OBITUARY: Dursley McLinden

 

With his dazzling looks, dashing presence and winning charm, Dursley McLinden was the quintessential English juvenile lead. When he appeared in such musicals as Annie, Robert and Elizabeth, Damn Yankees and Gigi (in which he appeared in John Dexter's West End production), he showed himself to be a young performer who could not only sing and dance with charm and skill but one whose personality alone was likely to carry him through a whole succession of leading roles in English musical theatre.

Alas, seven years ago McLinden fell ill. The ambition and energy which he could no longer put at the service of his career he now dedicated to the cause of Aids relief. At the same time he continued doggedly, against all odds, to work as an actor. For the past four years he was a regular member of the company of The Phantom of the Opera, in which he served in a variety of roles, sometimes as understudy, sometimes in the chorus and occasionally, when there was an opportunity and he was fit enough, playing the supporting role of Raoul.

McLinden's natural and very charismatic charm made him an immensely popular member of his profession. Allied with a strong will and an urgent sense of mission it made him one of the moving spirits behind West End Cares, the theatrical wing of the Aids charity Crusaid. West End Cares has raised over pounds 250,000 since it was founded in 1987 and McLinden worked strenuously to achieve this. He was particularly the inspiration behind cabaret nights at Smith's restaurant in Covent Garden two years ago when members of the casts of the big West End musicals put on their own home-grown cabaret shows often to brilliant effect.

For some time McLinden nursed a fierce ambition to produce a special Sunday night charity performance of the Broadway musical Dream Girls. As he rightly thought, this would have been an extraordinary once-only opportunity for Londoners to see a New York show of legendary reputation. Only complex difficulties over the American performing rights prevented him from achieving his dream.

McLinden was born and grew up in Douglas, Isle of Man, and at the age of eight, at Douglas High School, he played the Dame in Dick Whittington. He came to London when he was 16 to train at the Mountview Theatre School and first toured America and Sweden in productions of The Threepenny Opera and Macbeth. Shortly afterwards he won a role in Derek Nimmo's production of The Man Most Likely To . . ., touring the Middle and Far East. His work in repertory included Crucifer of Blood in Ipswich, To Kill a Mocking Bird and Damn Yankees in Birmingham, and Robert and Elizabeth at the Chichester Festival Theatre. He appeared in the West End in Lerner and Loewe's Gigi at the Lyric Theatre, Shaftesbury Avenue, and in Stephen Sondheim's Follies at the Shaftesbury Theatre.

Recently he was seen on television in his film role, the scatter-brained young private eye in Just Ask for Diamond, which perfectly suited the fun and lightness of his personality.

As an enterprising sideline, McLinden had also developed a special skill as an entertaining and adept conjurer, a role which he usually performed for charity and which invariably drew eager volunteers to be sawn in half (his piece de resistance) at theatre garden parties.

His last performance, only 10 weeks ago, was in Andrew Lloyd Webber's The Phantom of the Opera at Her Majesty's, on the night before his 30th birthday.

Dursley McLinden, actor, dancer and singer: born Douglas, Isle of Man 29 May 1965; died London 7 August 1995.

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