RONNIE BARKER O.B.E.
1929 - 2005
RONNIE BARKER, who died on 3rd October 2005, had been a Patron of The Young Theatre for twelve years, from 1972 to 1984, and his daughter Charlotte was an active member of YT for a number of years. Showbiz tributes abound, but Jacquie Russell, who was also a member of The Young Theatre at that time and who acted with Charlotte in a number of productions, writes from a YT perspective:
“I first met Ronnie Barker when his daughter Charlotte wanted to join YT North Harrow, and he came along to see what we were all about. He sat through a session of mime and improvisation, and obviously liked what he saw, as not only did Charlotte join us, but Ronnie became a quiet but steady supporter of all we did. This was very important to us in YT, because, as a youth theatre group, we were viewed with a certain amount of suspicion by many adults! To have Ronnie Barker there backing us was a huge morale booster to us all.
“Often, he would arrive to pick Charlotte up a bit before the end of our meeting, and would sit quietly at the back of the hall - writing. No doubt many of the Two Ronnies sketches were born there, and I wonder how many of our mannerisms were incorporated into them!
“Ronnie came to all our shows, but always slipped into a seat at the back and left as the curtain fell. We knew he was a shy man and didn't want all the fuss that there would be if he was recognised, but later, with maturity, I realised that he also didn't want to take the focus away from us. It was our show and nothing should detract from that.
“He was a great comedy actor and a good friend to YT. The world has become a greyer place with his passing.”
Ian R. Wallace also writes:-
“Living as he did in Pinner, Ronnie Barker popped in, more than occasionally, to the War on Want shop where my mother worked part-time. He was constantly on the lookout for old postcards to add to his collection of saucy seaside ones, and my mother used to put any albums that came into the shop to one side for him - something that he clearly appreciated! And when he was developing his character Piggy Malone for the serial-sketch in the Two Ronnies, he spent some time searching the clothing racks in the shop before finding the hat and coat that were to become Piggy's trademarks.
“Ronnie Barker has rightly been acknowledged as a character actor of the highest quality - an actor who specialised in comedy - and he was also a clever, erudite and extremely funny writer who manipulated the English language with great skill and wit. With these two outstanding talents, he was responsible for so many of those great comedy highlights that will remain in our memories for many years. There will never be another Ronnie Barker. We will miss him and his great talent.
“The Young Theatre was very honoured to have him as one of our patrons.
“Our thoughts are with his wife Joy, his two sons, Larry & Adam, and of course Charlotte.”
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