Roger Lloyd-Pack: Character actor who will be forever remembered as the lugubrious but lovable Trigger in 'Only Fools and Horses'
Thursday 16 January 2014
Only Fools and Horses was defined by its central duo, Del Boy and Rodney, but its cast of minor characters also did much to cement its appeal in the popular imagination – none more so than Trigger, the lugubrious, lovable and dimwitted roadsweeper played by Roger Lloyd-Pack, who has died of pancreatic cancer three weeks before his 70th birthday.
Good-natured but slow on the uptake, Colin "Trigger" Ball famously always referred to Rodney (Nicholas Lyndhurst) as "Dave". When Rodney was an expectant father, Trigger remarked, "If it's a girl they're calling her Sigourney, after an actress. And if it's a boy they're calling him Rodney, after Dave."
A mainstay of the series, Lloyd-Pack – who described the fame he accrued from playing Trigger as "a blessing and a curse" – was the only character apart from Del Boy and Rodney who featured in both the first and last episode (it ran from 1981 until 2003), and he was alongside David Jason in the sequence voted the funniest comedy scene in the history of British television, in which Del Boy, leaning against the bar at the Nag's Head, fails to notice that the bar-flap has been raised and takes his famous straight-backed tumble.
He may be remembered almost as much for his long-running role in The Vicar of Dibley, in which he played Owen Newitt, the farmer and parish councillor with the earthy manner, poor personal hygiene and a certain love for his animals – on rumours that the vicar was lesbian he pronounced it as "the best news since they made having sex with animals legal again."
Internationally, he is probably best known as the ruthless head of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement, Barty Crouch Snr, in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. Among other films he made were Interview with the Vampire: The Vampire Chronicles, Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy and Made in Dagenham. He also enjoyed a successful theatre career, utilising to great effect the same downbeat demeanour that made Trigger so memorable.
In the 1970s he did much good work with the Joint Stock company under William Gaskill and Max Stafford-Clark, while in 1984 he stood out as Victor in One for the Road, Harold Pinter's one-act play about torture (he also twice appeared in The Caretaker). Two years later he was acclaimed as the dying Franz Kafka in the premiere of Alan Bennett's Kafka's Dick. In 1996 he was commended by the critic Michael Coveney as a "resonant" Oberon in A Midsummer Night's Dream , and as a keen poker player he was perfect in the 2007 revival of Patrick Marber's Dealer's Choice. More recently he won praise as Sir Andrew Aguecheek in the Globe Theatre production of Twelfth Night alongside Stephen Fry and Mark Rylance.
He was born in Islington in north London in 1944, the son of the actor Charles Lloyd-Pack, who made his name in Hammer horror films. After attending Bedales school in Hampshire, Roger studied at Rada and made his theatre debut in Northampton in a production of The Shoemaker's Holiday by the Elizabethan playwright Thomas Dekker. His first television role was uncredited – as a man walking a dog in The Avengers in 1965 – and he made his film debut with a small part in the adaptation of John Fowles' novel The Magus. He established a reputation as a fine character actor, mixing stage work with a succession of small parts on television in programmes like Within These Walls, Crown Court and Softly Softly:Taskforce before his breakthrough in Only Fools And Horses.
He kept busy after Only Fools... and Vicar of Dibley. In 2005 he appeared in Doc Martin as a farmer who held a grudge against Doctor Ellingham, played by Martin Clunes, for what he believed was the malpractice-related death of his wife. In 2006 he was in two episodes of Doctor Who, "Rise of the Cybermen" and "The Age of Steel", opposite David Tennant, who had played Barty Crouch Jnr in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.
His daughter Emily Lloyd followed him into acting, and was catapulted into early stardom when she forsook her GCSEs in favour of taking the lead role in David Leland's Wish You Were Here in 1987, loosely based on the memoirs of the former madam, Cynthia Payne.
A staunch Labour supporter – until last year, when he called for a new party of the left – Lloyd-Pack had a formidable hinterland of political awareness: in 1997, for example, he turned up in court to see the freeing of the Bridgewater Three, who had served 18 years for a murder they hadn't committed. He said he had gone "to see the judges eat their words". In 2003 he delivered a withering verdict on the state visit of President Bush: "I'm really upset and offended by his visit," he said. "It is quite clear that the world is so much more a dangerous place ,,, All those empty words about winning the war on terror."
Last year he was a signatory to the "No Glory" campaign set up to counteract the official narrative of this year's programme to mark the centenary of the First World War. "I would rather see what is such a large amount of money in straitened times being spent on helping soldiers who have been injured in the Iraq and Afghan wars, as well as on initiatives to promote peace," he said. CND marked his death by posting a picture of him campagning against Trident.
Roger Lloyd-Pack, actor: born London 8 February 1944; married 1967 Sheila Ball (divorced 1972; one daughter), 2000 Jehane Markham (three sons); died London 15 January 2014.
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