Curtain up on Mona

Actress and octogenarian, Mona Leach, talks to Deborah Grace about her life in theatre and why she’s no plans for retirement.

After a lifetime in theatre, talented amateur actress, Mona Leach, is still treading the boards at 84!

A leading light of Northenden Players Theatre Club for almost 70 years, Mona (pictured above in The Orchard Walls in 1964) caught the acting bug early on, joining the group in 1948, when she was just 16.

“I’d done some acting at school. My mother loved acting – she’d played Titania in a production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream – and my father ran a concert party that did tours and variety, so it must have been in the genes,” says the lively grandmother of four, now based in Chorlton.

“My first production with the Players was The Barretts of Wimpole Street. I played Wilson, the maid, because you always have to start off playing the maid. We had a real dog – Robin the dog – playing the family pet, Flush, and it was my job to lead him onstage every night.”

Since then, Mona, a retired teacher, has starred in countless productions – “Must have been hundreds!” – from comedies and romances to thrillers and classical drama. Career highlights include Lady Bracknell in The Importance of Being Earnest and Lady Ashbrook in A Coat of Varnish.

A badly broken ankle in November 2014 temporarily brought the curtain down on Mona’s acting career, but, following months of recuperation, she was back on stage last year, appearing in The Crucible as tragic matriarch, Rebecca Nurse, a role which earned her a nomination for best supporting actress in the prestigious Greater Manchester Drama Federation Awards.

“The play directions described Rebecca as white-haired and walking with a stick, so I was ready-made for the part!”

Despite having enjoyed some of juiciest dramatic roles in her long theatrical career, stage-struck Mona has no intention of stepping out of the limelight any time soon, revealing that she still has some unrealised ambitions to fulfil.

“I’ve no plans to retire from acting. Angela Lansbury played Madame Arcati (Blithe Spirit) at the Almeida when she was 90. Now that’s a part I’d still like to play,” she says.

“And as long as Maggie Smith and Judi Dench keep on going – not that I’m comparing myself by any means – then I’ll keep on going too.”