The Rye Shakespeare Company were so fortunate to have Priscilla Ryan (who died recently) as our friend and then our patron.
When we performed our “Secret History of Rye” plays (one of which is shown in the photo above) on the Ypres Green outside her house and her brother Paul’s house, she said it was their command performance and made sure that she and John and Paul were always in the front row. At evening rehearsals on the Green she would appear with a tray of tea and coffee, biscuits and cake for all the cast and sometimes something stronger!
We loved her not just for her generosity but for her interest and involvement in what we were doing and above all for her irrepressible high spirits, and modesty too. When our first patron Nancy Morris, another great Rye character, died and I somewhat nervously asked if she would do us the honour of succeeding her, her reaction was ‘Are you sure dear, there must be someone better you could ask?’
When assured that there couldn’t be anyone we’d rather have, she said she was delighted and also went on to become the patron of Rye Players. She supported both companies, also attending the RSC’s Christmas “Mapp and Lucia” plays at the museum, and the Players’ plays and pantos at the community centre where a case of wine was sent along for encouragement.
After a performance there was a hand written note saying how much she had enjoyed it, but also not being afraid to point out anything she felt that could have been better! Last September she came to see “Shakespeare in Rye” at The Mermaid on the last day of Rye Arts Festival, where she sat in the front row and didn’t hesitate to call out to the actors, very much as the ‘groundlings’ at the Globe would have done in Shakespeare’s day, and that is how we will remember her, still full of fun in her nineties.
Image Credits: Tony McLaughlin .