Actress Sue Devaney on how being a theatrical lodger connected her to an earlier age of theatre
“Keep going till you’re my age and people will know who you are, and don’t bother with men, they’re only good for one thing…babies, and if you don’t want them, stick to comedy!”
Actress Patricia Hayes’ words have always rung in Sue Devaney’s ears; Sue was only supposed to lodge with Patricia Hayes for 10 months, and seven years later, she was still there. Ms Hayes offered the 18 year old Sue Devaney a bed during Sue’s West End debut in 1987. Fresh out of a production of Alice in Wonderland at the Octagon Theatre, Bolton, Sue was playing the part of Ruby Birtle in JB Priestley’s When We Are Married at the Whitehall Theatre, Ms Hayes was playing Mrs Northrop.
49 years earlier it was also the young Ms Hayes’ first West End appearance, and she’d created the original role of the scurrying little servant Ruby Birtle. She’d won the prestigious Bancroft Medal at RADA (Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts) with the judging panel including none other than the actor / theatre manager Sir Gerald Du Maurier (father of writer, Daphne Du Maurier, author of Rebecca) who also appears as a character in Our Gracie.
Known to many from her roles in programmes like Til Death Do Us Part and winning a BAFTA for Edna The Inebriated Woman in 1972, Patricia Hayes was a stalwart of stage and screen with a career spanning 70 years and like many, her career had begun in Variety and Music Hall.
“Living with Patricia definitely connected me with that earlier age of Variety and Music Hall. Patricia made her stage debut aged 12, it was so remiscent of the early life of Gracie Fields; she was tiny and performing in troupes of child performers like Nine Dainty Dots working the theatrical circuit.”
“During the seven years I lived with Patricia, we’d laugh, giggle and talk for hours. She always had an anecdote or an inspiring quote to guide me; she could even make me smile without even talking…”
“Always busy and always working, no wonder she’d forget stuff, I remember waving Patricia off in a chauffer driven car to the premiere of her latest film, A Fish called Wanda, minutes later the chauffer is at the door…’Excuse me Miss, but Ms Hayes has left her teeth in a pot by the sink!’”
“Not only did I have a great friend but also a great mentor, who taught me to take risks, to pack your case and follow the work, embrace the moment and the opportunities would come.”
Patricia Hayes, born London 22 December 1909 died 19 September 1998
Our Gracie runs from Friday 4 – Saturday 26 March 2016.