Following the death of Harry Potter actor Richard Griffiths, tributes have been paid to him by the great and the good from the UK theatrical world.
Griffiths' Yorkshire childhood certainly had its difficulties, as both his steelworker father, Thomas, and his mother Jane, were deaf. As a young boy, he was obliged to learn sign language to communicate with both parents. He departed his Catholic ethos school at 15 to take drama classes at Stockton and Billingham Technical College. Later he would became a student at Manchester Polytechnic drama school.
In Manchester, he acted in local theatres and secured a minor role in It Shouldn't Happen to a Vet (1977). It was his work at the RSC that saw him finbaly make his mark on the British stage, some years before film work. Many will recall his outstanding role as Monty in Bruce Robinson's affectionate and quirky work of genius, Withnail and I (1987). Years later again, he found a much younger audience to enthrall in Harry Potter.
In The Guardian, Michael Billington referred to the three times in recent years in which Griffiths stopped a performance to complain against interruption from mobile phones. "But he was not an actor who will be remembered for his indignation, " writes Hare. " What we shall all recall, with pleasure, is his silvery voice, his genial presence and his priceless ability to empathise with characters who, for whatever reason, exist somewhere on the margins of conventional society." Billington - who is The Guardian's noted film critic - also wrote: "Richard could play great cleverness because he was greatly clever."
Veteran UK writer and stage and film director David Hare has honoured the 65-year old actor with a touching paean, also in The Guardian. "I came to value his lavishly illustrated letters as much as the unwearable neckties he used to paint for me. Whether you knew him as a companion or as a member of the audience, Richard's gift was always to elicit love."