An irony in a sad theatrical tradition finds Highbury Little Theatre mourning the loss of Les Griffiths, stalwart of its behind-the-scenes operations since 1990, who has died in Good Hope Hospital, Sutton Coldfield - during the run of When the Reaper Calls.

Les, who was 75, led the group's day crew, consisting largely of pensioners, who meet on Wednesdays to build its sets as well as taking on much of the maintenance of the theatre's fabric. He had been masterminding the construction of what has proved to be his last set - he had designed some 150 - while Bernard Cope was doing the hands-on part.

A man with what a friend described as a huge sense of humour, he and his wife Verna had been involved with other Midlands groups, including Birmingham & Midland Operatic Society, where she had taken leading roles and he had worked both backstage and frontofhouse. They formerly owned a family building firm and the Willow Tree Hotel, in Chester Road, Erdington.

In addition to Verna, Les leaves two daughters and two grandchildren.

His funeral will be held on Tuesday next week, at 12.15 pm, at All Saints' Church, Belwell Lane, Four Oaks, and then 1.30 pm at Sutton Coldfield Crematorium. The reception is being held at Highbury Little Theatre Centre, Sheffield Road, Boldmere,

Veteran cast member Reg Tolley - he was acting under the direction of his wife Hazel, alongside son Vaughn - said: "This is going to be a hell of a loss."

On a happier note, the production saw the superb Highbury début of Zak Lee, a 33-year-old Birmingham architect who shone in the Crescent Theatre production of The Talented Mr Ripley two years ago and has now obtained his Equity card.

It also found the Grim Reaper apparently trying to call on Liz Webster during one of the performances.

Director Hazel Tolley said: "The set was an old log cabin and she slammed a door and a big scenery beam fell down from 10ft up and hit her on the head. She casually picked it up, put it in the corner while the audience laughed - and then she went on with the show."

Fortunately, the beam had been made - by Les Griffiths's Wednesday crew - out of lightweight plastic. 

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Birmingham & District Theatre Guild is looking for entries of drama duologues, singing and poetry in the individual youth section of the One-Act Play Festival that is to be held at the Dovehouse Theatre, Solihull, from February 25 to March 1.

More details and application forms may be obtained from Roger or Jean Cunnington, on 0121 707 6684, by email at bdtg@btinternet.com, or from www.bdtg.org.uk. Entries are being handled on a first-come, first-served basis and should be submitted by the end of November. 

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Staffordshire's Newcastle Players announce in their newsletter that they are no longer offering cloakroom facilities to their audiences at the Mitchell Memorial Theatre, Hanley, Stoke-on-Trent.

It seems that group members may still put their coasts in the cloakroom, but otherwise only the house manager and assistant, the fire officer and the box office team are allowed to use it.

The newsletter warns: "It is not a place where members can gather for a chat, so don't be surprised if you are asked to move out into the foyer once you've deposited your coat. And on the foyer side, please keep clear of the box office and cloakroom hatch, so that customers can get to them to buy or collect tickets." 

 Johnslim47@aol.com

WHAT'S ON
Little Shop of Horrors, St Augustine's Musical Theatre Company, Solihull Library Theatre (to Saturday).
Triple Bill, Moorpool Players, Moorpool Hall, Harborne (to Saturday).
Inspector Drake and the Black Widow, Flying Ducks Theatre Company, Theatre on the Steps, Bridgnorth (to Saturday). Natural Causes, Coleshill Drama Group, Coleshill Town Hall (to Saturday).
The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas, Bilson Operatic Company, Grand Theatre, Wolverhampton (Nov 27Dec 1).
Pinocchio, Lapworth Players, Lapworth Village Hall (Nov 28Dec 1).
California Suite, Lichfield Players, Lichfield Garrick (Nov 28Dec 1).
Alan Bennett Double Bill, Aldridge Youth Theatre (Nov 28-Dec 1).