Theatre in Wales

Commentary and extended critical writing on theatre, dance and performance in Wales

Philip Madoc

Obituaries from Meic Stephens & Others

Philip Madoc was born July 5 1934 and died March 5 2012.

Like many of the best young actors of his era Philip Madoc spent an early time at the Birmingham Rep. Its reputation then was as the best theatre outside London. He did Aristophanes, Shakespeare, Sheridan, Chekhov. I was a few miles away, at primary school; by the time I was being taken once or twice a year he had moved on. I had a period of being taken to Stratford. He too was with the RSC, most notably in “Measure for Measure”, but the two periods did not overlap, so that I never saw him live.

As a small item of theatre history he was at the Duke of Yorks' Theatre in 1997. The event was Ed Thomas' “Gas Station Angel” and Philip Madoc was alongside Simon Harris, Jason Hughes, Sharon Morgan and Michael Sheen.

The obituaries naturally emphasised the television work. Meic Stephens for “the Independent” started off with memory of a live event:

“When the actor Philip Madoc was awarded an honorary degree by the University of Glamorgan in 2001 he told the congregation that, in his time, he had played many distinguished parts – Lloyd George, Hitler, Trotsky, Othello, Dr Faustus, the Master of the Universe – but that he considered the honour now conferred upon him to be the greatest of all. The rapt attention with which his acceptance speech was heard was a mark not only of his stage presence but of the man's wit, modesty and natural charm. After the ceremony, he was mobbed by the graduates, their parents and teaching staff alike.

“..He was born Phillip Jones in Twynyrodyn, an old iron-making village high on the hill above Merthyr Tydfil, in 1934. He found himself interested in drama as a teenager at Cyfarthfa Castle School but trained as a linguist at the University College, Cardiff, and the University of Vienna, where he learned enough German to make his later appearances in Wehrmacht uniform utterly convincing and where he was the first foreign student to be awarded the Diploma of the Interpreters' Institute.

“...His television appearances were counted in the hundreds and all played with the same brooding intensity that he was so good at. He made five episodes of The Avengers, and four of Doctor Who in the days when Tom Baker played the Doctor (he also appeared in the Dr Who film Daleks' Invasion Earth 2050AD, with Peter Cushing as the Doctor). More meaty roles came his way in A Very British Coup, The Saint, Porridge, The Sweeney, Maigret, A Bouquet of Barbed Wire, The Goodies, Brother Cadfael, Midsomer Murders and Casualty, in the 12th episode of which he played an uncooperative, disabled old man to memorable effect. Indeed, it sometimes seemed a cameo role had been reserved for Madoc in just about every British TV series, and he was rarely out of work.

“...But the performance that made him a household name in Wales was the part of Lloyd George. The drama-doc The Life and Times of David Lloyd George (1981) began with the politician's boyhood in Llanystumdwy, where he was baptised in the river from which, as Earl Lloyd-George of Dwyfor, he was to take his title, through his rapid rise as a Radical Liberal MP, to his Premiership during the Great War and the decline in his influence, and death in 1945. The actor assumed the same pugnacious mien and used his gifts to convey the sonorous magic of Lloyd George's oratory.

“...Madoc was a long-standing member of Plaid Cymru and, although he was never to live in Wales after his early successes, gave generously to the Welsh Nationalist cause. He served as Vice-President of the London Welsh Society and the London Welsh Male Voice Choir. He was a fine reader of Welsh poetry and a popular narrator of audiobooks. Among the religious texts he recorded were certain Buddhist writings, to which he felt himself drawn in later life. Unlike his first wife, Ruth Madoc, who as the lovelorn Gladys put on a comic Welsh accent in Hi-di-Hi!, he had a naturally mellifluous voice able to convey the subtleties and emotional power of what he was reading with a rare intelligence and without histrionics.

The Telegraph remembered more of the stage and radio work.

“Madoc’s range as an actor was far more extensive than this incident would suggest. When once asked by a journalist why he had entered the profession, Madoc’s eyes misted over : “Prospero’s final speech in The Tempest and the chance of doing it properly is the reason I became an actor. You put up with all the hassle which accompanies this business – the disappointments, the insecurity, the frustrations – for speeches and roles like that.

“...He was offered a job lecturing at Gothenburg University, but decided on a change of course and applied successfully for a scholarship at Rada. Madoc went on to take many leading stage roles, among them as Iago in Othello; Antony in Antony and Cleopatra; George in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?; the Duke in Measure for Measure; Macbeth; Shylock; and Falstaff in The Merry Wives of Windsor.

“With his sonorous voice, Madoc was particularly prolific in audio, recording the works of Dylan Thomas; Morte d’Arthur; Gibbon’s Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire; The Canterbury Tales; and many others. For BBC Radio he played King Lear, and Prospero in The Tempest; recently he had portrayed Stalin in Life and Fate.”

The Guardian obituary included a focus on the time with the RSC.

“His stage career came back into impressive focus, too, when he joined the Royal Shakespeare Company to play Professor Raat in The Blue Angel and the Duke in Measure for Measure. These productions, both directed by Trevor Nunn, opened the new Other Place in Stratford-upon-Avon in 1991, a comfortable brick building replacing the old tin shack without losing the old atmosphere.

"Both plays explored the tragic effects of awakening sexual obsession in a moral climate of distorted respectability; Madoc's humiliated professor was a beautifully modulated performance of a pathetic creature, while his "duke of dark corners" launched a long-range, cunning assault on Claire Skinner's sweet but innately priggish Isabella before coming clean with his immodest proposal.”

The obituaries in full are at:

author:Adam Somerset

original source:
25 March 2012


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