02 Oct Benjamin Whitrow
The sudden death of Benjamin Whitrow last week came as a great shock and sadness to all of us. His long career as a supporting actor of the first rank – he was probably best known for his definitive Mr Bennet in the BBC’s 1995 Pride and Prejudice – is well documented in Michael Coveney’s GUARDIAN obituary, which notes that his last stage appearances were with us at the Tobacco Factory.
Despite his renown within the theatre industry, his outstanding record with both the National Theatre and the RSC, and a comfortable life in West London, in 2011 at the age of 74 Ben expressed a keenness to play John of Gaunt in our Richard II. In place of the weary melancholy so often employed in that role he brought a fiery rage that belied his age – and he was happy to throw in a beautifully understated Head Gardener to deserve his modest stipend and keep him occupied in the second part of the evening.
He then became a generous Season Patron and a personal friend, and in 2015 was happy to return to the company to play the odious Crabtree in our The School for Scandal, striking up a glorious partnership with Byron Mondahl’s epicene Sir Benjamin Backbite.
Throughout these two seasons he was generous with his advice and support for younger actors and always provided an object lesson in deftness, precision, economy and wit. He told me he wanted to come back again for ‘one last stf season’ but sadly the opportunity never arose.
By stf Founder Andrew Hilton.