Remembering Mary Walker
Having moved to the Newbury area in 1970, drama teacher Mary was an active member of New Era Players from its onset. She acted in a great many plays and interim performances, from Norman Conquests to Under Milk Wood to The Dresser, and directed several, most notably Mike Leigh’s Abigail’s Party, the Sean O’Casey trilogy as well as plays by Tom Stoppard and Peter Shaffer. Whether prompt, front of house, prop mistress or stage manager, she was unflappable and indefatigable, happy to share her knowledge of theatre and passion for it. In the eighties and nineties, Mary served first as the society’s secretary and later its Chair, overseeing key alterations to the theatre building that brought in upstairs dressing rooms and a costume store. Mary remained a keen member of New Era until 2014, when she moved to Shakespeare Country to live with her daughter Fiona and her family.
Unbeknown to many of her friends, in 2010 Mary had been diagnosed with a rare bone marrow cancer, Myelofibrosis, which is incurable. She bore the illness with great stoicism and grace, refusing to let it get in the way of many nights at the RSC, holidays with family and visits to friends. In recent months, however, her illness became more severe, requiring intensive treatment and lengthening hospital stays. After Christmas 2018, Mary made the decision to stop further intervention and be with family. She died at home with daughters Sarah and Fiona at her side on 1st February, rounding off life with a sleep as Prospero describes:
Our revels are now ended: These our actors –
As I foretold you – were all spirits and
Are melted into thin air;
And like the baseless fabric of this vision,
The cloud-capp’d towers, the gorgeous palaces,
The solemn temples, the great globe itself,
Yea, all which it inherit, shall dissolve
And like this insubstantial pageant faded.
Leave not a rack behind: we are such stuff
As dreams are made on, and our little life
Is rounded with a sleep.