Actress Sheila Gish Dies After Cancer Battle, Age 62Date: 11 March 2005
Olivier Award-winning actress Sheila Gish (pictured) died on Wednesday (9 March 2005) after a battle with cancer, which had already robbed her of her right eye. She was 62.
Though she appeared regularly on screen – in films like A Day in the Death of Joe Egg, Quartet, Highlander and Mansfield Park and television series including Love in a Cold Climate, The Blonde Bombshell, Anna Karenina, An Uncertain Feeling and Jewels - it was on stage that Gish worked most regularly and successfully.
Born on 23 April 1942 in Lincoln and trained at RADA, Gish launched her career in repertory theatre and, particularly in the past 20 years, went on to prominent roles at the National, the Royal Court and in the West End.
Her 1996 Olivier, for Best Supporting Performance in a Musical, was for Sam Mendes’ production of Company, which transferred to the West End after the Donmar Warehouse. But it was for straight drama that she was best known. Amongst her many plays were Berenice, Uncle Vanya, Confusions, A Streetcar Named Desire, Les Parents Terribles, What the Butler Saw, Never Land, Suddenly Last Summer and the Edward Albee double bill Finding the Sun/Marriage Play.
Amongst her most recent stage appearances was the title role in 2002’s Phaedra at London’s Riverside Studios, where Whatsonstage.com reviewer Mark Shenton described her “increasingly coming to resemble Bette Davis in full melodramatic vein”.
After losing her eye to a cancerous tumour in 2003, Gish forged ahead in rehearsals and a summer season in The Seagull at Chichester Festival Theatre, “sporting a dramatic black eye patch” in the role of fading actress Madame Arkadina. It was to be her last stage appearance.
- by Terri Paddock