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Richard Ainley

(1910-1967), Actor

Sitter in 11 portraits

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Frederick Robinson (aka - Equity - Frederick Robbins)

19 March 2018, 17:25

Richard Ainley was principal at the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School when I applied for a place as a student of Acting in 1962. A big man with an impressive deep, booming voice, until I entered his office for my one-to-one audition and interview I was unaware that our paths had in fact crossed 3-4 years earlier. As an amateur actor playing a small role (1st Collier) in a production of John Arden's 'Sergeant Musgrave's Dance' in a Nottingham Drama Festival which he was adjudicating, I now learned that when he had asked to meet 'the little fellow' after the Festival, he had not meant - as we all assumed - the actor playing the larger role of Sparky; but myself. Which set our BOVTS relationship off to an excellent start. Paralysed down one side, one of his impro requests at the audition was to imagine I was him (phew!) and out on Clifton Down, physically disabled, no-one in sight, and to call for help. He seemed satisfied with the result. Anyway, I got in. Later, by the time i was just another of the students, I remember he used to like calling gatherings of students in a rehearsal room in the evenings and having tropical-sounding jam sessions, his unmistakable voice reverberating through the building and over the bongo drums he played with vigour. Sadly, he and his vice-principal, John Hodgson - known for his books and TV programmes on Improvisation, also Head of Drama at Bretton Hall in later years - were for some reason 'released' as the saying is, at the end of my first year, and amid the pandemonium at the time, I lost sight of him. But an unforgettable figure!

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