Theatre director was an inspiration
Compass chief remembered for fairness
TRIBUTES have been paid to a long-standing theatre company director who has died aged 77.
John Sherratt joined the Compass Theatre in Ickenham as a director when it opened in 1968 and remained at the helm until 1991.
Those who knew him said he made it his priority to ensure the theatre offered opportunities for all, regardless of age or experience.
His partner, John Smith, who lives in Birmingham, said: “John’s abiding philosophy was that all members had equal status as students of the theatre and that voluntary work to help run the theatre was expected from all, though less from the younger members and more from the older.”
Former colleague Donna Clayton Jones, 63, who became the theatre’s production manager in the 1970s, added: “John’s running of the theatre was truly inspirational and he firmly believed that the theatre offered the opportunities for anyone to become involved and blossom, from programme sellers, costume makers, graphic designers, technicians and actors. Many people, through John’s encouragement, went on to drama colleges and then to take careers in the professional theatre.”
Mr Sherratt arrived by canal at Rickmansworth and tied up his converted narrow boat at Batchworth Lock on April 25, 1965. This remained his home until December 2010, when he moved into Westerley Care Home, in Chorleywood Close, Rickmansworth, after being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease.
In 1960 he had qualified, with distinction, as a drama teacher. He first sought experience as an actor in repertory theatre and on radio and television.
In 1968, while working as a temporary teacher at Bourne End School in Ruislip, he was invited to apply for the post of director at what was then called the Hillingdon Youth Theatre, which was opened by the Rt. Hon Jenny Lee MP that year.
After four successful years the theatre in Glebe Avenue was extended to provide full production facilities and was joined to Ickenham Hall.
Its new name, Compass Theatre, was jointly chosen by one of its youngest and one of its oldest members – one aged 17, the other aged 65.
Under Mr Sherratt’s leadership, the theatre ran classes in acting, movement and stage management, while also putting on professionalquality productions of classic and modern plays, musicals, cabaret and music hall.
In the 1970s, the company even toured its shows in Hillingdon’s twin towns in Germany. It also became known for its annual appearances with the ‘Theatre in a Tent’ at Middlesex Shows.
In the mid-80s, the then financial crisis threatened to close the theatre, but under Mr Sherratt’s direction members were able to raise the £55,000 needed to keep it afloat.
Following a management reorganisation, he was made redundant in March 1991.
Ralph Smith OBE, a senior student of the theatre, audited the voluntary work of the preceding year at 15,000 hours, justifying the theatre’s slogan: “Not so much a centre, more a way of life.”
n LEADER: John Sherratt, who ran the Compass Theatre in Ickenham from 1968 to 1991, has died aged 77