As a fifteen year old boy of small stature I couldn’t resit an offer in a small advert in the local evening paper over 50 years ago in 1963. Boy required for extra by Doyle Carte Opera Company. I fitted the criteria of being 4ft 8inches or thereabouts and had enjoyed being in both the Pirates of Penzance and Patience with my school. Both were Gilbert and Sullivan Operas and that is what Doyle Carte were known for.
The advert had been placed by the nearby Palace Theatre literally a two minute walk from my home. I must have been the first in the queue when I dropped in to the stage door to see the manager as I got the job.
It was a few weeks later when I was in the dressing room dressed as the axe bearer for a walk on role in The Mikado. As it was getting close to curtain up I was getting a little worried about what was expected of me as there was no rehearsal. The music started for the overture and someone took me to the stage and walked me through the positions I should be during my 5 minute appearance.
It all went well and in all I did three performances with the company who were very welcoming. One of the company even went around with a souvenir programme and passed in on to me, each of the members of the cast from principals to chorus had autographed. Needless to say I was thrilled.
Payment? I was actually paid for my appearances the princely sum of 30 shillings (£1.50 now) not enough for a full cast album but Decca did do a 10 inch version with the main ten songs which I purchased as a keepsake.
I still have my first Decca album together with press cuttings and programmes.
My next Decca album was Aftermath by the Rolling Stones, a different bag altogether. Later albums from the company would include Moody Blues, Caravan, Michael Chapman, Mari Wilson, the Communards all in a different genre altogether. Most recently I’ve purchased CD’s from Rufus Wainwright.
Of course my first purchase will always remain special and still gets an airing on the turntable every so often.
Roy Perring, Plymouth CMS user