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In Memory of Maureen Mary Fawsitt (1929 – 2020)

By youngviclondon 15 Sep 2020

Maureen M Fawsitt (1929 – 2020)

Maureen Fawsitt, who has died aged 90 was a well-known and much-loved figure in the London Theatre for over 50 years. But such a career was by no means a given when Maureen was growing up in Portsmouth in the years immediately before, during and after the war. As a major port close to France, Portsmouth was one of the prime targets for German attack, and one of which she was made very aware, as she watched Jean, her elder sister by eight years join the RAF and eventually marry a bomber pilot.

During these years Maureen began to rely on the magic and excitement of film to escape the horrors of the world around her, and with a family that naturally loved the theatre anyway, she looked more and more to a way to escape from the city and to venture up to London to find a career in the creative arts, which would be something different to the inexorable grind of wartime England.

By the time of the 50’s and early 60’s with the explosion of modern drama and the post-war renaissance of British theatre, Maureen was initially able to get a job right near home with the Theatre Royal, Portsmouth. However, at this time, before the second wave of feminism, work in the theatre was not readily available for women, and so when eventually she did make it to London, it was not immediately in the theatre, but with the British American Tobacco company, that she procured her first job in the Capital.

It was not to be long, however, before she very courageously ventured into the world of the theatre, which she so loved, and started working for the American producer Arthur Lewis, which she did for some fifteen years. This was a position that Maureen relished, as she was a huge fan of such shows as Funny Girl, Little Me and How to succeed in Business which Lewis produced as well, of course, of their stars, especially Julie Andrews and Barbara Streisand whom he presented. 

When Lewis returned to America Maureen joined Frank Dunlop, whom she had already met while working for Lewis, and moved to The Cut to become part of his administration team at The Young Vic, looking after the casting alongside Frank's redoubtable PA, Vi Marriott and the administrator, Donald Sartain, until Frank left for a while, in order to supervise the Broadway production of the Young Vic’s ‘Scapino’, as well as fitting in directing several productions for BAM Theatre Company and Camelot with Richard Burton on Broadway.

During his absence, Michael Bogdanov took over as temporary Director, and Maureen went to work for the British/American theatre director and producer Ed Berman, the founder of Inter-Action. He also worked with many exciting new talents such as Henry Livings, Mike Stott, Tom Stoppard and Joe Orton, whom Maureen joyfully recalled coming into the office and sitting on the office desk, chatting away for hours about his new plays in particular Loot. She worked happily with Berman for several years, before returning to the Young Vic in her previous capacity, when Dunlop came back to the UK in 1981 and once again took over the YV. She remained there until David Thacker eventually took over, when Dunlop finally left to become Director of the Edinburgh International Festival in 1984 and Maureen decided it was time to move on.

Fawsitt then became the secretary to the newly formed Rootstein-Hopkins Foundation, which distributed funds for development for causes which had been close to designer Adel Rootstein's heart, such as Art colleges, museums and design schools. Maureen served them loyally for many years, finally retiring altogether in 2000.  In her later years she remained a keen theatre-goer and patron of her beloved Royal Ballet, being a special fan of the dancer Carlos Acosta. All her life she had been a keen advocate of the Women’s League of Health and Beauty exercises, and regularly attended classes up until quite recently. 

Her elder sister Jean died some years ago, and she is survived by her nephew John Morland-Russell. 

Written by Antony Barlow