Meet Sheffield theatre make-up queen with over three decades experience and hundreds of shows under her belt
If you’re a regular visitor to community theatre in South Yorkshire, you’ll be familiar with the work of Pat Bunting – even if you don’t know her face or name.
Pat is the undisputed queen of stage make-up in theatres across the region, working with many of the biggest amateur companies on some of the country’s best loved musicals. From West Side Story, White Christmas, and The King and I, to Anything Goes, and Hello Dolly, Pat’s special touch has helped to bring a whole world of musical theatre to life in South Yorkshire. And the 81-year-old’s 30-year reign is showing no sign of coming to an end.
Earlier this year, Pat used her special skills to create the acclaimed facial characteristics of the feline characters in Croft House Theatre Company’s production of Cats at the Lyceum.
And this November, she’ll be back at the Lyceum for what may be her greatest challenge to date, working on the cosmetic special effects for STOS Theatre Company’s amateur premiere of Shrek the Musical.
“This is a very different show from anything I’ve ever done before, but that’s what makes this job so interesting and such a challenge,” said Pat, of Mosborough.
“I did once try to count all the productions I have been involved in but I lost count after the first hundred,” she laughs.
“It’s been so many of the classics and all of them so different but I have a great team working with me on the bigger shows to make sure we reach the sort of professional level that audiences today demand.”
Interestingly, Pat reveals that her theatre life didn’t begin in the make-up room, but rather on the stage, as a dancer. Like many children, she attending dancing school as a youngster before making her theatre debut as an adult performer for the Phoenix Operatic Society production of The Desert Song at Sheffield’s Granville College in 1965.
In the years that followed, she appeared in many popular shows, but it was in 1989, when she was asked to assist on make-up for a production of Showboat for Phoenix, that things took off for her in an entirely new direction.
“I learned on the job,” she says.
“I’ve done some courses and workshops over the years, but really I’ve developed as I’ve gone along and I’m still learning, which is where the pleasure of it is really because there are always new techniques you can bring to a show, especially as the productions become increasingly elaborate.”
And in recognition of her work on Cats, Pat was this year awarded Croft’s prestigious Brian Revitt Award. It followed an award from Sheffield College for her outstanding work in supporting stage makeup work experience opportunities, enabling students to realise their career aims.
She adds: “Every show is special to me. There’s a real feeling of camaraderie in a theatre that I continue to enjoy after all these years.”