Pat Williams

Pat Williams

Pat Williams as Nanny Ogg in ‘Wyrd Sisters’

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

Thank you



What ARE the Thirty Nine Steps?

And so another opening night arrives. At 8 o’clock the (brand new) curtains ‘go up’ on our 109th production, The 39 Steps. It has been a marvellous rehearsal progress – I think I have said that before – with great inventiveness, energy, enthusiasm and lots of laughs. When one directs a piece it isn’t always like that, there can be highs there can be lows, disappointments and unexpected triumphs- all plays are memorable but some more memorable than others. That said however this play has been a truly joyous experience. If you believe a director can turn up and have a vision of a show at its beginning then this piece is one of the few that fulfilled it perfectly – the set, the music, the lights, the sound, the special effects and performances have come together to present a great night of entertainment.

So, I wish all involved the very best, may they break their legs with aplomb, and now I shall sit back, become a member of the audience and enjoy the show. I hope many of you will do the same. And if you need a taste to whet the palette, here are a few sneak peeks from the dress rehearsal (with thanks, as ever, to Karen Warner)

See you anon



And if you’ve got here and you’re looking for something more to while away the time why not check in on these 39 facts related to The 39 Steps:


The Final Steps


39Tonight, then is the final dress rehearsal of The 39 Steps, nine weeks of work culminating in our three day run starting tomorrow. As with so many productions is has been a team effort of acting, set design, staging, light and sound and I think we are just about ready to go. As one would expect for a play with such a popular reputation, ticket sales have been strong though there are still a few available for Thursday and Saturday, Friday is a sell out.

It has definitely been a challenging time recently, but again it is testament to all involved that everyone has pulled together and the result is an evening of fast paced, enjoyable comedy with all the elements one might expect from a Matchbox Sized Shakespeare Co. show. The evening also serves as debut for a new addition to the Matchbox experience and St Francis Church Hall, but more of that anon.

If you haven’t booked your tickets, there is still time, you will not regret it. But for now, I must get ready for the evening ahead; I’ll tune in tomorrow as is customary with my final words and thought but hope to see many of you at some point over the next three days.

Take care until then

M x