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Tributes paid to RSC actor Philip Voss

I was very sad to hear of the death of Philip Voss last week at the age of 84, writes RSC artistic director Gregory Doran. I had the great pleasure of directing Philip as Shylock, in The Merchant of Venice, my first Shakespeare on the RST stage in 1997. He was immensely generous and encouraging and gave a performance of volcanic rage.

Philip first joined the company back in 1960 and had been in the same play with Dorothy Tutin as Portia and Peter O’Toole as Shylock. He reconnected with the Company in the early nineties playing in Adrian Noble’s Henry IV’s; as Sir Epicure Mammon, in Sam Mendes’ production of The Alchemist; and a number of plays at the Barbican and The Pit.

Philip Voss as Prospero at the RSC in 2000 (43420046)
Philip Voss as Prospero at the RSC in 2000 (43420046)

Among his greatest performances was Menenius to Toby Stephens’ Coriolanus in the Swan Theatre directed by David Thacker in 1994; Monticelso in The White Devil. Ulysses in Troilus and Cressida, Malvolio in Twelfth Night, and finally on tour as Prospero in 2000-2001 with Giles Terera as Ariel and Zubin Varla as Caliban in The Tempest, directed by James MacDonald.

John Heffernan, who struck up a friendship with Philip in the late 1990s remembers his “unforgettable” performance as Shylock. He writes:

“His technique was clearly impeccable and looking back, he was blessed with one of the best classical voices I've ever heard. However, it was his sheer passion and intensity that to me as a hungry schoolboy, looking to Shakespeare as a way to understand the world and probably myself, knocked me for six. His cry to the heavens as Venice and his entire life swirled around him and then at the trial, his pitiful attempt to get back onto his feet as he slipped on the ducats are moments I will remember forever. For me, they cut to the centre of what Shakespeare and theatre can be, exposing and bonding us together in our shared humanity”.

Philip’s final performance was in the Sitcom Vicious by Mark Ravenhill

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