Actress Sue Herdman's second book details her time at Scarborough's Stephen Joseph Theatre

Actress  Sue Herdman has raised the curtain on her early career – including working with Alan Ayckbourn – in her  second memoir.

By Sue Wilkinson
Tuesday, 30th June 2020, 9:44 am
Updated Tuesday, 30th June 2020, 6:47 pm
Sue Herdman with a copy of If You Knew Susie
Sue Herdman with a copy of If You Knew Susie

Writing under her maiden name of Uebel, If You Knew Susie, the performer and teacher starts with her childhood in the 1940s in Anlaby, near Hull, and closes with meeting her late husband Ronald Herdman at the Stephen Joseph Theatre in Scarborough in 1979.

It was Sue’s mother who noticed her aptitude for drama and it was her father who insisted she did a secretarial course so she could always be financially secure.

She studied at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in London in the 1960s, returned to Hull where she approached the education authority in her search for work.

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It has been fate, Sue says, which has played one of the biggest roles in her life.

News of her work with educationally challenged young people reached Bill Pattinson, the headteacher of Kelvin Hall School in Hull.

“I fell into teaching speech and drama by chance,” said Sue. “I was so impressed with the work Bill was doing at Kelvin Hall that I stayed for eight wonderful years.”

She had continued to perform with amateur companies and at the suggestion of a fellow thespian applied to do a drama degree at Hull University, beating 800 applicants for one of the eight places on offer.

“I had three wonderful years there and by the end of them I knew I wanted to go into the theatre.”

One of her fellow students was a then 18-year-old Anthony Minghella, who was to win a Best Director Oscar for the English Patient. A respected playwright and screen writer, he died in 20028

Minghella wrote a song for Sue for a student production.

She bagged her first job in the Merchant of Venice at the Belgrade Theatre in Coventry.

She was at the Stephen Joseph Theatre for two seasons appearing in Arthur Miller’s The Crucible, JB Priestley’s Time and the Conways and the world premiere of Ayckbourn’s Season’s Greetings. She played Phyllis, a woman who likes a drink.

“Alan is a lovely man to work for. ”

It was during that time she met her late husband whom she refers to as Ronnie. They moved to London, though Ronnie kept his house in Scarborough, where Sue still lives.

Again fate played a hand in her career. Ronnie met Heather Brigstock, then the head of St Paul’s Girls’ School during the making of a TV programme and she mentioned to him she needed a drama specialist.

Sue made a phone call which led to an 10-year career as director of drama at the school.

Her first book, Happy Birthday My Darling, was the story of her marriage. Ronnie is very much part of If You Knew Susie. “I could not avoid remembering his comments, funny, profound and, at times, rude,” she said.

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