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Double Olivier Winner Margaret Tyzack Dies at 79

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As tweeted last night, Olivier and Tony Award-winning stage and screen actress Margaret Tyzack has passed away. After a short illness, she died “peacefully at home...with her family by her side” on Saturday (25 June 2011).

Born in Essex on 9 September 1931, Tyzack studied at RADA (Royal Academy of Dramatic Art) and, after stints in regional rep, in 1962 joined the Royal Shakespeare Company, where her credits included Summerfolk, Coriolanus, Titus Andronicus and Julius Caesar.

Tyzack won her first Laurence Olivier Award, for Best Actress in a Revival, in 1981 for her performance as Martha in Edward Albee’s Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, directed by Nancy Meckler at the National.

In 1987, she appeared opposite Maggie Smith in the premiere of Peter Shaffer’s English comedy Lettice and Lovage, which was directed by Michael Blakemore and ran for two years at the Gielgud Theatre. When it transferred to Broadway in 1990, American Equity initially denied permission for Tyzack to perform in New York but Smith vetoed doing the production without her. Both women went on to win Tony Awards for their performances, Best Actress in a Play for Smith and Best Featured Actress in a Play for Tyzack.

More recently, Tyzack shared awards glory with another female co-star, Penelope Wilton, in the first major London revival in 50 years of Enid Bagnold’s The Chalk Garden, which ran at the Donmar Warehouse in 2008, helmed by artistic director Michael Grandage. Tyzack and Wilton, who played the monstrous Mrs St Maugham and her granddaughter’s governess respectively, were jointly awarded the Evening Standard Award for Best Actress. Tyzack went on solely to win her second Olivier, this time for Best Actress, for the revival.

Margaret Tyzack in The Chalk Garden

Tyzack's many other stage credits over the years – at the Donmar, National, RSC, Chichester, in the West End and elsewhere - included The Boyfriend, Southwark Fair, As You Desire Me, His Girl Friday, Tartuffe, Auntie & Me, Dorian Gray, The Family Reunion, Give Me Your Answer, Do, Indian Ink, An Inspector Calls, The Importance of Being Earnest, Night Must Fall, Tom and Viv, Richard III, Ghosts, All’s Well That Ends Well and, most recently, opposite Helen Mirren at the National Theatre in 2009, Phedre.

Beyond the stage, Tyzack became a household name in the UK on the small screen, most famously, in 1967, for the BBC’s original adaptation of John Galsworthy’s The Forsyte Saga, in which she played Soames’ sister Winifred.

Her many other television credits included The First Churchills, Cousin Bette, I, Claudius, Nemesis, Quatermass, Charles and Diana, The Young Indiana Jones, Thacker, Family Money, Heartbeat, Our Mutual Friend, Midsomer Murders and, earlier this year for a short stint before illness forced her to withdraw from a regular role, EastEnders.

In addition to her two Oliviers, a Tony and other awards and nominations, Tyzack was appointed an OBE in 1970 and a CBE in 2010, both for services to drama.

In a statement, Tyzack’s agent Pippa Markham said that the “much-loved and respected actress…will be greatly missed by her family and friends and will be remembered for her outstanding contribution to the world of theatre, film and television and for the support and inspiration she gave to young actors. Maggie faced her illness with the strength, courage, dignity and even humour with which she lived her life."


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