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RENATA NASH (d.2004)

It is with great sadness that we have to report the death of Renata Nash on 23 July. Renata who had been suffering from breathing problems for sometime, was active in all areas of The Questors and will be greatly missed by her many friends. She touched so many of our lives that it is difficult to do justice to her memory. But here are a few tributes from her many friends.

Just a note... 'cause I'm a bit shocked by all of this. She wasn't easy. She could get in your face and just make you crazy. But theatre was her passion. You could say that whatever you may have thought about her. Theatre is what she loved more than anything. She was proud of her students. I'll never forget hearing her voice singing in Three Sisters. It was amazing.

Renata and I worked together at St George's College. I remember meeting her properly for the first time. It was during the school holidays and we were clearing out the costume cupboard. I realised pretty quickly Renata didn't do things by halves! And I think, on reflection, that was her attitude to life. She was an ''all or nothing" kind of person, with a refreshing energy and enthusiasm for life that I have rarely met in anyone. She loved so many things, from Lorca to Eastenders, Mahler to Robbie Williams, the list goes on...and on...and then of course her love of clothes. It is such a shame that someone with such a profound love of life should have died so suddenly. There is no doubt, however that her memory lives

Just a few words in Memory of Renata. When I first joined The Questors in 1986 as an active member I used to see this "mad' woman either dashing in and out of the bar during the evenings or at weekends, mostly being very histrionic in her actions and moods, and with whomever she was talking to. She seemed to know most people there and was involved with (it seemed) everyone! And her manic laugh was regularly heard in the bar. As time went on I eventually got to know her.

I think Measure for Measure with Carol Metcalfe sealed our friendship! At that time I had not passed my acting membership and she and Steve Fitzpatrick offered to help me with my audition pieces. Thanks to them (and Carol and Geoff Webb) I was successful and went on to work with Renata on many more shows. We became firm friends and often confided in each other when we were having
problems. Renata was always either "up" or very "down"... I'm not sure there was ever a happy medium with her, but whatever mood she was in she was always good fun! I remember when she was caught driving whilst "banned" and her panic at the thought of a possible prison sentence (which turned out to be community service in the end!). This was typical of her; again everything was either going to be total triumph or disaster.

We lost touch a little after our move to Bournemouth, but still communicated occasionally via e-mail up until the last few months of her life. My overall memories of her will be happy ones and the laughs we used to have either rehearsing, in The Grapevine, or at her home, when she had a "party" or two. I
don't think she really had an ounce of harm in her body and I shall miss her.

I can't be the only person who finds it hard to believe that someone so full of life as Renata is no longer with us. Many Questors members will remember her as an actor, director and singer. I will remember her too as one of the most sympathetic colleagues with whom I have worked, as an inspiring drama teacher to students at every level, as an expert on Spanish Renaissance Theatre, as a connoisseur of great singing (especially Maria Callas), and above all as a friend. I have many memories of her enthusiasm for life and theatre, her sense of humour, her occasional craziness, and her kindness. But it I had to pick just one memory, it would be an occasion at the Edinburgh Fringe when she dropped by to tell me she had got a slot to sing at the Fringe Club, and asked what I thought she should sing. Without thinking (I would like to emphasise that) I replied, "Well, you sing opera best. You should do Visi d'arte or something." Now, that was fine as far as it went. Of course, Renata could sing anything in any style, but her operatic voice was undoubtedly something special — a rich, creamy soprano of startling power and her expression and phrasing were first-class. As for the aria I suggested, Tosca's great credo 'I lived for art, I lived for love' was certainly a piece close to her heart, and one she sang beautifully.

No, the problem was with the venue. The Fringe Club, I had better explain, is where performers at the Fringe go to relax after the show. Consequently, it is usually ankle-deep in beer and bursting at the seams with overblown egos. The audiences at its cabarets treat the performers as at best rivals, and at worst victims, while stand-up comedians regard it as the ideal arena to practise withering put-downs for their most vicious hecklers. In short, it is not a place to perform Puccini. So I felt uncomfortably responsible when, a few nights later, after a bit of Gershwin and Cole Porter, Renata announced that she would finish off with something from Tosca. The barracking started even sooner than one might have predicted, and although a more sympathetic section of the audience in turn started to barrack the barrackers, this did not actually make things any easier for the performer. Still, I needn't have worried. Puccini, of course, knows how to build to a climax, but more importantly so did Renata, and, with the help of one or two hand-gestures I don't recall Callas employing in her interpretation of the role, her
magnificent voice reduced the protesters to stunned and admiring silence, before bursting forth in tumultuous applause, the most enthusiastic plaudits coming, to be fair, from precisely those who had been most vocal in their disapprobation.

I'm not sure if it was a triumph of culture over barbarism, or just of a trained diaphragm over some extremely inebriated ones. It was certainly a triumph of personality, courage and talent — all of which Renato possessed in abundance. Renato was a one-off. I will miss her greatly.

Renata and I had known each other for some time, the way that happens at The Questors (nods in the Grapevine bar etc), before we became friends. In 1995 [name withheld] and I were working on some children's theatre for The Questors. [name withheld] was already a friend of hers, so we asked Renata if she would like to join us on our next project which was David Wood's The Gingerbread Man. So began my friendship with Renata, with the many ups and downs that friendships have. Also at that meeting was Paul Clark a life long friend of Renata and a great musician, who also joined us and is still one my very good friends. Renata played an evil tea bag, called Old Bag. This children's play has many good songs and Renata was able to show off her very fine singing voice. As well as [name withheld], Renata, Paul and myself, the cast included Jim O'Connor, Vincent Wood and Ozzie Peal, We all had a lot of fun and so did the children who saw it, whatever their ages.

Renata and I went on to work on many projects at The Questors. When I directed Godspell in 1997 Renata was the choreographer and also in the chorus, again showing off that great voice. She also looked after my daughter Jessica, who was in the chorus, during rehearsals and the run. Jessica was nine at the time. She was a marvellous drama teacher, which was her day job. and all the young people saw her work with loved her sense of fun and boundless energy.

Renata also directed and co-directed a number of plays at The Questors. I was in two — Mercutio in Romeo and Juliet, in which she encouraged me and another good friend Peter Kennedy, to get very intimate!; and Little Women in which I played the father, a great part... just five minutes at the end! One of my lasting memories of her will be at the last night party, where Renata and I danced a very sexy tango in which we gave a running commentary to the onlookers as we danced.

She was great fun and will be missed by the many whose lives she touched.