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JOYCE GRANT (d.2006)

JOYCE GRANT(1924-2006)

Kit Emmet wonders if many members (other than Diana Benn and herself) remember Joyce Grant, whose death was announced in August. She was Hecuba in The Questors 1944 production of The Trojan Women and returned to The Questors briefly in the 1960s.

THE STAGE, 25 August 2006

Much loved comic actress Joyce Grant appeared in a string of West End hits, including Six and a Tanner, Something’s Afoot, Death Trap, The Club and Tonight at 8.30.

Born in South Africa on January 23, 1924 she and her two brothers grew up on a farm. She became interested in the theatre from an early age and encouraged by her family, she went to London to train at the Central School of Speech and Drama. She returned to South Africa and appeared in several local productions, including Come Back, Little Sheba.

In the fifties she moved back to London where she worked with the director James Roose-Evans on several occasions, including his West End production of The Happy People and, in the seventies, in Coward revivals The Vortex and Fallen Angels at Greenwich. She worked at the National Theatre for Michael Rudman and appeared opposite Frankie Howerd on Broadway in Rockefeller and the Red Indians. At the RSC she stole most of the notices when she appeared as Glinda in the company’s production of The Wizard of Oz.

She began appearing on television in 1965 in Gideon’s Way and among her numerous other credits were Six Dates With Barker, Keep it in the Family, The Liver Birds, The Sweeney, Hi-de-Hi! and Blackadder.

She had been suffering from cancer for several years and died on July 11, aged 82. She is survived by her long time companion Jean Ridge.

THE TIMES, 8 August 2006

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 audiences in the RSC’s production of The Wizard of Oz.

When, finally, she decided to retire from the stage she became a “buddy” to HIV positive patients at the Light-house 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.

[The Questors Club Magazine 14, October 2006]