After 18 months at the Birmingham Repertory Company, Ian Richardson spent 15 glorious years from 1960 to 1975 (with the odd break for 'good behaviour') gracing the stage with the Royal Shakespeare Company, for whom he was a true star and an inspiration to fellow actors.
It was in Stratford-upon-Avon, in 1960, that he met his beloved wife Maroussia, a fellow member of the Company. In Stratford, fans used to wander past his house in the hope of glimpsing their idol.
His roles for the RSC included Oberon in A Midsummer Night's Dream, Antipholus of Epheseus in The Comedy of Errors, The Herald and Marat in Marat/Sade, Frank Ford in The Merry Wives of Windsor, Chorus in Henry V, Bertram in All's Well That Ends Well, Vendice in The Revenger's Tragedy, Cassius in Julius Caesar, Pericles, Angelo in Measure for Measure, Proteus in The Two Gentlemen of Verona, Prospero in The Tempest, Berowne in Love's Labour's Lost, Richard II and Bolingbroke (alternating with Richard Pasco), Iachimo in Cymbeline and both Buckingham and then the king in Richard III.
National Theatre director Nicholas Hytner begins his recollections of Ian in We Could Possibly Comment by saying, "My earliest memories as a serious theatre-goer are dominated by Ian Richardson’s incandescent performances for the RSC in the late 60’s and early 70’s."
John Sessions recalled, "He was my childhood hero and I’d grown up with all those wonderful performances at the RSC. "
Juliet Stevenson, remembers her first visit to see a professional performance of a Shakespearian play. It was in Stratford, with Ian playing Richard II. She said, "I walked into the theatre that evening one person and came out as another person. That was very largely due to Ian."
Many of his colleagues at the RSC have commented on the profound effect working with Ian had on them - how much they learnt from him, his absolute mastery of Shakespearian verse and technical brilliance and what a wonderful role model he was for fellow Company actors.
It is therefore so touching and appropriate, that Ian's final resting place is Stratford-upon-Avon.
Last November, Maroussia and younger son Miles, who has also acted with the RSC, placed Ian's ashes, with assistance from the construction workers, in the foundations of the Shakespeare Memorial Theatre, currently under reconstruction, Transformation Work, beneath what will be the front of the stalls.
I'm sure I won't be the only person keen to visit the new theatre when it opens next year, both to remember a dear friend, but also in the hope that there will be many glorious productions in the new theatre, worthy of the Company's great name and of a singular actor who gave so many wonderful performances at Stratford.
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