Tag Archives: RSC

Ian Richardson – obit

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IAN RICHARDSON – obituary – Carole Woddis

There can’t be many actors who suddenly find themselves the centre of an awards night dedication. But that is exactly what happened at last week’s BAFTA awards. Apologising for `going on a bit’, Dame Helen Mirren, appearing on the point of tears, accepted her Best Actress award with the words, `this is for Ian’.

Mirren was a young actress when Ian Richardson, by then an established member of Peter Hall’s RSC, took Mirren under his wing and gave her `confidence in myself. He became my mentor’.

Outwardly, Richardson, 72, who died quietly in his sleep last Friday (February 9th) seemed less the avuncular counsellor, more like a dapper cobra. There was nobody who could point a line like Richardson or endow it with more acidic or ironic precision. Not for nothing has his passing been marked by universal reference to his portrayal of Francis Urquhart in the BBC’s adaptation of Michael Dobbs’ House of Cards (1990), for which he won a BAFTA. No one who saw him will ever forget the smiling, silky menace with which he endowed the words: `You may think that: I couldn’t possibly comment.’

Little wonder that the phrase has now entered the Westminster political lexicon or that news of his death last week brought mention on national news bulletins. Such was his impact, it even prompted political editors on the national newspapers to mourn his passing.

Despite this, his appearance on the two sequels, To Play the King (1993), The Final Cut (1995), and many other acclaimed tv roles which included Sherlock Holmes, Lord Groan in Gormenghast, the `tailor’ in John Le Carre (accent on the e)’s Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy (1979), Sir Godber Evans in Porterhouse Blue (1987), the defending counsel in Terence Rattigan’s The Winslow Boy (1989) and more recently, Bleak House (2005) and Hogfather (2006), it was as a peerless classical actor that Ian Richardson should be remembered.

Ian William Richardson was born in Edinburgh, in 1934, the son of a biscuit factory manager. He attended Tynecastle school, later training as an actor at Glasgow’s College of Dramatic Art before going on to join Birmingham Rep where Sir Barry Jackson held sway. At 24, he played Hamlet but by 1960, he was being whisked to Stratford-upon-Avon to join Sir Peter Hall’s newly inscribed Royal Shakespeare Company, becoming a founding member, staying 15 years and working alongside Peggy Ashcroft, Sir John Gielgud and an up-and-coming Judi Dench.

With his physical elegance, vocal dexterity, speed, lightness of touch and a certain nervy restlessness, he quickly began to make his mark. Outstanding early roles included Oberon in Peter Hall”s 1962 A Midsummer Night’s Dream (to Dench’s Titania) and an Antipholus of Ephesus in Clifford Williams’ hurriedly rehearsed Comedy of Errors (1962) which still stands out for this viewer as a masterclass of comic timing and subtle double takes, only equalled by his similarly inspired Master Ford in Terry Hands’ The Merry Wives of Windsor, a whirling top of supposed cuckolded jealousy.

Richardson went on to find acclaim in Peter Brook’s Marat/Sade (1964), as Vendice in Trevor Nunn’s The Revenger’s Tragedy (1969), as Cassius, Angelo and Prospero, a dazzling Berowne in Love’s Labours Lost and not least, alternating the role of Richard II and Bolingbroke with Richard Pasco in John Barton’s 1973 revelatory dual casting version.

Away from the RSC, he was an award-winning Professor Higgins in the Broadway revival of My Fair Lady (1976) and Humbert Humbert in an ill fated stage version of Lolita.

His last two stage appearances saw him, still in fine voice, if wasted as a creepily misogynistic millionaire in The Creeper by Pauline Macaulay and more gloriously, as Sir Epicure Mammon in Nick Hytner’s revival of Jonson’s The Alchemist at London’s National Theatre.

His last film appearance was in the Jane Austen biopic, shortly to be released. He was due to start filming an episode of Midsomer Murders and had just completed costume and wig fittings.

In 1961, he married the actress Maroussia Frank with whom he had two sons, Jeremy and Miles. In 1989, he was made a CBE.

Ian Richardson: actor, born April 7, 1934; died February 9, 2007.

http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0007183/

 

Coriolanus

Royal Shakespeare Company, Barbican Theatte, London ****

© Helen Maybanks, Sope Dirisu, a bloody iconic anti-hero for our time.

© Helen Maybanks, Sope Dirisu, a bloody iconic anti-hero for our time.

Coriolanus may not be the most frequently staged of Shakespeare’s political Roman dramas although it nearly always gets included when a series of them are run together as here with the latest RSC season, under the banner title of Rome MMXVII. Continue reading

The Alchemist

RSC Barbican Theatre, London (****)

© Helen Maybanks, Mark Lockyer as 1the alchemist', Subtle

© Helen Maybanks, Mark Lockyer as the `alchemist’, Subtle

It’s one of the abiding marks of our age, the con. Whether it’s flashy as in The Hustle, aspirational as in the Lottery, or sophisticated as in The Sting, the con runs through our lives. At any one moment, we’re only a hair’s breadth away from being taken for a ride. These days, it’s more likely to be an online or phone scam offering thousands of pounds at the press of a button or a computer to be saved from a terminal virus or even secondary glazing! Continue reading

Queen Anne

Swan Theatre, Royal Shakespeare Theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon

© Manuel Harlan

© Manuel Harlan

Why don’t we know more about Queen Anne (1665-1714)? Squashed between William and Mary and the first of the Hanoverians, George I, Anne seems to have been completely overlooked by history or, at least, our agreed cultural narrative that favours Elizabeth and Victoria over the stout, rather solemn figure who stares out from royal portraiture. Continue reading

Death of a Salesman

Noel Coward Theatre, London

© Ellie Kurtz

© Ellie Kurttz

Willy Loman is to 20th century drama what Lear is to classical theatre. A titanic figure, he’s one of Arthur Miller’s greatest tragic creations. An achingly desolate symbol of the American dream gone sour, he stands, like Lear, as one of the summits of an actor’s career. The little man who has given his all to a system that has ground him down, it’s a part that demands an enormous journey, like Lear, of the actor who takes him on. Continue reading