In the late 1940s, eight children paid one penny to gather in a barn and watch a cast of five perform a murder mystery, written by nine-year-old Horry Parsons.
The production utilised its set and any props that could be found by the nine-year-old. Including two iron bars, one of which was hung behind the curtain to be struck by the other signalling the deadly hour to the audience.
Horry, now 74, describes his first foray as a playwright as ‘a bit like Jack the Ripper – unbelievable for a nine-year-old’.
His tales have been offered up to induce audiences into laughter, tears or intrigued wonder many times in the intervening years since this performance, usually by the cast of Lakenheath Amateur Dramatic Society (LADS).
Following his first spectacle Horry, who lives in Lakenheath, took some time off from the theatre, during which he got married and began his career in the construction industry.
As a young man he favoured football to the stage as a means to relax. Until, in repayment of his wife’s afternoons on the touchline, he accepted a request from LADS to write a pantomime, 28 years after his first production.
In total, Horry has written more than 80 productions for LADS and since his retirement has begun to send some to publishers.
Responses have become gradually shorter. The latest, in response to his third submission, simply read ‘yes’.
Although several decades elapsed between Horry’s first piece of writing for the stage and his second, he says he has always been a prolific letter writer endowed with a love of language formed from growing up in a family who had eight newspapers a day delivered.
Horry says his first pantomime, The See Saw World of Margery Daw, took ‘weeks of sweat and toil to complete’.
Despite this initial struggle, Horry wrote one pantomime a year for the next 37 years as well as plays and reviews, providing plenty of practise to hone his technique.
“You play this film in your brain and write it – once you get the characters in full flow, they almost answer each character,” he explains.
When writing for LADS, Horry’s starting point is the cast.
He has previously tried to adapt existing scripts to the actors and actresses available but soon realised it made for a better show if he drew on the resources available to the club and the characters of his cast by writing directly for them.
Horry says this has helped either ease people into the spotlight or ensure that they can keep performing into old age – the oldest member of LADS is 93.
The purpose of theatre, says Horry, is to entertain and this is what his work seeks to do.
“They bring live entertainment which is probably at a premium now. In years gone by when there was less opportunity to do other things it was more of a norm it maintains an old tradition of acting and performing and bringing enjoyment to people.
“I think the majority of people go to enjoy themselves not to work hard.
“People go because they want to laugh and really that’s our priority to give people a good evening.”
Horry remains chairman of LADS and working with the rest of the team aims to stage three productions a year.
He stresses the enjoyment of being involved in every aspect of staging a production.
“The biggest thrill is when the audience laugh to something I’ve put together that is the biggest thrill.
“It’s very nice for the people they are getting laughs and they are getting pleasure, but I get more pleasure out of it I think.”
A lasting legacy: Horry’s work on St Edmundsbury Cathedral’s millennium tower.
Horry has also been the recipient of recognition for his career in construction and in December was awarded the Order of St Edmund for his work on St Edmundsbury Cathedral’s Millennium Tower.
Horry describes the project as his ‘swan song’.
He says: “The job came along at almost the end of my career.
“I was the team leader in charge of overall responsibility for the construction team right throughout.”
The opportunity to work on a high-profile large-scale project in his home county of Suffolk tempted Horry to postpone his retirement.
He says the logistics of the tower’s construction did not intimidate him due to his extensive experience working on large-scale projects.
“It was not by any means the largest project I was responsible for but because of it becoming an icon for Suffolk it feels me with pride every time I see it.”
Following the completion of the square limestone tower, which was designed to last for 1,000 years, in 2005 he did retire only to return to the cathedral in 2010 as a specialist consultant during further renovations including the tower’s vaulted ceiling.
“Very few people get the opportunity to leave their mark in such a way that it can be seen for generations, in particular one’s own family,” he says.
Horry is one of only 11 people to have received the Order of St Edmund in the last decade.