Obituary: Pat Nye

Patricia Nye, actress: born London 11 February 1908; OBE (Mil) 1946; died Richmond, Surrey 11 April 1994.

THE ACTRESS / theatre manageress Pat Nye spent most of her life, except when in the Forces during the Second World War, either busily learning her craft or acting in theatres and sometimes managing them.

The daughter of Ralph Nye and his wife Elizabeth Innes Hall, who were non-thespians, Pat was educated privately, at Lausanne University and Lausanne Conservatory, before she found a taste for the footlights. Sent to train at RADA, she developed the obsession that never left her over the following 60 years. Early on she had become known as a 'character' - 'a bit of a theatrical rat'; one of those so much in love with 'backstage' that they sometimes included themselves in the hoary old story of being born in a

dressing-room trunk.

At different times in her mostly uphill career, Nye did many things, from managing the Theatre Royal, Margate, the Park Theatre, Hanwell, and the Pier Theatre, Lowestoft, to acting roles of all sizes and managing the box-

office, and being sure to count the size of audiences. She was as happy in one branch of the theatre as the other, even when trying to put shows together and sometimes facing debtors at the door.

She made her professional debut on the stage of the Rep Players at Croydon in 1933, playing Frau Feldman in Autumn Crocus, before a few months later being Martha Brown in Gallows Glorious at the Old Shaftesbury Theatre, which contained a fine, rich bravura performance from Wilfrid Lawson as John Brown (of 'John Brown's Body' fame) in the title-role. Perhaps it was watching the already great Lawson from the wings each performance that 'fed' Nye's love for the melodramas that came later in her career as a theatrical manageress; whether it was with the repertory company at the then newly built De La Warr Pavilion at Bexhill-on-Sea in the Thirties or as managing director and theatrical manageress of the Bedford, Camden Town, from October 1949 onwards, when she chose Lady Audley's Secret with herself as Lady Audley. Lady Audley was transferred to the Prince's Theatre in the West End almost immediately.

Under Nye's control, a number of old-style melodramas were produced at the Bedford, a site which had once been the home of early music hall. The theatrical manageress would sometimes act leading roles herself in such rip-roarers as East Lynne, The Bells, and The Silver King.

In the West End, Nye played such roles as Mrs Playbill in For Love or Money (Ambassadors) and Miss Stulkeley in Preserving Mr Panmure, at the Arts Theatre, before travelling to the United States to make her New York debut in 1951 as Statateeta in Caesar and Cleopatra at the Ziegfeld Theatre; she returned to Broadway a few years later to play Lysistrata in a revival in 1960 of Shaw's The Apple Cart at the Martin Beck Theatre.

Returning to England, Nye dabbled with trying to put the old Theatre Royal, Margate, on its feet again. She had set herself up as managing director at this quaint and wonderful theatre once before, in 1934-37, after her RADA training. It had once been the home of another renowned theatrical manageress, Sarah Thorne, who had controlled its destiny at the turn of the century. But in the Sixties all efforts to fan it into life were hampered by competition from television and by a fall in the number of holidaying visitors to the town.

Pat Nye was respected for her pluck in tackling such diverse theatrical matters and never sparing herself in her efforts to achieve them. She was also appointed OBE for her work as a chief officer in the Wrens during the Second World War.