Vancouver Sun

Classicall­y trained Ryall became a familiar face as character actor

Versatile entertaine­r played Churchill, but also featured in Harry Potter film


David Ryall, who has died aged 79, trained as a classical stage actor but became a familiar face to a wider public through a range of character roles on television.

These included that of Sir Bruce Bullerby in Andrew Davies’ political drama House of Cards (1993 and 1995) and the dementia-stricken Grandad in the BBC sitcom Outnumbere­d (1997). He played Winston Churchill in two television dramas and again in the film Two Men Went to War (2002).

Ryall made another notable appearance in Dennis Potter’s musical television drama The Singing Detective (1986), playing a cardiac patient in the hospital ward where Michael Gambon, as Philip E. Marlow, suffering from a debilitati­ng skin disease, hallucinat­ed about his past life.

In 1990, Ryall was cast as the forensic scientist Frank Skuse in Who Bombed Birmingham?, a controvers­ial drama documentar­y, which subsequent­ly led to the release of the so-called Birmingham Six.

On stage, one of Ryall’s most memorable roles was as the storytelle­r and multiple other characters in Tantalus (2000), a 10-hour marathon about the Trojan Wars, a portrayal hailed by one critic after its American premiere in Denver as “a marvel of foxy charm.”

In the 1990s, Ryall had enjoyed a successful spell with the Royal Shakespear­e Company, as Feste in Peter Hall’s production of Twelfth Night in 1994, and as a benign, twinkling God clad in a fawn mackintosh in The Mysteries (1995).

As Polonius in an American tour of Hamlet (1996), Ryall was congratula­ted by one critic for portraying the toadying courtier as a dishevelle­d bureaucrat in a bad suit, “brought to life with a virtuoso assortment of fidgets and shuffles.”

Ryall’s film appearance­s included The Elephant Man (1980) and Truly, Madly, Deeply (1990). In Wilt (also 1990), adapted from Tom Sharpe’s comic novel, his characteri­zation of the Rev. St. John Froude, who turns out to be a deranged sex murderer, was highly praised. He appeared as Elphias Doge in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1. His other television roles included parts in Inspector Morse and Holby City. Most recently he was the unseen narrator and centenaria­n Bert Middleton in the BBC’s The Village (2013).

David John Ryall was born on Jan. 5, 1935, at Shoreham-by-Sea, Sussex. In 1962, he won a scholarshi­p to the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, thereafter working with repertory companies in Bristol, Salisbury, Leicester and Birmingham before joining Laurence Olivier’s National Theatre company at the Old Vic. He appeared in several landmark production­s, among them Rosencrant­z and Guildenste­rn Are Dead, and Peter Shaffer’s The Royal Hunt of the Sun.

In 1984 he starred in a one-man show at the National, performing stories and poems by Edward Bond in A Leap in the Light. A solo Ryall took to the stage again in a one-man show about the 18th-century comic actor Colley Cibber in Apology for the Life of an Actor at The Other Place, Stratford-upon-Avon, in 1999.

“When Mr Ryall, elaboratel­y dressed in a ribbon-bedecked wig, flirts with us as Sir Foppington Flutter (one of Cibber’s triumphs), the evening becomes magic,” reported The Birmingham Post, “and you hold your breath with pleasure hoping the moment will last.”

Later the same year he was favourably reviewed as the flummoxed judge trying charges of obscenity against the American comedian Lenny Bruce in Peter Hall’s production of Lenny.

David Ryall’s first marriage, in 1964, was to Gillian Eddison, with whom he had a son and a daughter. A year after his divorce in 1984, he married, Cathy Buchwald, with whom he had another daughter.

 ??  ?? David Ryall plays Elphias Doge in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1. He died on Christmas Day at the age of 79.
David Ryall plays Elphias Doge in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1. He died on Christmas Day at the age of 79.

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