performance and choreography
Sue Passmore, who we introduced in Charters Part Two, found Bush Davies
serendipitously through a former student, Melanie Parr. Mel had joined the original London production of The Sound of Music playing all the children, except Liesl, which Sue played for four years until 1968. Mel's mother Mary was not a 'ballet mum' but a 'theatre mum'! Now over 90 she is still mildly eccentric, free-thinking, obstinate, generous and a true friend of Bush Davies. It was with her that Noreen and Victor spent relaxing evenings prior to and during Noreen's illness. But, when Mel was in the theatre, so was Mary. She would chat-up the cast and invite them for weekends at her farm in Felbridge where she was gradually whittling away her inheritance caring for a disaffected menagerie of animals. It was an ideal refuge for young disaffected Thespians!
Mary organised a charity evening at the Genée Theatre in 1971 with many of 'her stars' taking part. We remember the occasion as our first experience of Sue when she ran through the auditorium with Freddie Eldrett to perform a rousing number from Dames At Sea. Freddie, incidentally, was a wonderful hoofer and enjoyed many hours poaching steps from Victor. Sue immediately fell in love with the theatre and persuaded the management to let her, with her husband Ray, produce The Wizard of Oz for Christmas. Mel played Dorothy, the school provided The Munchkins and John was in the pit on the piano/drums and special effects. Introductions made, Sue and Ray were invited to produce the school's 60th anniversary production called Time-Steps, in 1974; this was followed by Mr Aesop's Fable Show, for which Ray wrote most of the music and lyrics. It was in the autumn of that same year, 1975, that Biddy Espinosa joined the school. We shall not recount that wretched period again but, soon after, Paul and John found themselves travelling to Bournemouth to visit Sue. She had moved there to allow her two young daughters to have a stable beginning to their lives and ran a theatrical boarding-house with sidelines in dress-making and baking wedding cakes. The mission was to persuade her to join Bush Davies as head of drama and production. She was very relieved to meet her new employers! Over the next 13 years she proved a determined and inexhaustible asset to the school, all its students, and the theatre. She recently wrote, " ..so much opportunity, success, inspiration, creativity, argument, discussion, but never failure: frustration, but never failure. When I look at the old BDS videos and compare them to the work I see now as an examiner for Trinity DADA Awards I can tell you we were GOOD!! Bush students were special and I still work with quite a few of them, our memories fresh, and appreciative for being part of such an amazing school. It shaped my life and provided the standards by which I assess quality in teaching and performance."
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