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RSC actor Roy Dotrice dies aged 94

Roy Dotrice captured enjoying a day at Stratford Races back in 2013. Photo: Mark Williamson
Roy Dotrice captured enjoying a day at Stratford Races back in 2013. Photo: Mark Williamson

Veteran Royal Shakespeare Company actor Roy Dotrice has died aged 94.

His family said that he passed away at his London home surrounded by his loved ones, which included his three actor daughters, grandchildren and great-grandson.

His wife, the actress Kay Newman, whom he married in 1947, predeceased him in 2007.

The actor was awarded an OBE in 2008, and won a Tony Award for his role in the Broadway revival of A Moon For The Misbegotten in 2000; and starred as Leopold Mozart in the Oscar-winning film Amadeus in 1985. More recently he become well known for his role as Hallyne the Pyromancer in cult smash Game of Thrones.

He was born in Guernsey in 1923. When the Second World War broke out and Germany occupied the island in 1940, he escaped by boat with his mother and brother to the South Coast of England. Not long afterwards he signed up with the RAF, aged 16, as a gunner and a wireless operator. A year later he was shot down over enemy lines and spent the rest of war in German PoW camps. He says it was during this time he discovered his love of acting – and was roped into playing the female roles in the prison camp entertainment “because he was the youngest and prettiest”.

After the war and following training at RADA, he took to the stage, eventually joining the Shakespeare Memorial theatre company in Stratford in 1957. He was made a contract player, appearing as Egeus in The Comedy of Errors and the Duke of Burgundy in the King Lear of Charles Laughton; the 1959 company also included Laurence Olivier (as Coriolanus), Albert Finney, Peggy Ashcroft and Paul Robeson (as Othello) and was renamed the Royal Shakespeare Company by Peter Hall in 1960.

At the RSC’s base in Aldwych he played in John Whiting’s The Devils in 1961 and as the senile family retainer Firs in Chekhov’s The Cherry Orchard. Back at Stratford in 1963 he was Caliban in The Tempest, Julius Caesar, and Edward IV in the Wars of the Roses, adding the Olivier double-act of Hotspur and Shallow in 1964.

After director Patrick Garland saw him as Shallow he cast Doltrice as 17th-century gossipmonger and diarist John Aubrey in Brief Lives. It became a career-defining role and also saw him enter the record books – the solo-show notching up an incredible 1,782 performances from 1968 to 1974.

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