Tributes to Harborough's much-loved 'Q' - a long life, well lived on the centre stage
Queenie Parry, well-known to many across Harborough, has died aged 93.
She was once the president of the Inner Wheel and president of Market Harborough Drama Society.
We could fill a whole paper with her stories - but here is an obituary, written by her husband Ian and daughter Lynn.
Obituary: Queenie Parry, 1928-2022
Since she was born on Queen Mary’s birthday, she was christened Queenie May.
“Who would do that to a child?” she often asked. She preferred Q, though conceding it made her sound like 007’s handler.
Born and brought up in Moss Side, Queenie was very well read thanks to her disabled father with whom she read the classics. When he registered her birth he made her a member of the Co-op, and on leaving school at 14 she went to work at their head
office in Balloon Street (by the time she left, she was a head of department). She was persuaded to join the Balloon Street Players, which whetted her appetite for theatre. Her innate talent, inherited from her mother who had been a musical comedy star, was quickly recognised and invitations came to join other companies and the Manchester Drama Board. She met husband Ian in The Crucible with the renowned Experimental Theatre Club – she Elizabeth Proctor, he Thomas Putnam.
Early in their marriage a friend double-booked himself and asked Ian to talk to Stockport Townswomen’s Guild about Shakespeare. Ian agreed, asking how long. “Oh, about an hour.” Ian panicked; Q calmed him down. “I’ll come too. We’ll do excerpts. We already know a few and could learn more.”
Stockport TWG was pleased and invitations poured in for Shakespeare Without Tears, as Q named it.
Ian’s employer moved him to the Midlands to sell their label printing machines, so the family settled in Laughton. But manufacturers here wanted a reliable printing firm, not a machine to do it themselves. Q recognised a gap in the market and they set up label printers Fernie Seals. The Co-op running through her like stick of rock, the firm offered a pension scheme and rights for part-time workers. Over many years Fernie Seals supported local artists and sportsmen, including the Harborough Singers and daughter Lynn’s show, Redeeming Features. Q didn’t retire from running the business until she was 80.
On first moving here Queenie joined Mowsley WI, and soon she and Ian were standing in for a cancellation. As before, invitations followed. In time they added a second half, We Propose – proposal scenes from poignant to farcical. Overseas performances
included Austria (their payment being a skiing lesson), Denmark and Spain – the latter taking place in the American consulate in Bilbao with many officials in the audience. Once, they received an invitation from the Isle of Man festival to fill in a blank night in that glorious theatre, the Gaiety.
Q was invited to direct the premier of Dane Leadlay’s The Advisor, set the day after the Crucifixion. It was put on in the chapel at Hothorpe Hall, along with poetry and music (including eight-year-old Lynn’s first public performance) and there were many more
opportunities to perform it. One man asked: “Are you the lady who does things in churches?”. Q managed to keep a straight face, but she found it hilarious and relished the title.
They had continued touring drama festivals with Manchester-based Tudor Players, so in 1970 their first performance at the Harborough Theatre was Tudor’s award-winning Say Who You Are. The Parrys were urged to join the drama society and next season Ian directed Celebration, with the late, great Alec Riddett as Uncle Arthur and Q his fancy woman.
At the Queen’s Silver Jubilee, Laughton was honoured with a ‘royal’ visit: Queenie Elizabeth I arrived to be entertained with scenes from The Merry Wives of Windsor, performed by the villagers.
The Wistow Hall gig of Shakespeare/We Propose had many county councillors in the audience. LCC received a play, Whisper on the Wind by Walter Cockshaw, set the night before the Battle of Bosworth. When they acquired the farm that included the battlefield they approached Q to produce it on site, along with excerpts from Shakespeare’s play.
1985 loomed – the 500th anniversary – and LCC invited the RSC to bring its production of Richard III. They couldn’t, so the council asked Queenie. For the most part she cast it from drama society members. Rehearsals were fun, chiefly in gardens to help the cast project outdoors. Walking sticks stood in for broadswords to practice the fights, so neighbours were treated to what looked like a brawl in an old folks’ home. During the run the cast travelled by coach to the site, while the dedicated crew camped out, making sure the equipment was safe.
Another highlight of Queenie’s directing was two week double bill Hamlet and Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead. At the last night party the late Godfrey Tabiner, who played Rosencrantz, asked her “Can we come back on Monday and start all over again?”
The quality Q admired most in actors was versatility and she had it in abundance herself, playing, for example, Polly Garter (Under Milk Wood); all the women in The Importance of Being Earnest at different times; Tina (The Aspern Papers); Mrs Alving (Ghosts) and Beauty in The Love of Four Colonels, playing parodied Shakespeare, Moliere, Chekov and Micky Spillain. She excelled in vehicles for actors to play multiple roles (Plaza Suite, The Two of Us and more) and broke with tradition playing Ugly Sister in Tim de Rousett-Hall’s Cinderella, alongside Godfrey Tabiner and Bev Willis. Another sisterly pairing was Jeanne Moore, in Farewell, Farewell Eugene and Arsenic and Old Lace – that latter high energy performance when Q was 80. In Amy’s View, her last entrance was in pyjamas; she crossed the stage, curled up in the easy chair and went to sleep. Ian was on stage and sensed a wave of warmth come over the footlights. Such was her stage presence.
Lynn and Ian were with her when she died at home, early on March 18. A long life, well lived.