A YOUNG woman who died of cancer last year has inspired actors, musicians, business and students to stage a fundraising production for the charity that helped her family.
Sophie Porter (née Spring), who died last September aged 25, had battled the disease since childhood and wanted donations to be made in her memory to Macmillan Cancer Support.
Almost a year later, Terry Pratchett's Night Watch, in which the leading character epitomises Sophie's grit and determination, will be performed at the Questors Theatre, in Mattock Lane, Ealing, where she was a member of the Youth Theatre. Sophie was a member of the cast of Pratchett's Lords and Ladies in 2002.
It is the culmination of a year's work for Rachel Knightley, who grew up with Sophie as a teenager, and gave up her job as a copy writer at the Telegraph to get the show on the road.
Rachel, 26, re-formed Point 303 Theatre Company, founded by Kris Collier, who also died of cancer, to produce Night Watch, a play in which Commander Sam Vimes has to track down a murderer, change the outcome of a rebellion and teach his 'younger' self to be a good copper.
She says: "I always knew Sophie had cancer from childhood and Macmillan was the charity named by her and her family for donations, so a few of us decided at her funeral to do this production after we had her family's blessing.
"Sophie inspired a lot of people. Igot back in touch with people who didn't even know she was ill and they came to help.
"She was one of the most positive people I knew, with a cheerful, common-sense attitude to life and who got on with the job in hand.
"She was a bit like the character in Night Watch (Commander Sam Vimes), who has a job in front of him and he knows there is a good chance he won't see it through; that character is a testament to Sophie."
Although Sophie, who had lived in Acton, enjoyed acting, she wanted to be a teacher. She was also a Glastonbury fan and was going through a 'matching dreadlock' phase with her husband Aran. He is doing a round-the-world trip that he had planned with Sophie.
Rachel, of Argyle Road, West Ealing, says she has been spurred on by a woman who packed such a lot into a short life, but sometimes the effort has been overwhelming.
"It's not been the easiest thing to do," she says. "I started raising money for our production budget with two sponsored silences. I wrote letters and emails.
"Everyone has been fantastically supportive - friends, family, the Questors Theatre, Transworld publishers, Craftworks in Ealing, and the Grange, where we have been rehearsing for nothing.
"Professional actors and musicians, current and former members of Questors Youth Theatre, came forward to give their time free in the play or backstage.
"I have built my life around this for the past year and there are moments it becomes quite overpowering because however well I do, it won't bring her back. Somehow I do not quite accept that."
But despite having given up her job, Rachel has no regrets. She plans to teach again at Questors and is currently doing drama workshops in Richmond and at Ealing Liberal Synagogue.
"I have the rest of my life to catch up," she says. "This is what I am supposed to be doing now.
"It is always going to hurt, but I feel honoured and proud for making something good from what happened." [25cf] Night Watch, adapted by Stephen Briggs, is being performed in The Studio, Questors Theatre, Mattock Lane, Ealing, from September 4 to 6 at 7.45pm. There is also a matinée on Saturday, September 6, at 2.30pm.
Tickets cost £10, or £8.50 for concessions and Questors members. To book, call 020 8567 0011 (advanced booking, during office hours) or 020 8567 5184 (on performance days).
Fifty-five per cent of ticket sales and 100 per cent of other proceeds will be donated to Macmillan Cancer Support.
If you're not able to go to see the play, but would like to make a donation to Macmillan, go to www.justgiving.com/point303 .