It is with deep regret that Chads Theatre announce the death of our friend and member Derek Slater who, with his wife Pam, had been a member for over 30 years. He was 93 years old but, till the end, retained a formidable memory – not least, about the theatre and his involvement in it. Pam and he directed and acted in numerous plays with us.
As a student at Manchester University, he directed plays by Shakespeare and Shaw as well as acting in Ibsen and Noel Coward. He went on to teach drama for many years and became the principal lecturer in the drama department at MMU. He became a tutor for the Open University from its inception to his retirement at the age of 75. He spent much of his life conveying his love of literature and theatre to students of all ages. He travelled throughout the UK whilst running courses and adjudicating drama competitions as well as assessing the work of students from other colleges.
In 1947, he had spent a year in post-war Prague editing an international student newspaper and, in the ’60s, did three stints working for the British Council training teachers in Cameroon and Nigeria. A local lad, born in Stalybridge, he always returned to this part of the world after his travels.
On top of his professional work, Derek became closely involved in amateur theatre and there will be many GMDF members (Wilmslow Green Room, Heald Green Theatre Club, Players Theatre and Partington Little Theatre amongst others) who benefitted from his very considerable experience both as a director and an adjudicator. His contribution in this regard was recognised when he was awarded the Laurence Roberts Trophy by the GMDF in 2012.
His knowledge was encyclopaedic and, being directed by him, meant that every rehearsal left his cast better informed and better equipped to tackle the task before them. It was always entertaining (and, indeed, a privilege) to hear him speak – his clarity of thought and wit always shone through. Latterly, he gave talks to a variety of social groups, such as Probus, WI and U3A, on topics ranging from theatre censorship to Arthur Miller via J.B.Priestley and Charles Dickens.
These talks were much in demand and invitations to speak were constant – a testimony to his ability to hold an audience.
Over many years, he – and his productions – won numerous awards. He remained involved in organising and directing literary events well into his 90s having directed his last full length play in 2016.
As he once said, “..there is something hypnotic about a play script – the moment you start to read it, you begin to imagine what it would take to turn the dry text into live performance.” He could never resist such a challenge.
He loved to socialise with fellow theatre addicts, and had a fund of stories, anecdotes and jokes which he was only too happy to share if encouraged! His contribution to amateur theatre was huge. He will be greatly missed
© Chads Theatre 2019