Warm memories of a backstage legend at Norwich Theatre Royal

Jack Bowhill's 25 years party at Norwich Theatre Royal. Photo: supplied.

Jack Bowhill's 25 years party at Norwich Theatre Royal. Photo: supplied. - Credit: supplied

A Norwich theatre has paid tribute to a backstage legend who worked at the city venue for more than 40 years.

Jack Bowhill (centre of front row) at the opening of the Norwich Theatre Royal Theatrama tent. Photo

Jack Bowhill (centre of front row) at the opening of the Norwich Theatre Royal Theatrama tent. Photo: supplied. - Credit: Supplied

Jack Bowhill, who has died aged 85, made a huge contribution to work behind the scenes at Norwich Theatre Royal. He joined in 1956 as a maintenance electrician before becoming stage manager and later technical director. He was also one of the few staff kept on when the theatre closed in 1989 and he looked after the Theatrerama project when theatre temporarily moved into a tent at Norwich's Earlham Park.

Peter Wilson, the theatre's chief executive, said: 'When I arrived in 1992 he was the technical director, able and willing to do any job, big or small. He made the Theatre Royal a welcoming, friendly and popular venue, and was a fund of incredibly entertaining stories about the old days. His legacy is a stage crew whose attitude towards performers and travelling companies remains as respectful and positive as it had been when he was in charge.'

Mr Bowhill, who worked on many of the venue's pantomimes, was known for making the ideas of producers and directors a reality. One example was during a Babes In The Wood production - the director Yvonne Marsh left the building at 1am despondent they could not create a waterfall for the show, but Mr Bowhill worked all night to make the special effect a reality by the morning.

He met many top stars, and many recall him telling a young man working as a gofer for Zack Matalon that the youth would never be a star. Mr Bowhill, speaking at his retirement in September 1995, said: 'He was a nice boy. He turned out to be David Essex. Luckily he didn't take any notice of my career advice.'

Jack Bowhill (third from left) with Sir Ian McKellen (second from left) and other dignitaries at ope

Jack Bowhill (third from left) with Sir Ian McKellen (second from left) and other dignitaries at opening of new stage entrance at Norwich Theatre Royal. Photo: supplied. - Credit: supplied


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After his retirement, Mr Bowhill, who lived in the Mile Cross area of Norwich, continued to help the theatre as a technical consultant.

Mr Bowhill's funeral will be on January 5 at 1.15pm at Norwich St Faith's Crematorium. No flowers please but donations to Priscilla Bacon Lodge, Unthank Road, Norwich, NR2 2PJ.

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