We count ourselves fortunate to have been considered close friends to Simon & Gita for many years and his loss leaves a hole in our lives that will be difficult to fill. We do however have many wonderful memories of this remarkable chap and the fun times we had together both on and off stage.
I doubt if Simon ever intended being a star of the amateur stage, but when he married Gita, the writing must have been on the wall.
He clearly forestalled the inevitable for a while after Gita joined BROS in 2005 but eventually, I expect, he realised that it was only a matter of time, and possibly against his better judgement, he was persuaded to be involved in the chorus of the first production celebrating the company’s Centenary.
Not many people can say they first ‘trod-the-boards’ at such a prestigious venue as Richmond Theatre, but in January of 2008 Simon did just that in our production of Thoroughly Modern Millie. The die was cast. The bug bit, and he could resist no more.
The no-longer-novice immediately auditioned for the next show Mr Cinders and was cast by Clare, Janet & Edz in a leading role as Guy, one of the two unpleasant stepbrothers with his sidekick Loz, in this gender-reversed adaptation of the Cinderella story. He had a hoot in the role and in a production that subsequently won an Arts Richmond award, in no small part thanks to his comic ability both as an actor and singer.
Not wanting to miss out Simon then auditioned for his third show in year appearing in our Centenary Gala that October, also at Richmond Theatre.
Now on a roll Simon could not resist the lure of that wonderful open-air Cornish venue, the Minack Theatre and was cast in the mammoth ensemble for Evita the following May. One minute a peasant, the next an Argentinian General, he added another skill to his bow, with rapid costume changes on a cliffside in a howling gale. Sadly for Simon, but luckily for us, at the last hour Sir Tim Rice was unable to attend, which meant that Simon was not whisked away to the West End Stage but rather stayed to play with us again.
In the autumn of 2009, he auditioned again this time for his first Teddington Theatre Club (TTC) show Something’s Afoot in which a booby-trapped house conspires to kill off the attendees at a weekend party. Simon’s comic genius again flowed, particularly in the scene when his character met his end, while singing on stage, by being struck on the head by a mace-wielding suit of armour. A moment which I for one will cherish for ever.
This production was staged at Hampton Hill Theatre in the January of 2010, the year in which Simon was diagnosed with a brain tumour. One of the earliest signs of this was his loss of the ability to pitch correctly which caused him much angst as this had never previously been an issue.
His acting career might have faltered had it not been for the plays on offer at TTC and Simon embraced the opportunity to appear naked in Privates on Parade in 2012.
Eventually his performing days came to an end, but he was always at Gita’s side supporting her in her many ventures and expressing so much pride in her achievements or being her dance partner at any and every social event. He served a term on the BROS committee, acted as technical support on website and other issues and was a stalwart audience member at every show to the very end.
It was during this phase of his life that we got to know him even better as a friend, sharing suppers out at Tin-Tins and enjoying curries at several restaurants in Claygate, Hampton and Hounslow. Then more recently cream teas and takeaways in their garden, or kitchen as his mobility lessened.
He will be greatly missed by all those who had the privilege to have worked with him on productions and to have enjoyed his companionship, wonderfully wicked sense of humour and joyous company, as friends.
His memory will remain in our collective consciousness until we are reunited in that extraordinary theatre company in the sky.
Written by Wesley and Clare Henderson-Roe