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December 15, 2015

Dave Ross outside the new Queen's Theatre, Hornchurch. pic Barry Kirk

A modest man who has over the years given so much pleasure to thousands of theatre goers, quietly left the Emporium of his greatest triumphs this week, almost unnoticed and with a modest wave.

Keeping his decision to retire an unspoken secret even from his closest friends, Dave Ross left behind his job as Front of House Manager at the Queen’s Theatre, Hornchurch, and a legacy of theatrical history he created with his Community Musicals over the past decades.

The finale of Lighting Up the Lane

The finale of Lighting Up the Lane

The former docker and deep sea diver, moved from London’s east end to Hornchurch some years ago and  started a totally different life style working at the Billet Lane theatre.

Settling into the job he continued the habit of writing notes about personal events and experiences, and whether it was the ambience of theatre life or not, an idea formed in his head to work the scattered scraps of memories up into individual stories. With encouragement from within the Billet Lane venue, the resulting library of musical theatre with each story turned into a separate piece is now firmly embedded into the culture of the borough, starting first as an annual event, and latterly every other year.

A copy of my review of a Tale of Two City's by Dave Ross and starring Steve Lark

A copy of my review of Kings Cross to Killanery by Dave Ross and starring Gemma Salter and Steve Lark

With each production requiring a cast of 60 plus actors drawn from an eager local population, the scale of the endeavour is not to be taken lightly, but each one has become a highlight in the calendar and regularly packed the Queen’s Theatre auditorium during a mid summer week of five performances.

Using his own personal experiences and  imagination, all carefully stirred in with a docker’s raw outlook on life and spiced with a vivid sense of humour, his plays and song lyrics made each musical irresistible for players and audiences alike.

Tale of Two City’s, Bubbles in the Air, Up the Road and Down the River, just three titles of the many, full of humour and a good singsong portraying life as it happened. Dave has that special gift of creating a story that sounds natural and can happen to anyone without over dramatising events.

Over the years others joined him to help write the large scripts and songs, but Dave Ross is the King of Havering writing and recognised borough wide as such.

The Romford Recorder's double page review on Bubble in the Air

The Romford Recorder’s double page review on Bubbles in the Air

Though he has left the theatre, there is no indication that he is putting down the pen, but it would be fair to say that he has not always received the full credit due to such a remarkable talent.

The entertainment industry is a strange place when it comes to egos, personal and otherwise, which alongside such limiting factors as cost of putting on a production, does give a reality check and calming effect on initial enthusiasm.

However it has to be recorded that at the time and now history, there were some dark thoughts abroad that the potential of some of these musicals may have suffered for reasons other than the costs.

One of the musical scenes featuring Steve Probert from Lighting up the Lane

One of the musical scenes featuring Steve Probert from Lighting up the Lane

Rising above all that, in writing his musicals, Dave recognised very early that his stories were local and a large part of the community, something that would have gone unnoticed had it not been for a few inspired directors at the Queen’s.

The alleged gap between professional and non professional may have been a problem created by one side of an ego, but overcome by Dave’s sheer force of personality and undoubted skills in turning a good  story into a theatrical event.

The secret of Dave Ross has always been his ability to extract the reality out of his dialogue, and was not one to shy away from tragedy injected into many of his works that instantly turned laughter to tears. It was this reality in Bubbles in the Air that brought the first half performance to a stunned silence. The audience were shell shocked into immobility and remained in their seats absorbing a classic piece of theatre minutes after the interval curtain fell.

Another big hit, Harry from the Hill. featuring Jake Portsmouth in is first role at the Queen's

Another big hit, Harry from the Hill. featuring Jake Portsmouth in is first role at the Queen’s

The man believes in himself and justifiably so, as he has nothing to prove to those of us who have experienced and taken part in one of his pieces.

Fortunately the fine line between luck and ability was immediately recognised by those who had the power to do something about it; Directors with vision such as Steve Lark, Caroline Bath and latterly Patrick O’Sullivan, all of whom  have had the faith and added their own vision and theatrical skills to the mix.

Never one to hide his face, Dave Ross regularly turned out to support his shows in Romford Market

Never one to hide his face, Dave Ross regularly turned out to support his shows in Romford Market

The emotion generated in everyone after solid months of rehearsals can only be imagined. Weeks after each show final curtain had dropped, it was not unusual to see cast members drive round the theatre trying to recapture those blissful moments when they were a part of something magical and unbelievable.  It was an escape and far removed from the daily slog, that memories still generated moisture in the eyes long after the lights had gone out.

As far as Mr Ross is concerned, this is hopefully not the end, or even the beginning  of the end, more like the inkwell needs refilling.


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