Joan’s 40 theatrical years with Bury St Edmunds Amateur Operatic and Dramatic Society
Dedicated long service to a Bury St Edmunds amateur theatre company was rewarded on Tuesday.
Joan Abbs was presented with the National Operatic and Dramatic Association 40-year silver bar for belonging to Bury Amateur Operatic and Dramatic Society (BSEAODS) following the opening night of High Society, the company’s latest musical at the Theatre Royal.
Joan has a wealth of theatre experience behind her, starting with ballet lessons as a child, drama at school and into her teens and 20s with amateur dramatics.
Joan also worked in professional theatre as PA to the general manager at the Arts Cambridge and then as administrator at the Nuffield Theatre, in Southampton.
She moved to Bury St Edmunds in the 1970s to work as a liaison with the MoD and the USAF at RAF Mildenhall – and joined BSEAODS.
Her first show was Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Oklahoma! in 1978 and she has never looked back, performing in the chorus and principal roles.
Joan’s favourite roles over the years have included: a French floozy in No, No, Nanette (1985), Mary the mother of the bride in A P Herbert’s Bless the Bride (1987), Widow Corney in Oliver! (1989), Yente in Fiddler on the Roof (1993), Lady Charlotte Fayre in Ivor Novello’s Perchance to Dream (1995), the formidable Maria Duchess of Dene in Me and My Girl (1997), Eulalie MacKecknie Shinn in The Music Man (also 1997), and the Tonkinese Bloody Mary in South Pacific (2001).
Joan gave up treading the boards a decade ago, but came out of retirement for the play Calendar Girls, in 2013.
Joan was society secretary for 11 years and after retiring from that post has kept the society archives for the past 17 years.
The collection of memories – which is stored in Joan’s spare bedroom – includes programmes, photos. reviews and memorabilia of the society and documents its contribution to the community for 115 years.