Theatre direc­tor was an in­spi­ra­tion

Compass chief re­mem­bered for fair­ness

Harefield Gazette - - NEWS - By Will Ack­er­mann will.ack­er­mann@trin­i­tymir­

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

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