'A real magnet for the greats'

Adrian Morris, of Queen's Gardens, Brighton, said: "The theatre used to be a real magnet for the greats when it was the place shows went to before they were on at the West End. It was a real testing ground, how well the show went down here could make or break its success. A lot of the more experimental plays had people walking out because of the language used.

"One thing that really sticks in my mind is former manager John Richards telling me about one evening when he was opening the theatre and went onto the stage to check everything was okay only to find a woman with a scarf tied round her head scrubbing the floor.

"She turned round and he saw it was Marlene Dietrich, who was starring in that night's performance. Apparently she had an obsession with cleanliness."

Anne Barry said: "In the mid-1940s, while still at school, a friend and I began our long association with the Theatre Royal. We joined the gallery queue to see 'Lady Windermere's Fan' in which a young Claire Bloom played a minor role.

"This was followed by 'The White Devil'. During one scene when Robert Helpman, who was playing one of his first acting roles, was on stage, a piece of scenery started to wobble. He appeared to saunter over to the offending area and leaned against it until the curtain came down to rapturous applause.

"Additional entertainment was provided by a little man with a mouth organ and a very limited repertoire who played to the queue. During an hour's wait, he probably played 'Bobbing up and down like this' several times."

Anna F Wing said: "While students we had a routine. At about 4.30pm on Saturday afternoons we would gather on the pavement outside the theatre and wait for the doors to open at 7pm. We specifically waited for seats in the second row of 'the gods', the first row was no use as one's view was obscured by a brass safety bar.

"Whilst waiting we read and studied sitting on the pavement. Every so often a group of us would go off to the local Chinese restaurant while the others kept our places in the queue."

Naomi Barlow said: "In 1943 when I was a student at the Art School, my friend and I used to earn pocket money by helping out at the Theatre Royal.

"We were both balletomanes, ballet enthusiasts, and you could buy a seat in the balcony for one shilling.

"The time I remember the most was when we were asked to spruce up some of the scenery for the Ballet Rambert. We used to paint away during the night. It was a bit spooky but fun.

"At the end of the week the stage manager paid us and off we went, but off he went as well and I don't think he was seen again. We were questioned later, as we were the only ones who got paid."

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