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Chester Little Theatre performer turns sponsor for Pinter classic

Anthony Wheatcroft made his stage debut at the venue as a young man

Anthony Wheatcroft in Priestner Saws’ workshop demonstrating machines(Image: UGC)

An acting enthusiast who has appeared many times on stage has returned to the theatre that gave him his first break - this time as a sponsor.

Anthony Wheatcroft was a young man who had not long moved to Chester top take up a new job when he wandered into the Little Theatre in Newtown.

Knowing few people in the area, he intended to offer his services as a set builder - but a script for Blue Remembered Hills by Dennis Potter was thrust into his hand and before he knew what was happening, he had been given the part of a small boy who would be wearing short trousers and have dirty knees.

He now ownes the firm which had just given himn a job back then - Priestner Saws - and it is that company which is sponsoring the Chester Little Theatre’s production of The Homecoming by Harold Pinter, directed by Marian Newman, which opens next month.

The first night is on Saturday, July 1 and the play then runs from Monday, July 3 to Saturday, July 8 at 7.30pm. Tickets are £9.50 and £7.50 concessions on first Saturday, Monday and Tuesday evenings.

Anthony Wheatcroft as a drunken customer in a production of Jeffrey Bernard is Unwell at Chester Little Theatre(Image: UGC)

The Homecoming is an early play of Pinter’s. It is a dark, brilliant comedy which centres on a patriarchal family and looks at the return of one of the three sons and his wife to the family home after six years absence and the repercussions that ensue.

Anthony recalls that his worst moment on stage was in Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead by Tom Stoppard. This was in his early days at the Little Theatre and he had a non-speaking role as a guard, standing on stage, holding a pike.

At one point, he was supposed to take off his cloak and cover a dead body. Not having much to do, his mind was elsewhere and to his horror, he realised that the two protagonists – who weren’t supposed to know who was under the cloak – had returned to the stage and were standing, talking over a corpse which was clearly visible.

Anthony decided action was the only option and sidling over between Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, casually draped his cloak over the corpse.

“I don’t think anyone noticed,” he said.

Having acted in many plays, such as The Odd Couple, April in Paris, Stags and Hens and (his favourite) Last of the Red Hot Lovers, Anthony turned to directing and produced Neville’s Island, written by Chester Theatre Club president, Tim Firth, and Harvey.

He has also appeared at Theatr Clwyd in Mold in a play to commemorate the Gresford Mine disaster which re-enacted the official enquiry. He played Sir Stafford-Cripps who appeared on behalf of the miners.

The Homecoming can be seen on Saturday, July 1, and from July 3-8 July at 7.30pm at the Little Theatre in Gloucester Street. To book, go online to www.chestertheatreclub.co.uk or telephone TicketSource 0333 666 3366. Booking charges apply. Tickets also available on the door.

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