During the summer months of 1972 the members of a drama group ‘The Eagle’s Nest Players’
found themselves without a venue in which to perform. Due to a change of command
and policy of the USAFE it was no longer possible for non-
It was at this point that Sheila and Vince Norwick, who were the proprietors of ‘Things’, an emporium of many delights in St Andrew’s Street, Mildenhall decided to appeal for members to form a new group based in the town.
As the result of reports and features in the local newspapers several people expressed interest. The initial meeting took place in a classroom at Riverside Middle School in September 1972 and attracted about ten people; men and women of a good variety of ages. From that meeting it was proposed that ’Arsenic & Old Lace’ should be the first production in January 1973. That meant finding more people to fill the parts and just as importantly a venue and someone to build a set.
Thankfully, the Headmaster of Riverside School was willing to let the group rehearse in one of the classrooms as to have the production staged in the main hall of the school. Everyone was enthusiastic to get going and by early October scripts had been obtained and more people were willing the be part of the group.
The play was cast, with Sheila Norwick and Mary Rolfe taking the roles of the two ageing (kindly) sisters who ‘helped people into a better place‘. Four young servicemen from RAF Lakenheath filled the roles of the nephew, the ’doctor’ and his companion and Tom Durkin showed his versatility by filling three different roles as old men who found themselves on the sisters’ doorstep.
As rehearsals progressed the group gained helpers with costumes, set design and building, etc.
Ivy Base proved invaluable with her knowledge of amateur theatre and willingness
to make costumes, paint scenery and generally perform any task that was asked of
her. Ivy’s sister, Anne Feakes, was equally important as she, too, was a fine needlewoman
with years of experience in amateur drama groups. The final two pieces of the jig-
Michael was at that time a local horticulturist and floral designer with almost endless talent for designing costumes, scenery, advertising material as well as being able to actually make and create the most wonderful effects from almost anything.
Gordon was a carpenter and joiner of exceptional skill and set about finding materials
to create the scenery. Having no funds at this time, apart from the donations that
the group members were willing to make, P & F Safepac, a local company was approached
and Mr Paddy Flynn, the proprietor was willing to let the group have a quantity of
wood and cardboard which was superfluous to their requirements. With these basic
materials, Gordon, Michael, Ivy, Vince and John Rolfe set about making the set which
included stairs, a window box (for the bodies), a front door and the all-
By November the group still had not decided on a name but it was suggested that we might contact the Bunbury Family to ask permission to use the name ‘The Bunbury Players’ and (hopefully) gain some sponsorship. Sir Charles Bunbury was delighted to grant the group use of the Bunbury name and accept an invitation to the first performance; however, no sponsorship was forthcoming!
So, as the months passed, rehearsals progressed and the first performance by The
Bunbury Players took place at Riverside Middle School. The production was well-
Thanks to this success, the group gained some funds, more interest and more members. Following the initial production a committee was elected and a constitution drawn up. The Bunbury Players were now up and running!
The next production was a real departure from the first in the form of ‘Not Now,
Darling’ which was a modern-
Still at the Riverside School, and to give several newcomers their first parts, the
group went on to perform three one-
1976 saw the move to the Town Hall and the first pantomime performed by The Bunbury
Further changes within the education system prompted The Bunbury Players move to the Bunbury Rooms where Ivy Base was caretaker and keeper of the copious amount of costumes the group had amassed by then.
Information from Mary Rolfe