Obituary: David Barclay

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The Independent Online
David Barclay, actor, dancer, choreographer: born Bellshill, Motherwell 11 September 1938; died London 30 March 1993.

OF THE theatre artists who die young, the famous are remembered in obituaries. But many on the way to fame, the wealth of the profession, stay unrecorded. David Barclay, actor, dancer, choreographer and talented creator of artefacts, symbolises this lost wealth.

Trained at the Glasgow School of Art and the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama, he retained all his life the legacy of this dual schooling. What he made with his hands could match, even exceed, his considerable achievements with body and voice on stage.

He was blessed with remarkable good looks, but a self-denying temperament never allowed him to exploit this advantage. Whether backstage among fellow artists, in digs on tour or at home in London, his spare time went on making things for others and looking after those who were sick, disabled or elderly. Rarely did he talk about himself.

Sometimes depressed by the economic uncertainty and social isolation of theatre life, he never lost his delight in performance nor the excitement of make up, illusion, and public acclaim. As an actor, dancer and mime he could win instant audience rapport. As a choreographer his rare skill and clever jokes in comedy movement often outplayed the verbal gags of comics. His art was to interpret creatively the dance love of millions in discos and dance halls.

I met him first in the late 1960s when he became briefly an actor with my Ballet For All group at the Royal Opera House, working also with our wardrobe and stage staff. His dual talent brought him to the notice of commercial managements. He worked with and learned from Pauline Grant, appearing as Dame Trot and Nupe the witch doctor, in her record-breaking pantomime Robinson Crusoe. He played Eddie and Dr Scott in the Rocky Horror Show, which he choreographed. He was the wicked witch in the Wizard of Oz and Potiphar in John Newman's production of Joseph And The Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat which again he choreographed.

His closest partnership was with Anita Harris. With her he appeared in 14 pantomimes, choreographing six, all of which broke theatre box-office records. His squires, dames, wicked barons and other characters touched audiences in musical shows around Britain. 'He was one of those creative performers,' said Anita Harris, 'whose presence on stage encouraged others to perform their best. Backstage he could transform the unlikeliest material into something brilliant.'

He was offered a substantial film role and it seemed he would make the big time. Instead he died courageously after a long, preventable


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