DIANA BENN (d.1999)
Although Di and I were at the same school, we never coincided as she was five years younger than me. But in 1944, just after I became General Manager of The Questors, I was invited to give a talk about "My Job" at an O.G.A. Meeting. Afterwards, Diana came up to me, expressed interest in the theatre and asked how she went about joining. I invited her to the next Sunday's rehearsal where she could meet people and subsequently she passed an audition and became an Acting Member.
She played many parts in the earlier years, notably Helen of Troy in The Trojan Women (1948) and Grace Tranfield in Shaw's The Philanderer (1951). She was extremely beautiful when she was young and retained her good looks into old age. In the Euripides, Vivian Isenthal was so struck by how fantastically right the part of Helen was for her, that she painted Diana in costume and exhibited the portrait in a London exhibition. It was purchased by the owner of a restaurant somewhere in the North of England and, as far as I know, hangs there to this day.
Another memory I have is the opening moment in the Shaw play. The curtains parted revealing Alfred and Diana locked in a passionate embrace on a sofa. History relates that the Stage Manager stood in the wings each night with a stopwatch in his hand ready to leap on and break up the kiss if it went on too long. As the Stage Manager was George Benn, who Diana married in 1946, this was quite understandable.
Other notable performances were as the waif in The Pastoral Symphony (1948), when she gave a member of the audience the screaming abdabs on emerging from the shared toilet in the garden in full ragged outfit; The Beaux' Stratagem (1949), The Winter's Tale (1950), Tartuffe(1953), A Phoenix Too Frequent (1956)and Marching Song (1959).
But Diana was a true Questor and did not confine herself to just Acting. She was Hon. Secretary of the Club for several years in the 1950s and in the 60s was one of Dorothy Dent's loyal associates on the Sunday afternoon 'Hotplate'.
Di and George had two sons, Christopher and Richard, and just after Richard was born she and I and our four children shared a holiday in a rented house on the Kent coast; our two husbands joining us whenever they could manage.
After Alfred and George both died in 1991, Diana and I shared several holidays together, notably in France, Italy, Canada and the Channel Islands. It was in Vancouver in 2000 that the eye trouble that was to dog her for the rest of her life, and which caused her to drop out of active participation in Mattock Lane, became apparent. She died after a stroke in March this year (2011). We often spoke on the telephone and I miss her.