Tragedy of the successful actor who set herself such high standards

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The Independent Online

Although not a household name, Fritha Goodey boasted an impressive CV for a rising actor and was on the brink of what many saw as the biggest breakthrough of her professional career.

But underneath her warm and friendly exterior was someone whose dedication to her craft appeared to have made her fearful she was not meeting her own high standards. She also for many years had suffered from anorexia, her family disclosed last night, which had added to her lack of self esteem.

Many believe that is why, sometime on Tuesday, she committed suicide by stabbing herself, leaving family, friends and colleagues in a state of shock.

A memorial service was being planned last night for the actor, who was widely liked and respected within the profession and whose death was seen to be completely out of character.

Goodey, 31, who had appeared in a large number of film, stage and television parts, was in the middle of rehearsals for her major part in a new production of Terence Rattigan's play, Man and Boy, starring opposite David Suchet and directed by Maria Aitken. The play was due to open in Guildford later this month before making a provincial tour and possibly transferring to the West End.

Her body was discovered by her father at her flat near Ladbroke Grove in west London in the early hours of Wednesday morning. He had gone there after she had failed to make contact with her family.

Police confirmed that the death was not being treated as suspicious and an investigation was being conducted for the coroner. She is believed to have left a suicide note.

Although the contents of the note have not been disclosed, colleagues yesterday said she imposed high standards on herself which often put her under pressure to succeed and that she had a fear of failure. One colleague said it was a standing joke among the other actors that she was always the first one to arrive at rehearsals.

Her agent, Michael Emptage, said yesterday:"Although I don't think she had any more problems than any other actor and was very talented, she did set very high standards for herself. She wanted to do a good job, she wanted to achieve a result."

Di Trevis, the director who discovered her while she was still a student at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art, said: "I think she may have felt she wasn't meeting her own exacting standards. She fought a terrible battle against anorexia for many years. I think the demons she had tried to control finally overwhelmed her."

Ms Trevis said she believed that pressures to succeed may have played their part. "I think we have to ask ourselves whether a system that doesn't allow actors time to grow in repertory companies, which don't really exist anymore, is the best way. Fritha went straight into working with Max Stafford-Clark [the acclaimed director] right from college and then she went into the National. That's quite a start for anyone. We are putting them under the most immense pressure these days.''

She said that, ironically, there was no suggestion that Ms Goodey was having problems with her part in Man and Boy. "I don't think she was having any trouble. I know that they adored her and were very pleased to get her for the part.''

Neither was there any outward sign of distress: "I know she was fine at the weekend because a friend bumped into her shopping in Hammersmith on Saturday and said she seemed her normal happy self.''

Also, according to friends and colleagues, there was no other apparent reason for her death, such as a relationship breakdown. One said: 'She was never depressive or tense - if anything she was the opposite. She was full of life and the kind of person who always sent you little notes.'' She was said to be a well-rounded person, with a love of books and gardening and had a close relationship with her "warm and loving" family.

Her father, Glenn, is a journalist and former news editor of The Sun. Mr Goodey, his wife, Sally, and their other daughter, Tabitha, were all said to be in a state of distress yesterday.

Ms Goodey, who was born and educated in London, was spotted by Ms Trevis while in her second year at Lamda. She attended workshops run by the director, who later cast her in her 2000 adaptation, with Harold Pinter, of Proust's Remembrance of Things Past, where her performance as Odette was well received. By that time she had also appeared in Some Explicit Polaroids at the New Ambassadors, written by Mark Ravenhill and directed by Stafford-Clark. She also went on to appear in several other National productions, including She Stoops to Conquer and Romeo and Juliet.

Her television work included parts in Roger Roger, Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased) and Stephen Poliakoff's The Lost Prince. She also had small parts in About a Boy, the film of the Nick Hornby novel, which starred Hugh Grant, and in the remake of Alfie, with Jude Law.

Toby Whale, the casting director of the National, said: "It is a tragedy. She was a lovely person, well liked, talented and had the ability to go to the highest levels of her profession.''

Ms Trevis added: "I know our profession is given to hyperbole, but it is true to say that she was most sweet natured, very beautiful, fantastically intelligent person and her death is a terrible loss.''