DAVID RYALL 08 March 1930 - 25 December 2014
David Ryall as Lear in Darker Purpose Theatre's King Lear at the Cockpit, March 2014. Photograph copyright of Robert Workman
One of the UK’s most consistently working actors, on both stage and screen, David Ryall had a five-decade career across film, TV and theatre and, perhaps more importantly, was liked and respected by all who met him.
David received a scholarship to RADA in 1962, during which time he won the Caryl Brahams Award for a musical. He then began his career with the National Theatre, where he became one of its most distinguished character actors appearing in work throughout his life including Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, Jumpers, The Royal Hunt of the Sun, Animal Farm, and Richard Eyre’s revival of Guys and Dolls.
Ryall continued to be a regular face in the theatre, but his film and TV career took off and his face is very familiar from work in TV shows including The Village, The Singing Detective, Holby City, Morse, Goodnight Sweetheart, Trollied, and the original version of House Of Cards. He also played Churchill three times in separate television projects.
His film career was equally varied with roles in The Elephant Man, Around the World in 80 Days, and Truly, Madly, Deeply. In recent years, he was particularly well known for his role as the Grandfather in Outnumbered and for his cameo as Elphias Doge in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.
He was an actor with ‘twinkling charm’ and a ‘lightness and musicality’ to his voice, and his final film part was a wonderful role in Dustin Hoffman’s Quartet where he and Trevor Peacock regale an audience with Are You Havin' Any Fun imploring them to live life to the full. What better epitaph for a man who loved what he did, and was in turn loved by all who worked with him.
A tribute from Edward Kemp
I had the immense privilege of working with David twice in the 1990s. The first time was at the RSC where he played God in a version of the medieval Mystery Plays I adapted for Katie Mitchell. David in many ways not only led the company but became the spirit of the production: provocative, thoughtful, joyous, mischievous; his God, whom one could easily imagine making Creation in his shed out of old bits of bicycle, a tea chest and some Swarfega, was quite literally wonder-full.
He displayed the same mixture of gruffness and twinkle as Charon the ferryman of the Dead in Tom Stoppard’s The Invention of Love in which I later worked with him at the National. Around these experiences we developed a vibrant correspondence – we were the only two members of the Mystery cast who were regularly on email (it was the mid 90s) – and plotted numerous future projects. I was so pleased that he did finally get to play Lear – though sorry I didn’t get to direct him in it.