Micki Darbyshire makes her return to the stage in Littlehampton, three and a half years after suffering a stroke.
“It took me a long time to be able to walk again, and I can now walk with one stick, and the character in the play walks with a stick.
“She is an old crock, dying and uses a stick… so it is thoroughly typecast!” Micky jokes.
The play, from Stage-Door Theatre Company, is Nightmare by Norman Robbins, which runs at Littlehampton’s Windmill Theatre from Wednesday, April 18-Saturday, April 21, directed by Maureen Ayres.
Marion Bishop, a wealthy, elderly, author, is frail.
A kind neighbour takes care of her until the neighbour has to go away for a while. Marion’s GP recommends a nurse to look after her.
But then mysterious phone calls and the appearance of Marion’s nephew set off a nightmare situation of deceit, suspicion and blackmail…
“I am loving doing it,” Micki says. “It has been quite frustrating when I have seen plays and thought ‘I can do that!’
“I have done a bit of directing in the meantime, and that helps.”
Micki is confident her stage return will feel completely natural: “I can’t wait to do it. I am looking forward to it.
“There was a point where I thought I would never get my balance back, and it was difficult. But I am getting stronger all the time… and I have got a lot more balance now.
“The play is a mystery thriller. The part I am playing is the author of romantic novels, a sort of Barbara Cartland person, but she is quite ill and doesn’t realise quite how ill she is. A neighbour looks after her, but has to go away. The doctor gets the nurse to come in, which is when mysterious things start happening. Physically she is very vulnerable, but mentally she is still very sharp – but she is also quite ill.
“She has a little bit of the grande dame about her, but she is still very kind to people. She loves writing and she is very distressed that she is now so tired that she can’t write as much as she used to.
“She has churned out loads and loads of books, and people think she must be worth quite a lot of money. She tells someone there will be royalties for the next 50 years, but in the past she was able to churn out at least two books a year, and now she is six months behind with her latest book….
“She has had a couple of heart attacks, and unknown to her, she has cancer.”
All of which leads towards an “amazing twist” at the end, Micki promises.
“But I am not telling you what it is!”
Micki is delighted to be back in business: “I am happy to do anything. This is what I love doing.”
As she says, she doesn’t want to be defined by her stroke. She’s more than happy to be defined by her love of theatre.
“I love doing comedy as the timing to make something funny is so important, but I also enjoy a good straight play, and in this play she is a good character to play, a good strong character.”
And for future parts, who knows.
“There are not many parts for old people that walk with a stick! It just depends how many plays there are out there for old people with a stick!”
Tickets for Nightmare are available on 01903 856801 or via firstname.lastname@example.org.
Other stories by Phil: https://www.chichester.co.uk/author/Phil.Hewitt2