people’s lives also change.

Quite an achievement for a play written for the former music hall of Stratford East, and I think it deepened the work that came after. I’ve also been a little in love with Gwen Taylor ever since.

lWriter and broadcaster who was the Morning Telegraph’s theatre critic when the Crucible opened and went on to write plays performed there – Herod the Great, Jokers (with Rony Robinson) and Brassed Off.


My earliest memory of the Crucible stage is of seeing a production of Peter Pan, I must have been four or five years old and remember people flying above me and the pirates throwing sponges out to the audience, it all seemed so magical.

The one production, however, that really left an impression on me as a young teenager was Cloud Nine. I remember being mesmerised by the production and the acting within it, it was like nothing I had ever seen before.

All of the actors played different characters in Act 1 and 2 playing against age and gender so truthfully, I was in awe of the them so much so that I went to see it four times.

lActor from Sheffield who is an original cast member of Jerusalem now back in London after a triumphant Broadway run


A Doll’s House (circa 1985) in the Studio with my Goronwy earning £25 for being one of Nora’s children, I think the girl.

Opera North‘s opera-in-a-week in the Studio (circa 1995) with Gifted and Talented pupils, one of whom was my gifted and talented Megan .

Charley (2000), the play/film/samba about Charlie Peace that Opt-In Youth Theatre took to the Millennium Dome and then brought home to the Main House, with my Eleanor as Mrs Peace. All three of my kids ended up as performers. Parents beware.

lWriter and broadcaster whose work at the Crucible has included Jokers, United on a Wednesday Night and adapting Stirrings in 1991


Brimstone and Treacle by Dennis Potter, back in the mid-seventies when I first arrived in Sheffield. What a start to an exciting Studio season!

Not that I can remember what else I saw – but I know I went to everything, didn’t matter what it was.

I just bought tickets for it all. It couldn’t last of course and the radical Studio seasons subsided.

Good to see the Crucible trying to avoid pandering to the ‘tell-us-one-we-know’ brigade – very hard as Government support for the arts declines and the box office drives all.

lFormer Sheffield City Councillor David Skinner, now professional actor and commercial director of the Peak District’s Cotton Grass Theatre


My first visit to the Crucible Theatre was in 1972 with my primary school to see one of our friends in an amateur production.

It was my first visit to a theatre with a thrust stage and I found it exciting and wonderful. As long as I could remember I had been taken to see pantomimes, but this felt like ‘the real thing’ and I was completely hooked.

It inspired me to join the drama group in secondary school with our drama teacher, Meg Jepson, who went on to be the Director of the Sheffield Youth Theatre. I couldn’t act for toffee, so inevitably I realised acting wasn’t for me.

However, I did continue to visit the theatre as often as I could whilst at school and when I started work I formed a theatre social group and became a group booker.

I have been a Square Circle member for many years and was actually a director of the trust for a couple of years.

I have always loved the theatre and often plan short breaks around visits to other theatres, but for me no other theatre is better than the Crucible.

I always feel immensely proud when listening to the views of other visitors. My recent favourite has to be Hamlet with John Simm (I have to be one of his biggest fans) and my all-time favourite Christmas show was Fiddler on the Roof which I saw three times.

lLabour leader of Sheffield City Council