Alma Woods, MBE, founded Howick Little Theatre in 1954, soon after sailing from London. Occasional screen roles punctuated a long love affair with theatre. In the 60s she acted in two Pacific Films productions, then won a legion of fans voicing puppet mouse Willie McNab for TV's Chicaboom and Chic Chat. Her dramatic chops came to the fore in tele-films Hanlon: In Search of Minnie Deans and Mother Tongue. She died on 24 October 2005.

... one of the most talented character actresses in New Zealand. The Weekly News, 1970

Mother Tongue

1992, As: Erma Rosen - Short Film

Ruby and Rata

1990, As: Mrs. Shearer - Film

Originally conceived as a TV series, Gaylene Preston's comedy was a local hit, uplifting recession-era audiences with a plucky misfits saga. Ruby (Yvonne Lawley), an 83 year old trying to dodge a retirement home, rents a room to Rata, a solo mum with sidelines in music and benefit fraud. Rata's son is into arson and shoplifting, while Ruby's nephew (What Now's Simon Barnett) is a hapless yuppie wannabe. Marginalised by the deregulated economy of the 80s and living on their wits, they may just find common cause despite themselves in this Graeme Tetley-penned tale.

The Billy T James Show (sitcom) - excerpts

1990, As: Auntie Pearl - Television

In these excerpts from his last TV series — a family based sitcom — Billy T has to deal with his radical older daughter who wants to get a moko, a teenage boy trying to smuggle beer into his younger daughter’s birthday party, a defamation writ, and another tribe becoming his landlord. There are varying degrees of help from his wife (Ilona Rodgers), his aggressively dim Australian brother-in-law (Mark Hadlow) and his daughter’s painfully politically correct pakeha boyfriend (Mark Wright), as well as cameos from Temuera Morrison, Martin Henderson and Blair Strang.

Hanlon - In Defence of Minnie Dean

1985, As: Mrs Hudson - Television

Dunedin barrister Alf Hanlon’s first — and most famous — defence case was the first episode in this award-winning drama series about his career. In 1895, alleged baby farmer Minnie Dean was charged with murdering two infants in her care. Hanlon’s inspired manslaughter defence was undermined by the judge’s direction to the jury; and Dean became the only woman to be hanged in NZ. Hanlon vowed none of his future clients would ever suffer this fate. Emmy-nominated and a major critical success, the episode contributed to a re-evaluation of Dean’s conviction.

Terry and the Gunrunners - 4, Episode Four

1985, As: Mrs Friskett - Television

In this episode of the beloved 80s kids’ drama, hero Terry Teo has escaped from evil criminal mastermind Ray Vegas. All roads lead to a lovingly realised Kaupati A&P Show (with cameo from radio personality Merv Smith) as Vegas’ henchmen Curly and Blue, Terry’s brother and sister, and Thompson and Crouch pursue him. Curly still has the best outfit and manages to trash another motorcycle — but the bikies are too busy discussing philosophy. Meanwhile, Thompson and Crouch are revealed as government agents (with a cavalier approach to spending taxpayers’ money).

An Age Apart

1983, As: Jean Thompson - Television

Chic Chat - 1981 Episode

1981, Puppeteer - Television

Chic Littlewood’s afterschool show for children featured skits performed by Chic and his puppets to link cartoons and other overseas programming. Chic should be in control — but the real star here is the somewhat wayward Willie McNabb (from a Scottish family of mice courtesy of Auckland theatre doyenne Alma Woods). Chic and Willie are never quite on the same wavelength — and Chic’s Gramps character has even less chance of matching wits with him. Mother McNabb appears briefly — while the apparently ogre-like producer is an ominous but unseen presence.

Chic Chat

1981 - 1983, Puppeteer - Television

One of two much loved children’s shows written and presented by English born entertainer Chic Littlewood in the late 70s and early 80s. The other was Chic-a-boom — and more than 500 episodes were made of the two programmes in what now looks like a much gentler era of children’s television. Littlewood was aided and abetted by various puppets including Nowcy the Dog and the McNabb family of Scottish mice (including the mischievous and contrary Willie). Assisting with the puppets was actor, and stalwart of Auckland theatre, Alma Woods.

Chicaboom

1976 - 1977, Puppeteer, Presenter - Television

A Going Concern

1975 - 1976, As: Mrs Tindall - Television

A Going Concern was part of a wave of new drama which hit television from the mid 70s, after the launch of a new second TV channel. The soap debuted in July 1975, initially twice a week in an afternoon slot, before moving to primetime. Chronicling the lives of the staff of a South Auckland factory, it won enthusiastic reviews. The Auckland Star praised the "believable Kiwis with topical problems". Critic Barry Shaw argued it had "a good deal more going for it in characterisation, pace and direction" than rival soap Close to Home. A Going Concern was cancelled after a year.

Telethon

1985, Presenter - Television

Telethon was a 24-hour live television spectacular aimed at securing donations from viewers for a charitable cause. The first, in 1975, launched the second channel (TV2) and raised over half a million dollars for St John's Ambulance. By 1981 Telethon had hit the $5 million mark. Along with willing local celebrities, volunteers and a receptive public, it attracted overseas stars: Basil Brush, Entertainment Tonight's Leeza Gibbons and Coronation Street's Christopher Quinton (who famously got together after the 1988 show). "Thank you very much for your kind donation!" 

Don't Let it Get You

1966, As: Mrs Beech - Film

“The big ALL FUN show for the whole family to enjoy!” said the ads for this musical comedy, which was one of only two Kiwi features made in the 1960s. Moving from Sydney to a Rotorua music festival, it follows the romance between a lively drummer (Gary Wallace) and Judy (Carmen Duncan), and the hurdles they face to stay true. That's only an excuse for a melange of madcap musical fun. Made by John O’Shea for Pacific Films, the movie featured performers Howard Morrison (who sings in this excerpt), Lew Pryme and Kiri Te Kanawa, plus distinctive graphics by artist Pat Hanly.

Runaway

1964, As: Mrs Milligan - Film

Shackled

1956, As: Mrs Jones - Short Film