charters part two
1970-1989 PAge 7
"Why didn't someone phone me. I've only just heard the news!"
A very anxious and frosty voice bellowed down the line to this author. "Sorry, who's calling please?" he replied naively. "Ninette de Valois. Put me through to Victor immediately." This happened during the summer holidays about eight days after 7 August, 1977, the day Noreen died: remiss of course, especially for one of Noreen's oldest and dearest 'pals', but in times of sadness thoughts of others do tend to drift. Thousands of friends, many students especially, could only hear about it on the 'Bush Telegraph'. Dame Margot Fonteyn de Arias sent Victor a letter, see right.
Perhaps the school's summer production that year, at the Genée Theatre, could not have been better titled, 'Dance of Life'. The closing ballet, 'Celebration', choreographed by Noreen and produced as a tribute to Queen Elizabeth II for her Silver Jubilee year, is best remembered for the use of Union-Jacked umbrellas in the first part. Even the family did not realise how close Noreen was to her final performance, never mind the fraught and complaining teachers who had to organise a timetable around Noreen's 'whims'. It was 'a climb up Snowdon' to walk the twenty yards from The Folly to the rehearsal studio below 'junior dorm' but, once there, she was involved completely in her creation. On occasions she was able to get to the 'Wells' studio, simply because there was nowhere else to accommodate twenty-four (or was it thirty) open umbrellas! How students must have hated those rehearsals. But Noreen had returned to her early performing days when spectacle was all-important to captivate the audience - props! It is an old trick, well-used, and still used. The ballet was a triumph. A repeat performance was requested for the Remembrance Day celebrations at the Royal Albert Hall in November that year in the presence of HM the Queen. What could have been a more fitting tribute to an extraordinarily talented lady who had relished her 'Life of Dance'.
Returning to that end-of-year show, Noreen refused to expose her delicate vulnerability to the inevitable. She decided not to attend the matinée. She telephoned John, "Will you drive me to the theatre tonight, Dear?" "But," John replied, "I can't drive the Bentley!" "Oh, don't worry about that, Dear," she said, "I'll go in Paul's little Mini." "How she got in that low seat, with a corset on, I shall never know," John said later. "Those sleeping policemen down the drive," he reported back, "caused your mother the most dreadful pains and we nearly had to turn back." She made it however and sat in the foyer awaiting her guest, 'Madam'. They had a joyous evening of chattering! '
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