Tributes paid to life member and stalwart of Haverhill's Centre Stage Company, Andy Letcher, who has died
Haverhill’s amateur dramatics society The Centre Stage Company is mourning the loss of one of its most experienced, versatile and much-loved performers after the sudden death of Andy Letcher.
Andy, a member of the company since the mid 1970s, had, it has been estimated by the Centre Stage chairman, Jim Morgan, featured in more than 100 productions over the decades.
The 69-year-old died on Thursday, September 16 after collapsing at home in Duddery Hill, Haverhill.
He was last seen on stage in Treasure Island in January 2020 - the Centre Stage pantomime that, due to the Covid-19 pandemic, turned out to be its most recent production of any sort.
As a mark of respect to Andy the Centre Stage’s pantomime in January 2022, Sleeping Beauty, will be dedicated to him.
Jim, whose connection to Andy went back to the days before they both joined Centre Stage in the 70s, believes he has ‘exceeded 100 productions with the society’.
“There is hardly a show he was not in really, “ he added.
“He rarely missed a production in his time. It is a serious number of shows.”
About three to four years ago, added Jim, Andy was made a life member of Centre Stage, an honour only bestowed upon about ten people to date. The society has now been running for 53 years.
Jim added: “It’s something that doesn’t get given out willy nilly. You need to be contributing well to the society to get it.
“It often doesn’t go to people who just go on stage, it’s the people who help us to get the shows on to the stage. It’s the people in the back scenes helping us to get the shows on to the stage.
“It’s like a badge of honour.”
A testament to that claim is, said Jim, the fact that of the few that have received the life membership, the likes of the late Les and Jean Ager, current musical director Karen Chinery and Derek Snell, all contributed a vast amount without acting on stage.
Andy was by trade a researcher, working in the field of biology and spent over 20 years at the Babraham Institute during his working lifetime.
He was also part of something of a family acting dynasty within the Centre Stage Company, with Denny, his wife of 44 years, having appeared in many shows in times gone by, although she is no longer a member.
The couple have a son Matt, and two daughters, Emma and Amy.
Amy is a former actor with the society but Emma is still treading the boards, while Andy's niece Kelly Mepham, is another family member who has a strong history of performing with the company.
Andy, said Jim, was a versatile performer who over the decades had a multitude of parts, often playing the lead, with principle roles including Daddy Warbucks in Annie, Will Parker in Oklahoma! and Mister Snow in Carousel.
In the latter part of his time in the society Andy would play what are often paternal or avuncular types of character, usually the King, Prince or Emperor, but his tenor voice was also put to impressive use.
Jim said: "His singing was where he was very good. I have sung with him in choirs for years, He used to help out with St Mary's (church) choir for years.
"There wasn't many roles that he couldn't do and then didn't do. He is going to be absolutely missed.
There was always a panto for him. The part this year has been written with Andy in mind, but we have obviously got to find someone else to do that now.
"Andy would sometimes do five shows a year and then he did singing with Suffolk Opera as well. He spent a lot of his time doing that sort of work. He lived for the singing and acting. That was his real passion.
"I was absolutely numbed then Emma sent me the message and had that cold feeling you get when you get a message like that. I was shocked."