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CULTURE: NODA mourns death of popular president; Amateur Stage.

Byline: By John Slim

The sad news of the death of Bill Matthews, immediate past president of the National Operatic and Dramatic Association (NODA), robs the organisation of a man who always wore responsibility with a smile.

He was gentle affability spiced with an impish turn of phrase. Whimsy delivered quietly. A gentleman to his unflurried fingertips.

He was seriously ill at the start of his NODA presidency in 2004 but he came through it and, typically, he made light of it.

A retired bank manager, he was born in Chorlton-cum-Hardy, Mancester, and his family moved to Colwyn Bay on his sixth birthday. In 1952 he joined Llandudno Operatic Society, which was how he met his wife Iris, and was to be its chairman for a record 28 years.

He retired in 1987 at the age of 58, leaving himself more time to enjoy his beloved theatre, both on stage and as a man of NODA. He became a regional representative for the Western Area in 1979, area treasurer in 1981 and councillor in 1994.

His father was Welsh and Bill never lost the Welsh accent that was part of his mischievous and self-mocking charm. He did, however, explain that his only Welsh was swear words, which was all right because nobody understood.

He will be much missed.

One of the items in Handsworth Gang Show's programme, opening at Birmingham's Crescent Theatre on Friday and running through Easter week, is based on James Bond films - and it features a young scout whose name is Pierce Brosnan.

It is a Brosnan, moreover, who is changing sides from the 007 role with which his rather better-known namesake is associated to play Goldfinger.

Pierce, who lives in Great Barr, is 11 years old and is a member of the 25th Beeches Scout Group. He has been involved in the Scout movement since he joined at the age of six as a Beaver.

This is his first Gang Show and it finds him featuring in Birmingham's longest-running Scout and Guide show, which dates back to 1953 and this year features a company of 80.

I should have known better than to pit my wits against the workings of fate in my efforts to get to see Wythall Theatre Company's recent production of The Cemetery Club.

It was before the clocks went forward and it was to be my first visit to the Dovehouse Theatre, which is at one of the schools in Kineton Green Road, Solihull. I realised I was in trouble on discovering that I had overshot my turn off the A 41. To make it worse, it was too dark to read my A-Z or most of the road names as I reached them.

But I asked a male cyclist and a woman pedestrian before hitting Solihull town centre three times and finally deciding to high-tail it for home at about the same time as the curtain would have been rising.

A musical version of Oliver Goldsmith's 18th-Century comedy She Stoops to Conquer has been written by two members of Selkirk Amateur Operatic Society.

Les Miller and Jim Marshall call their show Just One More and it follows the confusion created when the mischievous Tony Lumpkin causes strangers to turn up at Mr Hardcastle's house under the impression that it is an inn.

It has nine principals - six men and three women - and the chorus can expand as required for lively action in the real local hostelry, The Three Jolly Pigeons.

More information is available at or by email at

A DVD with excerpts from the musical numbers is included on loan with the reading material.

I was surprised to find myself mentioned in the current issue of the Lapworth Players' newsletter.

It came in the course of an article by Gill Polgreen, who was looking back to what happened 20 years ago, in 1986.

I apparently described the Players' production of The Importance of Being Earnest as a thing of sparkle and vivacity and one where the diction had the necessary precision.

What intrigued me, however, was that the journal carrying my remarks was said to be the Leamington Courier, a news sheet that has so far had the good fortune never to have tempted me to try to persuade it to find space for me.

I heard a bemused citizen passing judgment on the fragmental family represented in The Nonentities' production of And A Nightingale Sang at Kidderminster's Rose Theatre last week.

C P Taylor's play, set in Newcastle-upon-Tyne during the Second World War, includes Dad, driving everybody daft by playing the piano, and Grandad, who has a habit of carrying long-dead pets around the house in a sack.

The voice abaft my left shoulder said, "I never saw any people like that in the war. Good job there weren't any, or we wouldn't have won."
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Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:Apr 12, 2006
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