Brian Platts

BRIAN Platts, who has died at the age of 76, will be popularly remembered as a pantomime Dame but was also an animal breeder, gardener and family man as well as an ordinary man with a daytime job.

Brian Platts at Buckingham Palace receiving his MBE.

The theatre was his great enthusiasm and a significant part of his life and that of his family. As producer and director he led Sheffield’s Manor Operatic Society to be one of the leading amateur theatre companies in the country.

He always played the Dame in the traditional pantomimes, but he had great ambition and vision for the wider theatre and wanted to achieve whether directing or appearing in any productions.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

Away from the theatre he loved animals and breeding them.

The large garden of the big family home was variously full of cats, dogs, chickens, chipmunks and cages of parrots or canaries.

For a number of years he bred Persian cats and at one time had 36 of them.

Brian Ernest Platts was born in the Shire Green district of Sheffield. He was the only son of solid working class parents, Ernest who worked for what was then English Steel, and Lily who was a buffer girl for Viners the cutlery makers.

He was educated locally at Hartley Brook School and on leaving joined his father at English Steel as an office boy rising quickly on the administrative side of the firm. He later worked for Shell Mex BP before moving to a local concrete and aggregates company eventually becoming transport director.

At 53, he took redundancy and early retirement which allowed him to devote his time to the theatre, which had been his passion from childhood.

He was exposed to the theatre from an early age as his parents would take the traditional two-week works holiday each summer in Blackpool, where on arrival they would book to see all the shows.

Mr Platts took part in school productions and at 13 played Bottom in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. During his early years he also appeared with many of the city’s amateur companies and others in the region.

In 1965 he joined Manor Operatic Society appearing regularly in its shows at the Montgomery Hall before going on to be producer and director. The society became so successful that in 1986 Mr Platts took the bold decision to move to the 2,000 capacity Sheffield City Hall during the quiet post-Christmas period. They could have lost everything on one night, but instead went on to be one of the most successful societies in the country.

Society trustee Richard Foster said: “He really put Manor Operatic at the top of the tree – Brian was the boss, he pulled the society from obscurity to what it is today.

“He liked the shows to have a real ‘wow’ factor. He had great vision and worked hard to make them a success.”

Mr Platts’s daughter Gay Bell said he was fascinated by the spectacle of the stage.

“As a performer he had natural skills and talent. He was tempted when young to turn professional, but he opted instead for a family life with 52 years of happy marriage to my mother Maria,” she said.

“Dad was a Dame in the true Victorian tradition – he was not a bloke trying to be a woman, he was always clearly a man and he was utterly hilarious.”

In 2000 he was awarded the MBE for services to the theatre.

His last appearance was in 2005, before suffering two strokes.

His life in theatre was also a family affair with his wife in the chorus and his two children being encouraged to be part of it.

Mr Platts was also a keen supporter of a number of charities, but particularly of St Luke’s Hospice to which he would donate his fees from speaking engagements.

Mr Platts is survived by his wife Maria, children Gay and Adam, and grandchildren Stanley and Ava. His funeral service will be held next Tuesday at St Marie’s Roman Catholic Cathedral in Sheffield at 3pm.