ACTRESS and long-term Stratford-upon-Avon resident, Dorothy Raistrick died suddenly on 21st December aged 87.
Born Dorothy Thelwall in Manchester, the daughter of a bank clerk and former nanny, she had a good childhood, despite it being interrupted by wartime evacuation to Lytham St Anne’s.
Her education was at Levenshulme Municipal High School and this led to her secretarial career, becoming PA to the chairman of Tootals Ltd, where she had her own grand office with two large red leather easy chairs, affording her plenty of space to manage occasional covert line-learning or costume-making when “Taff” Fairclough’s back was turned.
She left the company in 1963 when she married Harry Raistrick a schoolmaster at Manchester Grammar School.
His appointment as inspector of modern languages for Warwickshire County Council in 1966 brought them to Stratford, together with her stepsons, Nigel and Ian, and son Tim.
Her stage career spanned 82 years from four-year-old dancer to the moving portrayal she gave in 2012 as Maria Josefa in the Trinity Players’ production of The House of Bernada Alba.
This play was one she had almost a lifetime’s connection with, having previously played the title role in Second Thoughts’ 1986 production and Marterio, the 24-year old daughter of Bernada, some 30 years prior to that in Manchester where she was simultaneously a member of a number of good amateur companies, notably the Experimental Theatre Club where she performed Cordelia in King Lear, Amanda in The Glass Menagerie, Helena in Look Back in Anger and many more parts beside.
In a newspaper article, Personality Parade, from 1954 under the headline ‘She’s reached the peak of the amateur’s world’ she was described as one of the “favoured few” having been awarded the Manchester and District’s Drama Federation Individual Merit Cup and being cast in a professional production of The Return of Peter Grimm at the Opera House.
A professional career could have happened as it did for many of her fellow actors at that time. They subsequently ended up on TV or at the RSC but she was never regretful of her choice, believing firmly that amateur is not a synonym for unprofessional.
Her potential big break came when the BBC asked her to audition for their drama department but she politely declined, not wanting to risk taking the time off work.
Though she enjoyed her acting opportunities in Stratford, like most actresses, she found the range of parts increasingly dwindled into ageing eccentrics and did not fulfil her as much. She devised and performed in a number of poetry recitals.
When the RSC boycotted the Shakespeare Birthday Celebrations because the apartheid South Africa had been invited to take part, Dorothy was a natural choice of readers from Holy Trinity Church, where she read regularly, to be asked to take part in the service alongside the only dissident professional actor, Jeremy Irons. When she returned to her seat, she was somewhat taken aback by him patting her on the back and saying “well done.”
If proof were needed of how good she had been in her prime, when the playwright John Osborne died, the journalist Michael Ratcliffe wrote in various papers including The Times and The Observer that the best production of Look Back in Anger he had ever seen “was in a tiny amateur theatre under tracks between Exchange and Victoria stations in Manchester—a cast of five and an audience of less than 100 seemed to perform the play together.”
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