Many stage and TV credits, but no films....

The Times

August 07, 2006

Joyce Grant

January 23, 1924 - July 11, 2006

Comic actress whose boundless and honed humour created characters that 'ran away with the play'

TOWARDS the end of the 1950s theatre audiences and critics soon became aware that Joyce Grant was one of the funniest actresses on the London stage.

In Six and a Tanner at the Arts Theatre she reduced audiences to hysteria, but it was An Evening of British Rubbish which catapulted her career forward. She created a whole cavalcade of characters from frenzied orchestral conductors and galumphing ballet dancers, to good and bad fairies; later she also played Glinda, the good fairy, to delighted audiencies in the RSC’s production of The Wizard of Oz.

NI_MPU('middle');A larger than life character, she nonetheless thought of herself as “a simple farm girl?. Born in Bloemfontein, South Africa, in 1924, she and her two brothers used to ride horses on their father’s farm. She was determined to become an actress and, encouraged by her father, she came to London to study acting at the Central School of Speech and Drama. She returned to South Africa to begin her acting career and is still remembered there for her performances as Lola in Come Back Little Sheba, and Laura in The Glass Menagerie.

At the end of the 1950s she returned to London permanently. In Jack Pulman’s The Happy Apple, directed in the West End by James Roose-Evans, Grant’s remarkable singing voice nightly brought the house down with her rendering of Mozart’s Eine Kleine Nacht Musik. Other West End performances included Something’s Afoot, Death Trap, The Club, Tonight at Eight-thirty, and a season at the National Theatre with Michael Rudman, as well as at the RSC. She also played opposite Frankie Howerd on Broadway in Rockefeller and the Red Indians.

She appeared in two Coward revivals at Greenwich, again directed by James Roose-Evans; The Vortex, and Fallen Angels. Of the latter, Harold Hobson in The Sunday Times wrote: “The most shocking, but now thoroughly boring, drunken ladies in Coward’s Fallen Angels stand no chance at all against Joyce Grant’s omni-competent maid Saunders, who has met everybody, been everywhere and knows everything. Saunders is a genuine comic creation and runs away with the play.?

When, finally, she decided to retire from the stage she became a “buddy? to HIV positive patients at the Lighthouse in London. At a recent reunion of buddies and patients one remarked on Grant’s “words of wisdom, leavened with laughter.?

During the last nine years of her life she suffered from various illnesses including, at the end, cancer. Yet she remained always outgoing. Determined to broaden her outlook she took various courses at the City Literary Institute and at the University of the Third Age. She owed much to her companion of many years, Jean Ridge, and their home became a haven for many, filled with lively conversation, gossip and laughter.

Joyce Grant, actress, was born on January 23, 1924. She died on July 11, 2006, aged 82.