Lucy Cox has worked at the Orchard Theatre for an incredible 32 years. In that time, she’s worked in pretty much every department – even appearing on stage a few times – and has countless happy memories collected over the years. Now 88, Lucy has no plans to retire, and hopes to be able to get involved with her new local theatre when she moves away from Dartford later in the year.
Arriving as an usher in 1984, Lucy, who’s originally from Wolverhampton, has gone on to work in marketing, publicity, wardrobe and – her favourite – stage door. “I love it; you meet so many people, and not just well-known people but the dancers and all that as well. I’m good friends with King Rat from this year’s panto [Pete Gallagher] – we go back years!
“I’ve met Howard Keel, he’s always been my favourite, and Richard Todd. Petula Clarke was lovely, she had a whole load of people come in from France so I was on stage door till nearly midnight, but she was very apologetic about that! And Max Bygraves – his sister still comes here sometimes and she always says this was Max’s favourite theatre.”
Things haven’t always gone smoothly; Lucy recalls once being called in at short notice to help out in wardrobe for The Water Babies: “I agreed to do it but didn’t realise what show it was for, so I got in on the Monday and all the stuff was laid out full of soot and mud. When my husband got home that night, he found the bathroom full of clothes hanging up to dry!
“Another time, when I was working in publicity, we had a well-known pantomime coming up and we decided to have a big display of costumes for shows we’d done. And I knew where to get the costumes from but we didn’t have anything to put them on. So we went round to all the shops to borrow mannequins, which all fell apart, and we ended up pushing these trolleys full of body parts around!”
But Lucy hasn’t only worked behind the scenes. “We used to do this thing called a cod pantomime, where the crew would take off people in the different roles. Once we were supposed to have Natalie Imbruglia but in the end she couldn’t get a work permit to come over and we had to find someone else. So at that year’s cod pantomime we had two Cinderellas – I was one of them, and the reason we gave for the accent and the grey hair was because apparently I’d been locked up somewhere near Birmingham waiting for a work permit!
“I also did a show with Dartford Operatic for their centenary, so I was last seen on stage tap dancing with a zimmer frame…”
But a special highlight for Lucy was having lunch with the Queen. “It was her 75th birthday and she requested to meet 75 people who had some standing in the local community, so the Orchard put my name forward because I’d done so many jobs here, and because I’d done some work with the Ellenor Foundation as well. When I got the letter, I thought someone was playing a joke on me!
“We went to Canterbury and it was absolutely wonderful. Prince Philip was marvellous, we talked about all sorts of things and in the end they had to come and get us because Her Majesty was waiting to go in to lunch!”
After more than three decades at the Orchard, it’s safe to say Lucy will be missed!