OBITUARY: Curtain falls for much-loved actor Martin Cosgrif

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Martin Cosgrif. Photo: Richard Smith Photography
Martin Cosgrif as Feste in Twelfth Night at the Loft in 2018.
Photo: Richard Smith Photography

Much-loved actor, director and teacher Martin Cosgrif has died from coronavirus.

The 72-year-old Stratford veteran died in Warwick Hospital on Sunday, 12th April, less than a month after his final performance on a local stage.

A proud northerner, Martin was brought up in Burnley but he adored Stratford and established a second home in the town while continuing to live and teach in Accrington. He moved down permanently on his retirement ten years ago, and was very involved in the arts scene – including the Bear Pit, Consensus Opera and Trinity Players – and worked as a guide at the Shakespeare Birthplace.

He fell in love with acting after tagging along with his older brother Clive to a local amateur drama group, and went on to train at Rose Bruford College. There he met and shared a flat with Gary Oldman, of whom he would later say: “He did all right, didn’t he?”

After graduating with a BA in Theatre Arts and a Masters at Lancaster in Contemporary Theatre Practice, he performed professionally at the Bolton Octagon, Chesterfield Rep, Liverpool Playhouse and Watford Palace, alongside radio and television appearances including Juliet Bravo and several commercials.

A gifted teacher, Martin taught at King’s High School in Warwick and was a Lamda examiner. Former students in Accrington included Julie Hesmondhalgh – best known as Hayley Cropper in Coronation Street – and actor Lee Ingleby. Julie and Lee, along with other actors Martin had taught, recorded a video for him in his last days in hospital.

Close friend Vivien Heffernan said she first met Martin at the RSC summer school – which he never missed – 20 years ago. She said: “He was gregarious and a natural communicator and made very many friends. We all looked forward to seeing him and to discussions about the plays, talks and lectures. Martin loved Stratford – he always said it was his spiritual home.

“Most of all though, Martin was a wonderful friend. He was empathetic, completely non-judgemental and would give considered, wise advice. What more could you possibly ask of a friend? I will miss him hugely.”

Since 2016 Martin was involved as an actor and director at the Loft Theatre in Leamington. His last performance was in The Children there on 16th March, the night that theatres across the UK shut their doors.

The Loft’s artistic director Sue Moore said: “Martin was a consummate professional, gifted, witty, warm and generous. As we shut that night, we mourned the loss of the magic of theatre in our lives, but Martin said, ‘Whatever happens we have to finish this run’ – and we shall.”

Kath Belton, who met Martin 50 years ago through amateur dramatics, also recalled his treasured friendship: “Throughout all the years Martin has been a close friend, always there to give support when needed, share a joke and tell wonderful stories – he never ceased to make me cry with laughter. Go well Martin, God speed and you will stay in my heart forever.”

Martin’s brother Clive, speaking on behalf of the family, including his children, Martin’s niece Emma and nephew Philip, said: “We are devastated by Martin’s death due to this awful disease. We know he will be greatly missed by all the people whose lives he touched.”