FRIEDA HODGSON was a drama teacher who in the Forties, Fifties and Sixties succeeded in exciting students and instilling in them the technical qualities, but above all the confidence, that she knew they would need in the theatre.
Actors as different and as creative as Richard Harris, Janet Suzman, Diana Dors, Pat Coombs and David Suchet all reacted to the warmth and excitement of her personality, owed much to her teaching and remained firm friends throughout her life.
It was not until she was already over 40 and had had five children, and when the war over London was at its height, that she took the London Academy of Music & Dramatic Art exams, was noticed and invited by the Board of LAMDA to adjudicate for them, and subsequently to teach at the academy. Her 'Friday afternoons' - a class in the LAMDA theatre where young actors were expected to perform in plays that they had chosen for themselves and to be criticised in performance by their fellow students - became an essential ingredient of their training. Hodgson always handled these classes so that egos were not destroyed and talent encouraged.
She herself had trained originally at the Chelsea College of Physical Education in massage, physiotherapy and gymnastics, and became a remedial gymnast and qualified masseuse, working before the Second World War in many factories throughout London to encourage fitness and physical excellence among the employees during their leisure time. She was also employed by the Royal Free Hospital, then in Gray's Inn Road, in their prenatal department to encourage relaxation in childbirth. Here it was that she came to recognise the power of the voice and the importance of communication. She saw how the tension in the voices of doctors or ward sisters could cause fear and stress in their patients, or instil confidence and trust.
Hodgson's main love, however, was always the theatre and encouraging the young, who would often crowd into her house on Sunday evenings to be fed and to become injected with her enthusiasm. After the war she was also keen to share with her young friends the pleasures of her ramshackle seaside cottage at Dymchurch, where 25 at mealtimes were a regular feature in August, watched over by her supportive husband Tommy. To bring up a large family and be deeply interested in their welfare, while developing her professional life, was more unusual in those days than it is now. She remained in touch with the young to the end of her life: well into her eighties, afternoons would be filled with schoolchildren rehearsing for entry into drama festivals throughout London. She believed that the confidence gained by learning to act could help everybody in their approach to interviews for jobs, public speaking and business meetings.
Frieda Hodgson had a touching and certain faith that 'The Lord Will Provide' and her simple assurance, when she went to a bus stop, that the bus she wanted would come along, was a tribute to her liberal Catholicism and her trust that all was for the best. Her black cloak and wide hat were the hallmark of her personality and the sign of her presence to students throughout the world who were first judged by her, and then encouraged and motivated by her friendship and enthusiasm.
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