How swiftly unbridled time gallops away from us; and yet how strong a grip our frail hands keep on the reigns of memory.
The journalist and writer SHARON MAIL became a friend of Ian and his wife, Maroussia, and (as a result of correspondence following the Shadowlands broadcasts) she has since become a friend of mine.
Sharon is currently working on a book in celebration of Ian's life (with contributions from Judi Dench, Helen Mirren, Alex Jennings, Donald Sinden, Peter Hall and other luminaries) and, in today's Guest Blog, Sharon offers this tribute to a great - and greatly-loved - actor...
Tribute and photograph © Sharon Mail, 2008
Ian Richardson’s sudden death, a year ago today, came as a terrible shock to all who knew him. And yet, the fact that he died from heart failure should be no surprise. For Ian put his heart and soul into everything he did. As an actor, he gave his all in every performance, be it on stage or screen, in voice recording or recital.
He always did a vast amount of preparation, so that his performances in roles such as Francis Urquhart in House of Cards (left), Dr Joseph Bell in Murder Rooms, Bill Haydon in Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, Nehru in Mountbatten: The Last Viceroy or Neuheim et al in Private Schulz seemed effortless.
On stage, his Frank Ford in The Merry Wives of Windsor, Berowne in Love’s Labour Lost, Richard and Bolingbroke (alternating with Dickie Pasco) in Richard II and Klestakov in The Government Inspector are but a fraction of the parts he played which remain etched in the memories of those who saw them - commanding, daring and consummate on stage and yet often battling with nerves off it.
When you think of Ian Richardson you think of Francis Urquhart, a ruthless, calculating, heartless monster. And yet Ian’s own persona couldn’t have been more different. He was a tremendously giving person - to his fellow actors and all those he worked with, to the fans who wrote to him and approached him outside stage doors, to his friends and to the wife and family he adored.
He was the most thoughtful, kind-hearted - and often funny - person many of us had the privilege to meet. His loss is still keenly felt, but he has left us a tremendous legacy in the shape of his performances over the best part of five decades and fortunately many of his screen and audio recordings remain available today. His final recording, of Brian’s Shadowlands for Radio 2, was a beautiful, moving epitaph.
It will be impossible to forget him.Ian Richardson
7 April 1934 – 9 February 2007