Today is the first anniversary of my mother’s death. Like so many people these days, she doesn’t have a grave and she was unsentimental about the disposal of her ashes, simply requesting that they be scattered at the crematorium. Long before she was ill she used to say that she would like there to be a bench on the esplanade at Scarborough in her memory, but she changed her mind about that. There are already so many, and she felt the money would be better used at the hospice. I suggested that as well as that I could sponsor a seat at the Stephen Joseph Theatre in her memory and she liked that idea. We went there often, both to the new theatre in its converted Art Deco cinema and to the old theatre before that. We had so many meals there in the restaurant, sometimes just the two of us and sometimes with with my daughter. Looking back over the years, some productions stand out, notably HAUNTING JULIA, a ghost story that scared the wits out of me. I can feel myself gripping my mother’s arm as I write this. We took my daughter to see MR A’S AMAZING MAZE. My husband and I saw THE WOMAN IN BLACK there. And last year when my mother was too ill to go out, she wanted me to go on my own, and I saw A TRIP TO SCARBOROUGH, Alan Ayckbourn’s play based on the Sheridan original. When I got back, I sat on the bed and told her all about it.
There is something else that’s special about the SJT for me. Seven or eight years ago when I was researching my second novel, Alan Ayckbourn kindly let me sit in on rehearsals for a children’s play, THIS IS WHERE WE CAME IN. I loved doing that, it was fascinating, being a fly on the wall. It was good too to have the opportunity to spend more time with my mother. STAGEFRIGHT has turned out to be the novel I most enjoyed writing.
Earlier this week I finally went over to Scarborough to chose a seat. It was bitter-sweet experience, roaming about the auditorium, strangely quiet and empty, thinking back over the eighteen years that my mother spent in Scarborough. In the end I chose A11. There’ll be a plaque. So, if any of my readers visit the STJ, cast a glance in that direction, won’t you?