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Final curtain call for Bernardo

PUBLISHED: 20:34 08 May 2002 | UPDATED: 11:53 03 March 2010

HE was at the centre of Ipswich's theatre world for decades but the final curtain has now fallen on the life of Mr Entertainment.

Bernardo Quantrill - professional actor, theatre manager, amateur performer and director - has died.

HE was at the centre of Ipswich's theatre world for decades but the final curtain has now fallen on the life of Mr Entertainment.

Bernardo Quantrill - professional actor, theatre manager, amateur performer and director - has died.

During his career in the entertainment world Bernardo directed many productions for Ipswich Operatic and Dramatic Society and enjoyed twenty years as house manager at Ipswich Corn Exchange, eventually retiring from the job in 1995.

But his venture into the business called show stemmed back to his youth.

Born in Holbrook in 1930, into a family with no theatrical connections, his interest in the stage was sparked by involvement in school productions.

He once recalled: "I must have been about 12 or 13 when I was turning my parents' garage into a theatre with a stage made of wooden planks and oil drums."

Bernardo's enthusiasm and determination for showbusiness kept getting stronger and after leaving school and working in a music shop in Ipswich, where he was introduced to many entertainers and musicians, he announced he wanted to go to drama school.

Moving to live with a family friend in London, he one day walked into the Savoy Hotel and with his cocky 16-year-old confidence requested to see the manager before asking for a job. He got one and would spend his days waiting tables for the rich and famous and his free time and money on drama lessons.

Bernardo's transition from the Savoy to the theatre was put on hold when, like all young men, he was called up for National Service. Despite enjoying his time with the army medical corps, however, his focus remained on the entertainment world and on leaving the forces went into rep.

He performed at Ipswich Arts Theatre where his fellow actors included Paul Eddington. This stint was followed by two seasons in Felixstowe where he took over as actor manager at the Intimate Theatre, part of the Manning's building on the seafront.

Bernardo also played a big role in the work and productions of Ipswich Operatic and Dramatic Society.

And in 1975 he started work at the Corn Exchange at the time it became a concert hall. He was allowed two nights off a week to allow him to continue with the Ipswich Operatic shows.

He took his job seriously, always dressed in immaculate fashion. At the time of his retirement he said: "I always wore a dinner jacket and I bought my fresh red carnation from Tower Ramparts.

"The job is seeing to the public. It's a very important public relations role."

David Lowe, manager of the Gaumont Theatre for 31 years, said: "I am sorry to see him go." His first encounter with Bernardo was when he acted in Bless the Bride in 1958. He also knew him in Bernardo's later roles as director, producer and chairman of Ipswich Operatic and Dramatic Society.

Saddened by Bernardo's death Mr Lowe said: "He had so much enthusiasm and will be greatly missed. It was a great shock when I heard of his death. It was a really sad occasion."

Bernardo's enthusiasm was such that shortly before his death he asked go to the theatre. He was taken to The Regent to see the performance of Evita. "He was a wonderful chap," said Mr Lowe. "I will be present at his funeral as will most people in the society. So many people will be there."

From partaking in professional theatre to being one of the staunchest proponents of amateur dramatics in Ipswich, Bernardo's world was brimming over with entertainment. It was his passion, his love and his life and Ipswich would have been a poorer place without him.

n Bernardo's funeral will be held at Ipswich Crematorium North Chapel at 10am on May 13.


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