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Bromley Theatre Guild

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Arthur Rochester by Charles Evans

Published: 2018-10-15
News Category: Orbituary
In August this year, following a short illness, GODA lost one of its most popular and well-loved members, a long-time and prominent adjudicator in London, Kent and the Southern Counties.
Arthur won his spurs as adjudicator and GODA member through long and varied experience, both on and off the stage.
Born and educated in the London area, as a young man Arthur saw commissioned service in the Honourable Artillery Company, including one posting to Germany (and making an early stage appearance in the field gun salute at the Royal Tournament). 
Beginning a career in sales and marketing, he had the good fortune to meet and marry his life partner, Jean, at the company where they both worked.  Subsequently, his career took him to India, Scotland and Liverpool, during which time he held management consultancy roles with Rank Xerox and Barclays Bank, as well as forming two companies himself. His work entailed frequent and often long visits to other parts of the world, including the United States, India and Africa.  In Madras, then Glasgow, the couple were blessed with their two sons, Philip and Andrew, a family which in due course would expand to include grandchildren Sarah, Kathryn and Alex.
Arthur’s interests were as varied as his travels and career. Always a rugby fan (particularly if his boys were on the field), he also played hockey for his regiment, and, perhaps a harbinger of his GODA years, then took up refereeing. Like so many with links to drama, he was also a keen cricketer. His nifty footwork extended to ballroom dancing, and in those early days Arthur and Jean, both expert dancers, consolidated their happy and popular partnership on the dance floor.
But Arthur’s main joy and pleasure was increasingly the field of drama, in which he showed himself multi-talented. As an actor, participating with more than one society in the Bromley and Kent Drama Festivals he shone in both heavyweight and lighter roles, perhaps finding his true home in comedy, and In the Bromley Festival he more than once took the Best Actor’s Award.
He had a lifelong passion for Shakespeare, and, among his many appearances on the Bromley classical stage, his Malvolio in Twelfth Night was particularly memorable. Also fondly recalled from earlier years was his account of Bottom (“born to play the role” said many friends of that time). But, as noted by those who had the pleasure of working with him, the bumptious exuberance which he brought to this latter role belied his sincere and more modest nature.
As with increasing seniority his acting roles diminished, with customary versatility Arthur turned to directing. Many of those in the Bromley Festival community who had performed under his guidance would comment on, typically, a firm hand coupled with unfailing civility. His theatrical judgement was sound, and he was a sometime Artistic Director at the Bromley Little Theatre.  Subsequently, he put his administrative experience to good use, organising the Bromley Theatre Guild play festival, and serving as Vice-President of the Guild.
Throughout this time, Arthur was fortunate to have at his side the loyal support of Jean, not only as sometime actress (once unforgettably partnering Arthur in Gaslight), but also as festival award-winning stage manager. The couple formed an equally valuable partnership in their commitment to the United Reformed Church, first in Bromley, then at Christ Church in Petts Wood. Arthur was a serving Elder of the church, while Jean for a time edited the church magazine, and was secretary of the church’s (then) associated Whitfield Players, until its demise Arthur’s ‘home’ society.
In 2004, realising a growing desire to use his thespian talents more widely, Arthur was accepted for GODA membership.  He quickly established a reputation as a sympathetic and dependable adjudicator. With his benign and avuncular demeanour, coupled with an unfailing ease of manner, Arthur was a reassuring presence on the Adjudicator’s platform. His appraisals, delivered with twinkling eye and ready humour, were firm in judgement but always tempered with kindness. “Scrupulously fair,” was the comment heard from more than one festival organiser. Whatever the venue, village hall or large theatre, Arthur, carefully attentive to diction, never forgot the back row. As an actor himself, he well knew the vulnerable post-performance vulnerability, and could always find the adjudicator’s subtle alchemy of encouragement and criticism. His tact extended to post-performance discussions, when, always the gentleman, he had the happy knack of relating easily to cast and crew; and, in those occasional moments when disagreement arose, could smilingly disarm the most persistent of challengers. With Jean invariably at his side, he was equally supportive of his colleagues, ready with generous comments after attending a colleague’s engagement. “Lovely adjudication,” he would whisper to a colleague whose address he had just heard, as ready to learn as to praise.
He adjudicated widely, regularly the Bromley and Kent festivals, but also the  Glasgow District Festival (for Arthur a voyage de mémoire), the Southern Counties Festival, and the Gibraltar Drama Festival. Sadly,
Arthur lost his beloved Jean in 2014, and began to reduce his commitments. But as late as 2016 and 2017 he was still adjudicating for the Southern Counties and Duncan Rand festivals. Fittingly, the Bromley Theatre Guild’s Adjudicator’s cup is to be restyled the Arthur Rochester Adjudicator’s Cup. Arthur’s life, career and interests were all marked with his distinctive enthusiasm and notable achievement. Family, friends and colleagues in many walks of life will be saddened by his passing. And we in GODA can, gratefully and with thanks, salute one of our own.
Charles Evans