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Stage & screen star Simon Ward dies age 70

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Actor Simon Ward, famous on screen for roles in Young Winston and The Tudors, and on stage for Loot and The Madness of George III, died yesterday (22 July 2012) after a long illness.

Ward, who was 70, made many other theatre appearances, including The Winslow Boy, A Touch of Danger and An Ideal Husband.

He is reported to have passed away peacefully in the company of his wife and daughters. Ward was a founder member of the National Youth Theatre, where he remained between the ages of 13 and 21. He then studied at RADA before graduating to repertory theatres in Birmingham and Oxford with occasional West End credits. His first major role was in an early revival of Orton's Loot at the Jeanette Cochrane Theatre, in which he played the role of Dennis to great acclaim.

Ward notably stepped in to replace Stephen Fry after he controversially disappeared from a West End run of Simon Gray's Cell Mates in 1995 following poor reviews in the press. He described the part as "a poisoned chalice", and the show closed soon after.

The final part he played on stage was title role for the national tour of The Madness of George III in 2010. He was also set to play the part of Alfred Doolittle in last year's West End revival of Pygmalion, but has to withdraw just days before due to illness.

Susan Pengaligon, who starred alongside him, described him as "a witty, frighteningly clever and handsome, complex man who I worked with a lot... He showed such courage because I think he was ill then; he was a very courageous man." Alastair Whatley, who directed The Madness of George III praised Ward for taking on "one of the most challenging roles written in recent years and furthermore agreeing to tour with the production all over England to venues often rather off the beaten track."

Speaking to Whatsonstage.com in an interview last year, Ward said of his long career "keeping going's a great achievement. More and more of one's friends fall off the twig or just don't work any more. One of the great things about the job is you can laugh from ten in the morning to six at night - there's always something funny going on."

Ward is survived by his wife Alexandra, and his daughters Sophie, an actress, Claudia, and Kitty, who is married to comic Michael McIntyre.


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