Ella Mary Bambery, OAM
1917 - 2017
Ella Bambery, due to turn 100 years old on September 1st, has sadly left us ‘wanting more’ as the old theatrical saying goes. In her roles on stage she was always a joy to work with and ever-popular with audiences.
Gillian Senior (Wadds) and Ella Bambery 'Down Memory Lane' 28 February 2016, part of our 70th Birthday celebrations
EMMA: Righto. Get yourselves organised, and no muckin’ about.
Those in the audience at last year’s first celebration of WLT’s 70th anniversary will have heard Ella deliver those immortal lines from Ray Lawler’s Summer of the Seventeenth Doll. It was a re-enactment of her performance in the role of Emma way back in 1961 on the stage of the Williamstown Mechanics’ Institute – our home for many years.
She repeated the role in 1981 for the Altona City Theatre and was described by a critic as: “the hoary old pragmatist, Emma.” At that stage she was only 64 – hardly ‘hoary’!
I met her in 1949 when I was 16 and she was 33, so we go back a few years! We played in many shows together: Arms and the Man in ’52, Blithe Spirit in ’52, The Heiress in ’58, Summer of the Seventeenth Doll in ’61 – and she was there for One-Act play festivals: Remember Caesar with Ted Cordell in ’54 and many more roles that I can’t remember without searching programs and casts lists. The number of roles are unimportant, the point is that Ella was always there – either on-stage, on committee, or in the audience.
As far as I can ascertain, her last appearance on our stage was the leading role in Goodnight Mrs Puffin in 1973 – as usual, a very professional and entertaining performance.
Ella Bambery, as our oldest member and most longstanding Life Member, officially unveiled the 70th Birthday mural and launched our 70th Anniversary year on 5 February 2017
Current President of WLT, Peter Newling, wrote these words in support of Ella’s recent award of an OAM and they could not be bettered:
Ella has been a valued member of the Williamstown Little Theatre for as long as anyone can remember. In fact, she is our longest serving Life Member – an honour only bestowed on those who offer exceptional, long term service to the company.
Ella served on our Committee of Management for the best part of two decades, during the 1960s and 1970s – a particularly challenging time for our company. She served as honorary Treasurer on a number of occasions during this period. She was also noted as one of our mainstays in on-stage roles.
Generous with her time and energy, and with a commitment to the company spanning more than 50 years, Ella is exactly the sort of person every community theatre loves to have around.
One of my funniest memories of Ella on stage was in Blithe Spirit. As the newly created ‘ghost’ of Elvira, summoned up by Madame Arcati (Dot Porter) she made a very fast entrance to centre/front stage. Her hair had been hurriedly powdered with Fuller’s Earth to go with her all-over ghostly-grey appearance. She rushed in; she stopped centre stage – but her greying powder didn’t stop. It went ahead of her in a cloud of grey dust and got a totally unintended laugh from the audience! For the next performance, her hair was liberally coated with hairspray.
We may not have been as professional as today’s productions but we were dedicated. I remember being with Ella in the production of The Heiress. We had a difficult scene together and so there we were one afternoon in my lounge room, a new baby sleeping and a two-year-old somewhere about, going over and over our lines.
We were always learning. We learnt new stagecraft, new techniques, new philosophies, new ways of understanding a playwright’s intentions, with each new director the theatre brought in.
These memories are part of us oldies and with the passing of Ella, those memories are going to be shared with fewer and fewer people.
‘Bye Ella, it was such fun while it lasted.
Gillian Senior (Wadds)