Obituary: Alma Woods

By Arnold Pickmere

* Alma Woods. Actress, producer, director. Died October 24.

Alma Woods entertained Auckland audiences almost from the day in 1952 when she arrived in New Zealand with, as she put it, "my husband Fred, two kids and 10 pounds sterling".

Only four days after disembarking from the New Zealand Government- chartered ship Captain Cook, the new immigrant had joined a drama group. She played her first role in Auckland for the Eden Players the same year.

Two years later Howick residents Alma and Fred Woods advertised in the Howick Post for anyone interested in starting a theatre group.

The result, the Howick Little Theatre, of which she was founder and one-time president, lives on as an amateur group with a proud history.

For 10 years Woods produced many plays, winning praise for that and her acting. She appeared in about 50 plays with Auckland's professional Mercury Theatre. In 1970 the Weekly News called her "one of the most talented character actresses in New Zealand", and a woman who would gladly look "190" if the part so decreed.

There were also one-women shows about corsets and other matters. And there were many television appearances, including Chic Chat and Chicaboom with Chic Littlewood.

For at least 20 years she recorded talking books for the Blind Institute.

Her show business work in New Zealand was not a surprise. She had toured home-town London doing concert party items and appeared in a few minor productions.

As a little girl she used to pray, "Please, dear God, let me do the splits so I can go on the stage". Her older sister, whom she idolised, was in professional theatre.

"But we were a large family and my mother was a widow, so we could not afford to have two daughters in show business."

In Auckland she was able to throw herself into amateur dramatics and was delighted that the people she met accepted her and her ideas.

Woods confessed in 1960 that she felt she had the best of two worlds. "I always wanted to go onto the professional stage. Now in New Zealand I seem to have combined a happy and wonderful home with my love of acting. I could never have done this in England."

The family was involved from the early days at Howick. Young son Michael used to hear her lines "and correct me ruthlessly when I was wrong". Her daughter Judy designed sets for many productions.

As an actress Woods valued sincerity. "Sincerity comes from within and without it everything is for naught. If you are sincere then you must love your audience."

From the evidence, audiences loved her back.

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