The world’s a stage for Dave

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Doing what he loves . . . Dave Sanderson reflects on a long stage career. PHOTO: SHELLEY TOPP

By SHELLEY TOPP

Working with New Zealand’s internationally acclaimed crime writer and highly regarded theatre director, the late Dame Ngaio Marsh, has been an inspiration for Dave Sanderson.

Theatrical performance and singing has played a huge role in Dave’s life.

In 1964, he had a small role in the University of Canterbury Drama Society’s production of Henry IV, Part 2, which Dame Ngaio directed.

“She was an inspiration. It was exciting to see the way she could visualise the whole scene. She seemed to have very clear-cut ideas and visions, all the while chain-smoking cigarillos,” Dave recalls.

He began performing in public in 1959. He is now a life member of North Canterbury Musicals and this year received the prestigious Musical Theatre New Zealand Merit Award during a performance at the Rangiora Reflections Concert in the Rangiora Town Hall.

The presentation, by Waimakariri District Mayor David Ayers, was a surprise for Dave.

“We were all told to remain on stage after we finished for an announcement, but I had no idea what it was for,” he said.

“It was very satisfying to receive such a thing when all you are doing is doing what you love.”

North Canterbury Musicals’ president, Lynne James, said during the presentation that the Merit Awards were not handed out lightly.

“Recipients must have proven their long and enthusiastic participation and commitment to their community.

“The committee recognises that the society has been very lucky to have had Dave’s long association, for his quality singing and acting talent and also for his very-much-appreciated administrative skills.”

Dave is a retired secondary school teacher who taught maths, science, physics, computer studies and tech drawing (graphics). He lives at Woodend with his wife Margaret.

His first theatrical role was in the 1959 production of The Mikado as Ko Ko’s understudy.

Since then, he has performed in 48 shows, 10 plays, 35 concerts, and worked backstage in eight productions.

It is a phenomenal body of work, all as a volunteer.

Giving people the pleasure of being entertained, is his motivation to keep performing. “There is a certain amount of escapism, too, leaving life behind, becoming another character for a while on stage,” he says.

Hundreds of hours go into preparation for each performance, but for Dave that is his recreation. It is a labour of love.

Last year, though, he was diagnosed with lung cancer and told he had to have a lung removed. He thought he may no longer be able to perform on stage.

However, his surgeon assured him that would not be the case and, with special exercises, he would be able to continue singing after the surgery.

Although his voice is fine, the surgery has affected his singing range.

“My voice goes squeaky at the top end of my range. I now have trouble singing an E or an F at the top of the tenor’s range. I have to stick to baritone now.”

Dave’s love of the theatre came in part from his late brother Martyn, who was a professional performer and founded Wellington’s Downstage Theatre, New Zealand’s oldest professional theatre.

Dave also discovered the joy of performing during family skits, written by his elder brother Ralph, with help from their mother, a Mills and Boon romance writer, whereby all six siblings put on a show for their parents.

His favourite role is Fagin in Oliver Twist

“He uses the boys to live on from their earnings as pickpockets.

“But at the same time he loves these kids, sticks up for them and looks after them,” he says.