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Tributes to Richard Briers
5:51pm Friday 22nd February 2013 in News
TOWN thespians have paid tribute to much-loved comedy star Richard Briers who died this week.
The Good Life actor was the patron of Ledbury Amateur Dramatic Society and he opened the town’s new theatre as its VIP guest.
The Market Theatre’s artistic director, Paul Graham and his wife Elaine remembered the star with affection.
He said: “It’s very sad to hear he’s gone. He was obviously very supportive of this theatre.
“We stayed in touch, exchanging Christmas cards, and I heard he was ill before Christmas.”
She said: “He was a really nice person, and his death seems very sudden.”
On his first visit, in 1999, he formally accepted the keys to Market Theatre, as its patron and opened the theatre the following year.
His last visit came in 2004, when an audience enjoyed the fund-raising event, “An Evening with Richard Briers”.
Mr Briers played to a packed Market Theatre and charmed and enchanted the audience for almost two hours.
He surprised the audience by saying he did not think that Tom Good, his character in The Good Life, was ultimately a likeable character, - because he roped others, including his wife, into his selfish vision and used his friends' goodwill to survive.
Mr Briers was an enthusiast of Victorian theatre and on the night he was able to give a convincing impersonation of the great thespian Henry Irving performing his melodrama, The Bells.
He died on Monday, at the age of 79, having battled a serious lung condition for a number of years.
Apart from The Good Life, Mr Briers is best known for his role in Ever Decreasing Circles, Smee in the film Peter Pan and Monarch of the Glen.
A DVD of the film "Peter Pan", signed by Richard Briers, has always been the prized possession of a star-struck Ledbury schoolgirl.
But with the death of the comedy legend this week, it now means so much more to Isabella Bills-Geddes, aged ten.
Isabella, the daughter of reporter Gary Bills-Geddes, could not attend "An Evening With Richard Briers" at the Market Theatre in 2004, because she was only two years old.
But her parents managed to chat with the actor in the foyer, and he gladly signed the DVD, writing "Dear Isabella, lots of love, Richard Briers (Smee) X."
Isabella, who attends Ledbury Primary School, said: "I will always keep the DVD. It has always been special to me, and even more so now."
Gary Bills-Geddes said: "I think Richard Briers was charmed to hear the film meant so much to a two year old, and that Smee, one of Captain Hook's bungling crew, was one of Isabella's favourite characters.
"He was exactly as I imagined him to be, friendly, smiling and courteous at all times, although he confessed that he thought that Peter Pan, in places, was a strange and disturbing tale.
"Later, on stage, I gained the clear impression of a serious actor who really thought about his characters and scripts, until they were completely alive to him, warts and all."