As if juggling family life with the demands of high school teaching wasn’t enough, Becky Sutcliffe has a major role in a production of The Witches of Eastwick at the Lawrence Batley Theatre next week. VAL JAVIN reports
She was just two-and-a-half weeks old and we had her with her feet on the stage at the LBT
LITTLE Layla Sutcliffe had her toes on the stage at the Lawrence Batley Theatre when she was little more than two weeks old.
Hardly surprising when her mum dad, grandparents and other family members are all steeped in local theatre.
Layla’s arrival last year was beautifully timed. Dad Paul Sutcliffe was a key element in Woodhouse Operatic Society’s production of Buddy. His guitar playing was one of the hits of the run.
But it was a close run thing. Paul could well have been on hospital duty but mum Rebekah managed to deliver her first baby with perfect timing.
“She arrived a day before her due date, which we’d thought was a bit early.We thought please don’t let it be on the opening night of the show,” said Rebekah, known to her friends as Becky.
“On the day we came home from hospital, Paul had to go into rehearsal. We took Layla in on the Saturday matinee so that people could see her. She was just two-and-a-half weeks old and we had her with her feet on the stage at the LBT.
This year could prove just as hectic. For as Layla approaches her first birthday, mum is adding the final polish to her latest role, centre stage, next week at the LBT. Becky is one of three singers as Woodhouse Operatic Society stage the wickedly fun musical, The Witches Of Eastwick.
Watching her in rehearsal, Becky, along with her co-witches Nicci Cooney as Jane and Hayley Kenefick as Sukie offered harmonies and lots of laughs as a trio of modern day witches whose love lives froth then fizzle courtesy of the devilishly mysterious man Darryl Van Horne, played by Richard Sykes who last year led the company’s production of Buddy.
For many, juggling family, including a new baby, with commitments as an English and drama teacher at Rawthorpe High School would be enough of a challenge. But Becky also has a passion for theatre and music and thanks to husband Paul and the support of family and friends, she has quickly returned to the spotlight.
“As a family, doing shows is in our blood. But if when Layla gets older, she chooses to be sporty, then we will support her in that.”
That said, Layla (like the song! – dad is, after all, a guitarist) is already showing signs of being musical.
“She loves music. Paul was playing the glockenspiel the other day and she wanted to have a go. And she dances about whenever there’s music on.”
Becky was no slouch herself when it came to getting on the stage. Brought up in the Crosland Moor area, she couldn’t wait to get involved in dance.
“I used to stand at the back of Miss France’s dancing class which my sister Rachel went to and I was itching to have a go. I started dancing class when I was two.
“My mum did choreography for shows at our church, St Barnabas in Crosland Moor and dad did the scenery. We did panto, plays, religious music.”
Becky headed off to St Andrew’s University in Scotland to a degree in English, medieval history and classical studies. It was her sister, Rachel, who went to music school.
“But while I was at St Andrews, I joined a society called the Just So Society and was doing four shows a year. I would phone my mum and say I’m doing this show or that show.”
After university, Becky took a year out, not just to travel but to work. She spent a year teaching in Japan.
“That year in Japan was both an incredible experience and a lonely one too because I was in quite a rural area.
“I would walk around a corner and a child would shout out and run away because they had never seen a Westerner before. Other children would want to touch my hair because I looked so different.
“The Japanese were incredibly welcoming and friendly people,” said Becky.
Once back home in Yorkshire, Becky was able to pick up the threads of her acting and singing appearing with a number of operatic societies around the area. She plays piano and violin but considers her voice her main musical instrument.
And it was through amateur operatics that Becky met Paul, the musician who was to become her husband.
“We met for the first time at the church in which we were married. And mum and dad also met through doing a play.”
“Some of us went to see KYPAC doing Forbidden Planet because someone we knew was involved. She said that some of the band from that show were going to be involved in our show at Crosland Moor. I remember saying to her, is the guitarist going to be one of them?”
A week later, Becky and Paul, who is a senior teaching assistant working with autistic children at a local school, met for the first time at the band call for the show. Now they share family life and a passion for music.
In next week’s show, Woodhouse have, as Becky puts it, “four for the price of one.” While she is in the spotlight playing Alexandra, one of a trio of witches, husband Paul will be in the band playing percussion, her sister Rachel will be in the chorus alongside her husband, Jonathan.
“It is the first proper show that Rachel and I have done together since we were in our teens. It’s been really good.”
As for the show, Becky can’t sing its praises too high.
“There are huge, big chorus numbers, massive amounts of dancing and then some really quiet moments. The script is one of the best I’ve ever done. It’s got really good characterisations and some really funny lines.”
The Witches Of Eastwick is directed by John Cotgrave, its choreographer is Kathy Peters and Caroline Robinson is the musical director. Box office is on 01484 430528 and the show opens on Tuesday (March 4) running each evening until Saturday at 7.15pm with a Saturday matinee at 2.15pm.