It’s wicked to be back

Macbeth actors at the Crucible   l to r Geoffrey Streatfeild,Sandra Noe and Claudie Blakeley
Macbeth actors at the Crucible l to r Geoffrey Streatfeild,Sandra Noe and Claudie Blakeley
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AMONG the cast rehearsing Macbeth which will open at the Crucible next month is Sandra Voe who once was a fixture at the theatre.

Married to the writer-director Rex Doyle, she acted in many seminal productions in the early days and can also claim an impeccable Sheffield pedigree as the mother of one of the members of Pulp.

It is getting on for 30 years since her last appearance on stage in Sheffield but memories are vivid because they combine professional and family life.

“It was during the time Peter James was artistic director and there were loads of people working at the theatre in those days,” she says. Her credits include a play about the Great Sheffield Flood directed by Mel Smith and appearing alongside Alan Rickman – “still a great friend” – and Ruby Wax. “I was Fairy Godmother in Cinderella with Ruby,” she recalls.

“We were here for 15 years and so I also have memories of living here as a mum, taking the children to school and then coming into the theatre all day and then going home to give them their tea,” she says.

“We lived here in Woodseats, the kids went to Rowlinson School and Abbey Lane Primary and all that.” Last week she met up again with the childminder whom she often had to rely on. “I missed a few sports days and things in my time, but they all seem to have survived.”

Daughter Candida Doyle has certainly prospered as keyboard player of Pulp.

“My older son Magnus, he was the drummer in those days and introduced Candida to Jarvis and she stayed with them,” she explains.

“There came a point when Rex and I were both beginning to work a lot away from Sheffield and when our youngest was 17 we decided to move back to London. That’s Daniel who works for the Guardian and does DJing at the weekend so they all have music in them.”

The Doyles have stayed in contact with Sheffield in the intervening years. “I come up to visit Magnus who still lives here, Candida lives in London but comes back quite a lot. They both have a lot of friends here.

“The city has changed beyond recognition. When I left Mrs Thatcher had done her damnedest and the atmosphere was pretty bleak, there was a mood of apathy and disappointment, anger and frustration and for us as actors we couldn’t see where we were going to end up.”

So what brings Voe back to the Crucible after all these years?

“I worked with Daniel (artistic director Daniel Evans is directing Macbeth) when we were both in Great Expectations and although I didn’t have much to do we sat around together long enough to get a feel for each other. I liked him very much and he must have liked me enough to say he would love me to come and do something, so I am going to be one of the Witches.

”I also play the gentle woman in the sleepwalking scene and get to see Claudie doing her Out Spot speech. We’re having great fun.”

Claudie Blakley, playing Lady Macbeth, is enjoying the reunion too. “She played my mother in Playing the Field which was quite a while ago so I have known Sandra for a long time and I think she’s inspiring. She’s similar to Judi Dench in that despite all her experience there’s no bitterness or cynicism but a playfulness. I’m sure that keeps you young.”

Voe is an old hand at Shakespeare and recalls playing the Nurse in Romeo and Juliet at the Crucible back in the day. More recently she was Mistress Quickly in Henry IV Part 1 and 2 and Henry V at the RSC.

At 77 and 75 respectively, Rex Doyle and Sandra Voe are still busy working, she reports. Rex, fondly remembered for Christmas shows he wrote for the Crucible, has recently directed The Winter’s Tale in Bulgaria – in Bulgarian. “It’s something to take on Shakespeare in a foreign language at any age,” she observes.

“Luckily if you keep your health you can go on and on - and your memory, of course, but we have plenty of practice in learning new things all the time. As you get older I may forgot something about what I did yesterday but text is different and you have all the tricks, coping with the difficult bits and signals you send to your brain.”

Earlier this year she returned to the Shetland Isles where she lived for the first 18 years of her life to appear in a film for the BBC, Shetland, a two-part drama adapted from a series of crime novels by Anne Cleeves. “It stars Douglas Henshall and I play a crofter. I can’t say too much but there’s something in her past which comes back.”

Voe also recently made a movie in Liverpool, Blood, opposite Paul Bettany and Stephen Graham. “I play the mother of a paedophile, it’s quite a gritty story, strong stuff.”

Which could also be said of Macbeth, really. It opens at the Crucible on September 3.