Much-loved stage and screen actor Richard Briers has died aged 79, his agent has confirmed.
Briers is reported to have died yesterday (17 February) following a long battle with the lung condition emphysema.
Known to millions of British TV fans for his roles in hit series such as The Good Life and Monarch of the Glen, Briers returned regularly to the stage throughout his career.
His theatre credits included notable productions of The Norman Conquests, The Real Inspector Hound, Run for Your Wife, Bedroom Farce and, most recently, London Assurance at the National Theatre. On film, he appeared in Henry V, Much Ado About Nothing, Hamlet, Peter's Friends, Frankenstein and A Midwinter's Tale.
Tributes have been pouring in on Twitter. Stephen Fry, who starred alongside Briers in Peter's Friends, called him "the most adorable and funny man imaginable".
Born in 1934 in London, Briers trained at RADA and made his first West End appearance in 1958 following spells at Liverpool Playhouse and the Belgrade Theatre, Coventry. He went on to form a long association with Alan Ayckbourn, appearing in several major productions of his plays including his 'breakthrough' role in Relatively Speaking in 1967.
He later joined Kenneth Branagh's Rennaisance Theatre Company alongside Judi Dench and Derek Jacobi, taking roles in productions of Uncle Vanya, Coriolanus, Twelfth Night and King Lear. Branagh said today: "He was a national treasure, a great actor and a wonderful man. He was greatly loved and he will be deeply missed."
Whatsonstage.com chief critic Michael Coveney writes:
'Much-loved actor' can be a cliche, but in the case of Richard Briers it was indisputably true. Because of his outwardly cheerful disposition, people perhaps didn't realise what a good actor he was, said John Gielgud. Noel Coward, whom he revered, was a great fan, too. And even the bad reviews managed to sound complimentary: he played Hamlet like a demented typewriter, said W A Darlington of the Telegraph.
He seemed to bid farewell to the stage as a touring Prospero ten years ago, but popped up unexpectedly, and delightfully, at the National in 2010 as the garrulous old military relic, Adolphus Spanker, in Nicholas Hytner's production of London Assurance.
He was marvellous company offstage as well as on, though his features darkened when he told me that people used to be magical because they were on television, but that, now, "nobody's magical because everyone's on television."