Obituary: Agnes Lauchlan

Click to follow
The Independent Online
Agnes Lauchlan, actress: born 10 February 1905; died 28 August 1993.

AN ENGLISH eccentric if ever there was one, the actress Agnes Lauchlan was a funny person, an odd-bod, immensely tall and not like the other girls, over whom she usually towered.

As a comedienne this was not always an advantage. When playing Brigette Blair, an especially eccentric lady, in 1956 in Peter Coke's Fool's Paradise, she was fantastically dressed by Tony Walton. It had not been an easy part to cast. Our star, the forceful comedienne Cicely Courtneidge, insisted we find someone who was 'a funny person'. Lauchlan seemed exactly right. When we opened at the Apollo Theatre we realised our star was clearly not best pleased to find another 'funny person' in the cast. In some mysterious way Cis Courtneidge made sure that the expected laughs never flowed in the direction of Lauchlan.

Among many notable appearances she was hilariously unhappy as Helena in the starrily cast Oliver Messel / Tyrone Guthrie A Midsummer Night's Dream at the Old Vic in 1937. She must have been a glorious Madam Arcarti when she took over the part from Margaret Rutherford in Noel Coward's Blithe Spirit at the Duchess Theatre during the war as it neared its 2,000th performance.

During her long career, which began with a walk-on part in Shaw's Saint Joan at the New Theatre (now the Albery) in 1924, she played in classics and modern plays, usually comedies. She was in the two London productions of Hugh Walpole's The Cathedral in 1932 - a play surely worth reviving. She made an amusing impression as the forgetful Hilda in the 1940 revival of Dodie Smith's Dear Octopus. She is still remembered for her throaty and raunchy Nurse, with Renee Asherson as her tiny Juliet, at the King's, Hammersmith, in 1946. She was with George Devine's English Stage Company for the first four plays which began the revival of modern British theatre at the Royal Court. Her television appearances included Dr Finlay's Casebook.

Her friends included the colourful multi-millionaire Nubar Gulbenkian. They were a splendid sight when he picked her up at the stage door in his 'basketweave' private black cab, sporting his uniform top hat and old-fashioned frock coat with an orchid in his buttonhole, and whisked her off to supper at the Ritz.