Obituary: David Bird

David Laurence Bird, actor, born Dulwich 4 September 1907, married Joyce Wodeman (one son, one daughter), died Kew 10 January 1993.

A FLAVOUR of the roles performed by David Bird may be found amongst Sir Tunbelly Clumsy, Toby Belch, The Devil in Don Juan in Hell, Boniface in The Beaux Stratagem; rollicking parts played with the vocal relish in which Bird revelled. The theatre critic JC Trewin wrote, 'Silky and glutinous, it is a voice like a fine treacle tart with a touch of cherry pie.'

Paradoxically, Bird was a shy and contemplative man. His long, companionable silences often surrounded some distilled profundity which had been teasing his mind and which he wished to hang in the air. He had a formidable intellect, was widely read and had a deep love and knowledge of the pictorial arts.

He was educated at Alleyn's School where the vocal diapason disconcertingly revealed itself during a performance of Euripides' Alcestis in which Bird was cast as the lady herself. From Alleyn's, Bird went up to St Edmund Hall, Oxford, where he read English. He intended to become a writer and after gaining his degree he travelled to Poland as tutor to a family. During his time in Drobnin, he wrote,

At Oxford, for three years I kept myself going with moral slogans which I knew were wrong, I was a failure there. And hurt because I hadn't the stuff to succeed. One evening I wasn't thinking of suicide but I met it, cold and sickening. It was then I realised that I had been insulting some force within myself by allowing myself to be driven to a state where the verdict on that force was death. After that, nothing mattered, results, parents, school authorities, holy platitudes, when all the effect they had was to make me stop living. I regarded this discovery as a challenge, I accepted it.

He celebrated his subsequent life with happiness as a man who had come to terms with his future.

Influenced by James Joyce and Bernard Shaw, he wrote in the form of literary dialogue. When he returned to England in 1932, he joined the backstage staff of the Croydon Repertory Company to study the craft of the playwright. He soon became an actor; the voice projecting his talented and humorous personality. And it was at Croydon that he met Joyce Wodeman, with whom he made a marriage of true minds.

Bird's career embraced the work of virtually all the classic playwrights. Pre-war seasons at Birmingham Repertory Theatre and Shaw Festivals at Malvern were interspersed with provincial tours and weekly rep. At the Intimate Theatre, Palmers Green, he worked for the first time in many under the management of John Clements. During the war he joined Alec Clunes' Arts Theatre Company for revivals of Restoration comedies and the production of Peter Ustinov's first play, House of Regrets. Numerous West End performances included excursions into musicals such as Oh, My Papa and Auntie Mame. He played Shakespearian repertoire at the Old Vic and the angry young moderns in London and elsewhere. Seasons at Chichester Festival Theatre included Vivat] Regina], The Workhouse Donkey and The Fighting Cock.

He continued to sculpt away at his literary plays. They were carved out of deeply felt personal experience, and he was reluctant to offer them for public performance. His comedy Tom, written in praise of life and literature, was produced in 1957 at the New Lindsey Theatre Club, London.

Bird's work as an actor lay mostly in the theatre; film and television appearences were rare: sadly he had been born with defective sight. He had little vision in one eye and a continuing threat of recurring tuberculosis in the other.

Ironically, his pleasures lay in reading and in looking at paintings. During the run of a play, he would visit a gallery, select a picture and 'learn' it, against the day when his sight would desert him. Happily it never did.

ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

HR Manager - Kent - £45,000

£40000 - £45000 per annum: Ashdown Group: HR Manager / Training Manager (L&D /...

HR Manager - Edgware, London - £45,000

£40000 - £45000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: HR Manager - Edgware, Lon...

HR Manager - London - £40,000 + bonus

£32000 - £40000 per annum + bonus: Ashdown Group: HR Manager (Generalist) -Old...

Talent Manager / HR Manager - central London - £50,000

£45000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Talent / Learning & Development Mana...

Day In a Page

Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam