Memories of Joyce Bromley
5th August 1921 - 3rd April 2003
I first met Joyce when I joined the Lacemarket Theatre as a backstage worker in 1984. She and her husband, Philip, were luminaries of the Theatre. Both acted and directed and were highly respected by the Company. Philip died an untimely death in the mid eighties. Over the years I grew to know Joyce and her son, Max, who was, and is, very involved in the Theatre.
Joyce acted consummately. Her delivery was flawless. She spoke poetry beautifully. Her enunciation was exemplary. She also read beautifully at St Peter’s and was a model for many of those whom she groomed to read.
She performed a huge range of roles at the Theatre: from Winnie in Samuel Becket’s ‘Happy Days’ to the Countess in ‘All’s Well that Ends Well’. As a director, Joyce chose challenging plays and was a hard, but kind, task master. She directed a group of innocents at St Peter’s in ‘The Winter’s Tale’. Whilst working backstage on that production, I often heard the complaint ‘I thought this was just going to be a bit of fun, but it’s hard work.’ The hard work paid off and the resulting production was very professional.
As time went by, Joyce did less acting and directing at the Theatre, but continued to be consulted as an adviser on the programme of plays owing to the respect other directors had for her taste and sensitivity. She was always fully involved in the life of the Theatre and a regular at Saturday lunchtime Pub Grub (an informal opportunity for chat and planning the forthcoming ventures). When she lived in The Meadows it was not uncommon for her to walk into the Lacemarket for Saturday lunch, walk home, and turn up again in the evening for a performance. Joyce was loved and cherished by the warm family of the Theatre, so she always had a lift home at night.
I work in the Theatre’s extensive wardrobe, preparing costumes for productions and hire to other companies. My senior colleagues often say ‘That’s one of Joyce’s.’ She made exquisite costumes for so many productions. She was a very competent seamstress with a keen eye for design. In fact she was more than a dressmaker, more of a tailoress. Most of the clothes you will remember her wearing were her own creations – suits, dresses and tailored coats. All set off by a tasteful scarf and jewellery.
My last happy memory of Joyce is of her at Haddon House at Christmas, resplendent in a lovely red flowered suit she had made, beautifully made up, coiffured and with her fingernails painted in her keynote scarlet.