Many of you are aware that on Monday 12th March Pat Williams, founder member and keystone of the Matchbox, passed away at St Christopher’s Hospice. Obviously this was a source of considerable sadness during the production week of our March play, The 39 Steps, but as Pat herself would say, ‘the show must go on’. Go on it did and proved to be a roaring success, Pat’s sentiments were a spur for us all and led to a hugely successful and near sold out run. The show was followed by a collection for St Christopher’s which raised £337.98, and they have expressed gratitude to our audiences for such generosity.
We all have many memories of Pat and have shared and will share them over time; she was certainly a key influence behind my presence here, after casting me as Hortensio in The Taming of the Shrew twenty years ago almost to the day. However I think it is best to leave it to Mike Downing’s tribute, shared before the start of each show, to sum up our feelings at this particularly difficult time:
Good evening ladies and gentlemen and welcome to this the Matchbox Theatres’ 109th production. This evening I stand before you with a heavy heart as it is my sad task to tell you that on Monday we lost our dear friend Pat Williams who passed away in St Christopher’s Hospice. Whilst we knew she was ill we were not expecting her death so soon and as you can imagine it has affected us deeply this week.
Pat was the heart and core of our Matchbox family and without her we would not all be here tonight. Her dedication to the company she helped to found was, over the last 37 years, unfailing and she performed many roles including director, actress, wardrobe mistress, costume designer, problem solver and surrogate mother to us all. Together with John she hosted the Normanhurst Festivals over many years and any of us who were lucky enough to experience the magic of those events either on stage or in the audience will have very happy memories of picnics and performances of Shakespeare under the stars. To slightly misquote from Hamlet ‘She was a Woman, take her for all in all. I shall not look upon her like again’. To say that we will miss her would be a huge understatement and once we have had time to adjust to her loss we will make plans for a suitable tribute.
In the meantime we ask that tonight instead of placing your coffee money in the baskets as usual, you put it in the St Christopher’s collecting tins that you will find in the church during the interval. Throughout this week we have heard Pat’s voice firmly in our heads saying ‘pull yourselves together and get on with it’ so please tonight especially, enjoy our performance and laugh at us and with us as the show must go on. Thank you