Meet the theatre volunteers

As its volunteer week, we talked to some of the unsung heroes of the theatre world – the volunteers

Left Monica Trabucchi, middle top: Janne Rathbone, middle bottom: Carol Mitchell, right: Libby Mackay
Left Monica Trabucchi, middle top: Jeanne Rathbone, middle bottom: Carole Mitchell, right: Libby Mackay

This week is volunteer week, designed to offer an opportunity to acknowledge all the hard work done by volunteers up and down the country. As we all know, there's many, many people who sign up to give their time for free to their local theatre, so here's an introduction to a few of them.

Jeanne Rathbone, in her 70s, volunteer at Battersea Arts Centre

I've been involved with the town hall [where Battersea Arts Centre is based] since before Battersea Arts Centre came into being. At one point the council wanted to knock the old town hall down and build something modern in its place, so that was when I first got involved. I knew the theatre when Jude Kelly ran it. The theatre's been the backdrop to my life, my children have attended creche there, I've seen shows, performed there and I'm a humanist celebrant, so I've conducted weddings and namings there.

It's the history and heritage I'm most interested in, so when they asked for volunteer storytellers around two years ago, I agreed to do it. I like everything about volunteering. I'm a woman in her 70s so its always nice to be mixing with a diversity of people. I also volunteer at Battersea Power Station and I have done a tour called Women of Lavender Hill, which features important political women from the area.

The strangest thing I've done at Battersea Arts Centre is probably volunteering for Nic Green's show Trilogy where 35 women volunteers needed to dance naked. It was about de-sexualising the concept of being naked and I had no problem being the fattest, oldest and most scarred. To be backstage with no clothes on chatting away, was a great experience. I just get a buzz whenever I go into the theatre because I am so aware of its early history as such a socialist beacon and I love finding out more about its past.

Libby Mackay, in her early seventies, a volunteer at Liverpool Everyman

I decided to volunteer because I love reading stories aloud. It's the failed actress trying to get out. That was about three years ago. Now, I volunteer as a storyteller in whatever venue the Everyman suggests from within the premises and beyond. I have just finished a couple of days work on the buses!

As part of Share a Story month, I and a colleague read stories to people on the buses. This was a strange experience for us and the passengers – especially those with faces a tad thunderous. But there was also actual applause and small children completely caught up in The Snow Queen. When not volunteering, I work with one of my daughters in her studio, she is a fashion designer – Kirsty Doyle.

The best thing about volunteering is seeing faces totally absorbed in my story. I also love not being responsible for everybody. The strangest and most exciting piece of theatre I have seen recently was The Wedding. At first I couldn't understand what the cast was saying and then realised that didn't matter. Communication was through movement, music and any old sounds coming out the actors' mouths. I also volunteer with ChildLine – really challenging work but because we are so well supported, it is massively rewarding.

I will continue to volunteer until I am permanently horizontal.

Carole Mitchell, 60 years old, volunteer at Southwark Playhouse

I started volunteering in 2011 (at the London Bridge venue) when I came back to London after working overseas. I was a regular at Southwark Playhouse – even at the old venue on Southwark Bridge Road – so when I was living here again and had more free time, it was a way to see theatre and meet new people. My job overseas was at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office for almost 25 years, as a PA to British Ambassadors at Embassies overseas and at the FCO in Whitehall.

I'm a theatreholic! I'm generally at theatre about 4 to 5 times a week either working, volunteering, assessing (I'm an assessor for offwestend.com) or as a paying customer. The best thing about volunteering is seeing such a diverse range of shows – from solo shows in the little to full scale musical productions in the large – and for free!

The strangest thing I've seen at Southwark was called Through the Leaves where Simon Callow was naked in a bath – not necessarily strange but certainly unexpected… I also volunteer at Battersea Arts Centre and occasionally at outdoor festivals like Greenwich and Docklands Festival. And I'm a befriender at One Westminster visiting an elderly lady once a week. I plan to volunteer for as long as I can breathe – if they will still have me!

Monica Trabucchi, 33, volunteer at Shakespeare's Globe

I love being a volunteer at the Globe because I can meet and spend time with people who share my passion for Shakespeare and theatre; I feel like I'm part of a very big and warm family!

I fell in love with English language and literature studying Shakespeare in high school and the magical and timeless atmosphere of the Globe was one of the highlights of my first trip to London. It's also because of that experience that I eventually decided to move to London from Italy… I couldn't stay away from the Wooden O!