In the autumn of 2008, Bury St Edmunds Amateur Operatic & Dramatic Society learned two significant things about a legend of show business named Roy Hudd. Firstly, he had just appeared in the comedic role of Njegus in English National Opera’s production of Franz Lehár’s operetta The Merry Widow. But secondly, and even more exciting, was the fact that Roy and his wife Debbie had their home in a village near Stowmarket.
As BSEAODS was then preparing its own production of The Merry Widow, what was more obvious than to invite Roy to join us in one of our rehearsals? Obvious maybe, but it still came as a huge surprise when the great man actually did so. He thoroughly enjoyed himself, as did all our members, and there was even a bonus – because our actor playing Njegus was unavoidably absent, so Roy filled in himself!
After this, it was felt appropriate that as the Society’s President I should invite Roy to become our Patron. He readily agreed, while warning that his busy schedule meant that we would not see a lot of him. And this we understood full well, contenting ourselves with the fact that we could proudly put Roy’s name on our publicity and show programmes.
There was a memorable occasion in 2012 when Roy and Debbie visited our Theatre Royal production of Half a Sixpence, following which Roy sent a glowing message – Just to say how much Debbie and me, and our granddaughter Emma, enjoyed Half a Sixpence. It’s always a pleasure to see a team of players who give a hundred per cent, and the Society certainly did. Not only the principals, who were excellent, but the smaller players too, in fact everyone involved. The acid test is always the reaction at curtain down, and you couldn’t have had a better one. Thanks for inviting us to an evening of pleasure. My love to the whole company. Yours - Roy. And as the icing on the cake, this production won Best Musical in our District of the National Operatic & Dramatic Association.
Since Roy became our Patron in 2009 we have been overwhelmed with pride, given his credentials. For decades he was a performer and historian of the English traditional music hall, from 1975 to 2001 he presented the much-loved satirical radio series The News Huddlines, and on television his numerous character roles have ranged from undertaker Archie Shuttleworth in Coronation Street to menacing parts in Dennis Potter plays. On the stage, he appeared in Oliver! and The Fantasticks and received the Society of West End Theatre Award for Best Actor in a Musical for his role as Bud Flanagan in Underneath the Arches.
Roy’s achievements are far too many to mention, and as he predicted to our Society he continued to be called away from Suffolk to extend a glittering career. On television he appeared (among many roles) in Broadchurch and Casualty. On stage locally, he was the lead in the acclaimed Theatre Royal production of Goodnight Mister Tom in 2018, and very recently he toured in Oscar Wilde’s A Woman of No Importance.
We have been honoured to share, in our local Society, a part of the global career of one of the entertainment industry’s greatest names. We will really miss our contact with him, and send our love to Debbie. RIP the irreplaceable Roy Hudd!
Mel Barnes, Past President BSEAODS