Former St Trinian belle makes use of her accent skills for the Arundel Festival

Annabelle Heath
Annabelle Heath

Yapton actress and one-time St Trinian belle Annabelle Heath makes her Arundel Players debut in the company’s Arundel Festival contribution.

We Happy Few runs from Saturday to Saturday, August 24-31 at the Priory Playhouse, London Road, Arundel.

Written by Imogen Stubbs, it offers a fictitious story inspired by the Osiris Players, Britain’s first all-female professional theatre company, founded in 1927 and led until the early 1960s by the indomitable director, Nancy Hewins.

During the Second World War, the seven-strong female company embarked on a cultural crusade and toured schools, towns and village halls throughout the country and presented cut-down versions of the classic repertoire of plays. Amongst the places they visited were East Preston, Littlehampton, Arundel and Chichester.

For Annabelle, the play is proving the perfect first production with Arundel: “They are all lovely, and we are all rubbing along very well.”

When she went along for the audition, Annabelle stressed she wasn’t looking for any of the big parts. She has ended up with all the small parts: “I have got six parts in all, four of them are comedic and two of them are straight, and they wanted a different accent for each one. I have got Australian, Irish, Cockney, Scottish and Welsh, and then I have got five words in a man’s voice!”

For the audition, she offered a little scene with “Petey the snake”. The scene has now been incorporated into the play, she’s pleased to say.

“I read the script and it was a really interesting story, this group of women taking Shakespeare all over the country during the war and doing absolutely everything themselves, all together as a team.

“But within the play, there are auditions for people wanting to be part of the team. I come on as four different characters who are absolute rubbish!”

Annabelle’s big break-through was The Belles of St Trinian’s (1954), a film starring Alastair Sim, Joyce Grenfell and George Cole. Annabelle played one of the girls, Maudie, the bookie – “which is ironic really because I am so against gambling!

As she says, her background is more in film, but she has been doing amdram for about ten years now: “When I moved down to Shoreham many years ago, there were no film studios so I joined Adur Theatre Group which has gone now and also Wick Players and Brighton Little Theatre.”

After moving to Yapton, Brighton seemed much too much of a trek – and Arundel beckoned.

“I wanted to do it to see if I still could. It was as simple as that. I didn’t particularly want the big parts. I have had a number of big parts in my time. I just went for audition. I never expected anything really.”

She is certainly enjoying rehearsals: “They have been good fun, and we have been laughing in the comedic bits. But there is a lot to do and opening night will soon be here.

“The theatre there is lovely and the dressing room is delightful. It is just a really nice place to be. They have in the winter what they call poetry and potage where a very nice lady makes very nice soups and anybody who wants to read some poetry can do so. It is a very good evening, and I am looking forward to those again. That’s how I started with Arundel in the first place. There have not been many plays I could have gone for until I read this one and thought it would be good to be part of it.”

Performances start at 7.30pm from Saturday, August 24 to Saturday, August 31. Tickets for We Happy Few at The Priory Playhouse, London Road, Arundel, BN18 9FA cost £12 for members, £14 non-members and £13 for groups of ten or more and are available from the box office on 07523 417926. arundelplayers.org.uk and follow the link or go to www.ticketsource.co.uk/arundelplayers.

Plenty of fun at the Arundel Festival

8 Hotels offers fascinating evening in Chichester's Minerva Theatre

Summer holiday fun