Veteran actor Sir Antony Sher has died of cancer at the age of 72, the Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC) announced.
He was widely regarded as one of the best contemporary classical actors in the country, with a long association with the company.
His art director and Sir Antony’s husband, Gregory Doran, had taken compassionate leave to look after him.
The company said it was “deeply saddened” by the news.
RSC President Shriti Vadera said the actor is “loved” in the organization “and has touched and enriched the lives of so many.”
“Our thoughts and sincere condolences are with Greg, and with Antony’s family and their friends at this devastating time,” added Catherine Mallyon, executive director of RSC and Erica Whyman, interim art director.
- Sir Antony Sher: a giant of the stage
Sir Antony’s film appearances included Shakespeare in Love and Mrs Brown, while his RSC credits included Richard III and Macbeth. He has also appeared in TV series including The History Man and the BBC’s Murphy’s Law.
Once described by Prince Charles as his favorite actor, Sir Antony has played many of Shakespearean great roles, from King Lear to Shylock.
But it was his portrayal of Richard III as an evil hunchback on crutches that earned him an Olivier Award in 1985.
Actor John Simm paid tribute on Instagram, sharing a memorable image of Sir Antony as Richard III, describing him as “one of the greatest theatrical actors I have ever seen”.
Simm described Sir Antony as “a huge inspiration, a huge talent”.
Writer and producer Russell T Davies, who created It’s A Sin, commented, “He’s a wonderful man,” while the National Theater added: “With the tragic death of Antony Sher, one of the great titans of the theater has left us”.
Writing on Twitter, choreographer Sir Matthew Bourne said: “Terribly sad … My thoughts are with Greg and everyone who loved Sir Antony – a truly great loss.”
Actor Samuel West said in a tribute to the Twitter thread that many of his performances “remain with me after decades – Macbeth, Stanley, Arturo Ui, Torch Song Trilogy, Cyrano – and today dozens of them are remembered, in every genre and style. The mark of a true artist”.
Singer Gary Kemp of Spandeau Ballet said some of his “most powerful theatrical experiences” had taken place while watching Sir Antony.
Sir Antony, who grew up in South Africa, joined the RSC in 1982, winning an Olivier Award in 1985 for Richard III.
In his early teens he had diction lessons, which helped him overcome the shyness he experienced as a boy.
But he almost gave up his acting career after an initial rejection by the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (Rada) in London.
“That was my start in this country and I took waste very seriously”, he told The Telegraph in 2018,
“I thought the examiners knew best, but my mother, who was a very ambitious Jewish woman, was absolutely determined they were wrong and kept me going. I honestly think I would have given up if it wasn’t for her.”
“Never went to university”
Sir Antony became an Honorary Associate Artist with the RSC, based in Stratford-upon-Avon in Warwickshire.
In 2010, she told the BBC about her first visit there and described it as one of the most meaningful experiences of her life.
Five years later, he challenged the view of Downton Abbey creator Julian Fellowes that college education was required to properly understand Shakespeare.
“I’m sorry, that’s nonsense,” Sir Antony said in an interview with BBC’s Sue MacGregor.
“I’ve never gone to college, but my work as a Shakespeare actor – and I’ve done many now – is working hard to convey meaning.”
He added, “It’s not a degree you need, it’s the art of speaking Shakespeare, which we at RSC work very hard at.”
Sir Antony was knighted in 2000 and in 2005, with Mr Doran, whom she met at the RSC, she became one of the first gay couples to form a civil partnership in the UK.
The RSC said Doran will remain on compassionate leave and is expected to return to work in 2022.
Fellow actor and playwright John Kani said in a tribute: “Both Tony Sher and I were born when our country, South Africa, was the worst place for a child to be born, let alone being raised by parents who worked very hard. to prepare their children for a difficult future – Apartheid South Africa By the grace of his God and my ancestors, such as Romeo and Juliet, we met in 1973.
“We traveled together as compatriots, companions in the struggle for a better South Africa, as fellow artists … I am at peace with you my friend and with myself. Come out, my king. Your brother.”
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