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.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

E150/2014 - English Language Checker (Grade B3)

On Application: Council of Europe: The European Court of Human Rights’s judgme...

Marketing Executive

£28000 - £32000 per annum: Charter Selection: A professional services company ...

Project Manager - Bristol South West

£400 - £450 per day: Orgtel: Project Manager (PM), Key Banking Client, Retail ...

Principal Engineer – Biomass

£45000 - £55000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: The Green Recruitmen...

Day In a Page

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

The German people demand an end to the fighting
New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
Can scientists save the world's sea life from

Can scientists save our sea life?

By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

Richard III review

Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice
Hollywood targets Asian audiences as US films enjoy record-breaking run at Chinese box office

Hollywood targets Asian audiences

The world's second biggest movie market is fast becoming the Hollywood studios' most crucial
Grindr founder Joel Simkhai: 'I've found love on my dating app - and my mum keeps trying to hook me up!'

Grindr founder Joel Simkhai: 'I've found love on my dating app'

Five years on from its launch and Grindr is the world's most popular dating app for gay men. Its founder Joel Simkhai answers his critics, describes his isolation as a child
Autocorrect has its uses but it can go rogue with embarrassing results - so is it time to ditch it?

Is it time to ditch autocorrect?

Matthew J X Malady persuaded friends to message manually instead, but failed to factor in fat fingers and drunk texting
10 best girls' summer dresses

Frock chick: 10 best girls' summer dresses

Get them ready for the holidays with these cool and pretty options 
Westminster’s dark secret: Adultery, homosexuality, sadomasochism and abuse of children were all seemingly lumped together

Westminster’s dark secret

Adultery, homosexuality, sadomasochism and abuse of children were all seemingly lumped together
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Dulce et decorum est - a life cut short for a poet whose work achieved immortality

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

Dulce et decorum est: a life cut short for a poet whose work achieved immortality
Google tells popular music website to censor album cover art in 'sexually explicit content' ban

Naked censorship?

The strange case of Google, the music website and the nudity take-down requests
Howzat! 8 best cricket bats

Howzat! 8 best cricket bats

As England take on India at Trent Bridge, here is our pick of the high-performing bats to help you up your run-count this summer 
Brazil vs Germany World Cup 2014 comment: David Luiz falls from leader figure to symbol of national humiliation

David Luiz falls from leader figure to symbol of national humiliation

Captain appears to give up as shocking 7-1 World Cup semi-final defeat threatens ramifications in Brazil