PEGGY SMITH died 12 November 2012
Peggy Smith Peggy Smith was the Head of Wardrobe at RADA from the 1960's and 1980's.
Here some RADA staff share their memories of Peggy.
Neil Fraser’s memories of Peggy
I knew her from when I first started working for RADA in 1985 until her retirement and beyond. Peggy was always a cheerful and ebullient character. She clearly knew her craft and how to convey it's pleasures and its strictures to students. The wardrobe department in those days was perched above the old Vanbrugh Theatre - straddling the proscenium and the fly floor - and had expanded where ever it could in order to retain and build the wonderful stock that grew to what we have now. In it I was introduced to Anna Neagle's wig block and Robert Donat's greatcoat, and to the RADA cat (Duchess, I think, was her name). Costumes, shirts, hats, gloves, wigs et al were to be found in a collection of 'voids', some of which you entered at your peril by bending almost double and launching yourself through a broken gap in a brick wall. These voids surrounded the warm and cheerful wardrobe department where a cup of tea and a slice of cake where always available and, in the often stressful working week, peace and common sense and a motherly warmth nearly always pervaded. I don't think I ever saw Peggy lost for words of comfort or really angry. She also had the energy of an army (an essential Wardrobe staff quality even today) and in amongst her maidenly charm occasionally displayed a worldly wit that wouldn't have been out of place in a barracks! Brisk and to the point, caring and bubbly - Peggy kept standards and spirits high and represented a standard of RADA technical staff that I can only trust we do not let down today. Times are different now and therefore one can truly say - we will not see her like again. I remember her most fondly.
Brenda Hawkins' memories of Peggy
My memories of Peggy, kind, generous, knowledgeable. I learnt such a lot from her.
She went to Canterbury Art College, was a driver in the RAF, and then went to Central St Martins College, about the same time as Ralph Koltai. Whilst at St. Martins, early 1950’s she started helping out at RADA. 1954 started work there and continued there till her retirement (circa 1991).
She loved cats, dogs, gardens. RADA had a theatre cat, Duchess at one time, Peggy would take her home every weekend as she thought Duchess wouldn’t get fed.
She was a good artist, liked sketching and watercolours Whilst at college she had thought to do book illustrations but loved theatre, RADA and costumes far more.
She retired to her home in Tankerton, where she became involved in the WRVS, delivering meals on wheels. The Men and Maids of Kent were also organizations she was involved in.
Andrew Visnevski’s memories of Peggy
Peggy was indeed the redoubtable Head of the Wardrobe Department when I was first invited to direct public shows at RADA, starting in 1987. I was young-ish and very nervous of her to begin with but within a short time she proved herself helpful beyond my wildest hopes, sensitive to the style of the piece and doing everything in her power to make the production that touch better (more right, not more attractive) than I had imagined. She was a real stickler for detail and a great educator of the students in style and manner required and in understanding that a costume is the clothing of the time (or of the play) and not an envelope you slide into or a box to encase you. I am proud to have known her and worked with her.
Geoff Bullen’s memories of Peggy
Peggy had a knockout resemblance to HM Queen: for whom many must have mistaken her.
Duchess was indeed her cat – and she was a little terror, claws at the ever-ready: but I once got her to play the cat in MOONCHILDREN: a role she grudgingly undertook with massive condescension, only agreeing to appear if she were allowed to wander around the set ad lib following her one short scene; however, there being only imaginary walls to the set, she invariably managed to enter and exit through the skeletal door-frame. Class.
Peggy was a very nice person certainly: kind and coping, with no sharp ‘edge’. Sad news indeed.
Nona Shepphard’s memories of Peggy
I remember Peggy very fondly. Cups of tea and chats about the world and the show. So very dedicated and delightful.