FEW actors can boast to have landed the leading role in their first play with a new company.
But Pauline Sykes can lay claim to that accolade, even if the experience is now a distant memory.
Pauline, 87, is celebrating her 70th year with Huddersfield Thespians.
The only pre-war member of the society, she took her first role as the leading lady in little-known play Anthony and Anna in 1938.
She said: “I wasn’t supposed to have been able to join the Thespians because I was 17 and you had to be 18 to be a member.
“But they took me on – and I got the part!”
Pauline, of Highgate Lane, Lepton, was due to play St Joan in the George Bernard Shaw play the following October before Adolf Hitler and global events intervened.
And by the time the production eventually took to the stage several years later, a 40-year-old Pauline was considered too old for the part.
“It was a disappointment because I always wanted to play St Joan,” she said.
Pauline first trod the boards while studying on a secretarial course at Huddersfield Technical College.
She went on to work as a secretarial teacher at the college and at Bradford Technical College.
But she retained a passion for theatre and reckons she took part in a play a year for as many as 50 years.
Her highlight was a leading role in Christopher Fry’s The Lady’s Not For Burning.
Written in 1948 but set in the middle ages, the play reflects the world’s struggle to overcome the turmoil of the Second World War.
These days Pauline admits she is more of an observer than an active participant in the Thespians’ efforts.
“I haven’t been in a play for a while, but I continue to be very interested and haven’t ever missed a play or a Saturday matinee,” she said.
“One of the things they try to do is share the parts around to make sure everyone is involved. I have enjoyed it very much. One of the good things has been getting to know all sorts of different people.
“We used to have a table tennis table in another room, so if you only had a small part you became extremely good at table tennis!
“Anyone who’s interested in acting at all should give it a go. They work very hard and are very good at what they do.”
Despite her less active role these days, Pauline remains a valued member of the group and her fellow Thespians held a special reception in her honour on Saturday after the matinee of their 89th season opener The Heiress.
Alistair Cheetham, from the Thespians, added: “Pauline remains a regular theatregoer, supporting the society throughout the years.
“She has always considered being a Thespian as being similar to being a member of a family. If this is the case, then the Thespians are delighted to have Pauline in their family.”