Felixstowe: Mrs Prop Sue Simmons has everything from a toy rat to a vintage carrier bag in her store cupboard

AS soon as you walk in to her house you can’t help but spot a period truncheon and a carpet beater hanging on the wall.

On the window sill are a soda siphon and a rat – a toy one – in a plastic bag.

For Sue Simmons, bizarre objects are a way of life and a hobby that has taken over her Felixstowe home.

She said the hobby began in 1997 when she was still working as a health visitor.

She said: “We had a family bereavement and I got into it through a colleague who was doing props for Me And My Girl at the Ipswich Regent. She thought I needed something else to focus on and she was right, it really helped.”

Two years later Sue found herself taking on the role of properties manager for Felixstowe amateur theatrical group Stage Door.

She said: “I cut my teeth on Seven Brides For Seven Brothers. It was a huge learning curve.”

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Collecting, organising the finding the props as well as working backstage during the productions, Sue is a busy lady and is always on the look out for possible props.

She said: “Once I retired in 2001, other amateur theatre groups started to ask me for help. I do an average of about nine shows a year, but it can be as many as 12, though I don’t help backstage at all of them.”

Sue helps a large number of groups including Stage Door, Felixstowe Musical Theatre, The Keyworth Players, Ipswich Operatic and Dramatic Society, Gallery Players, Trimley Saints Players and groups in Bramford and Stowmarket.

She said: “There is a network of people and we all call each other up asking for things. We help each other out. It is sociable and lots of fun.”

Sue sources props – gathers and garners as she calls it – from charity shops, museums, antique shops and other theatre groups.

She said: “Only once has someone said no to me. People are very kind and very generous. I have met all sorts of people and been to all sorts of places looking for props.

“This week I have been to Ipswich Transport Museum to ask for a 1930s wheelchair for an upcoming production of Annie.”

Walking round her home there are props in every room. In the sitting room there are candelabra, old books, five light sabres, vintage radios, ornate brass jugs, a plaster bust, even a plaster of Paris three-tier cake.

Upstairs in her bedroom Sue has a collection of paintings, 1940s carrier bags – not easy to come by, old newspapers, bloomers and shawls.

In the guest room there are hats and hat boxes. In the third bedroom an instant tea for two complete with salt dough cakes, a cake stand, a soup tureen, and a chicken that lays golden eggs.

In the garage Sue has the bulk of her collection and it is a treasure trove of the bizarre. Barrels, brooms, a violin case, lots of telephones, dustbins – handy for West Side Story , suitcases, a crown for the wicked queen of Snow White fame, swords, a fake telescope, a box of enamel ware, glassware, china, a necklace made of miniature skulls – South Pacific, and plastic guns plenty and various.

Sue said: “One of my favourite prop is my prosthetic leg. It’s been used several times for Little Shop of Horrors and in productions of Cinderella when the Ugly Sisters try on the glass slipper.”

Currently working on five shows, Sue is clearly in her element when talking about her latest discovery.

She said: “I love it. You are always learning things and it is a big challenge, but it is a lot of fun. I grew up in the 1950s and 1960s which was the age of some of the greatest musicals. I love the theatre, and I shall only stop when I can’t bend down or see in the dark.”