Roy Kendall: 1943-2020

WGGB Theatre Committee member Lisa Evans pays tribute to Roy Kendall, passionate believer in WGGB and a stalwart of the Committee over many years
Roy Kendall

It is with great sadness that we have to tell of the death of Roy Kendall.

Roy trained as an actor at the Webber Douglas Academy of Dramatic Art in London, and as a theatre director on a bursary from the Arts Council. Latterly, he devoted more time to writing and the teaching of dramatic writing. He taught at RADA, the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, and Morley College, where he was director of the Theatre School for many years. He went on to gain a PhD and until 2018 was the course director and teacher for the Advanced Playwriting program of NYU in London.

His stage plays run into double figures, and include Unseeded (Theatre Royal Plymouth), McGonagall, McGonagall (Dundee Repertory Theatre), The Sighting (Oldham Coliseum), Ulysses and his Voyage into the Unknown (Lancaster Playhouse) and Ill Met By Foglight (Bristol Old Vic). In 2016 he wrote The First Folio, a play covering the events leading up to the decision to create a collection of Shakespeare’s work, to celebrate the bard’s 400th birthday.

An early play, Body & Soul, which starred Patrick Stewart, was first produced at the Palace Theatre, Watford, and gained him a nomination as Most Promising Playwright. It was later produced at the Yvonne Arnaud Theatre, Guildford, and, after a national tour, transferred to the Albery Theatre in the West End. It was also broadcast by the BBC World Service and repeated on Radio 4, starring Penelope Wilton. Other plays for radio include its sequel, Kingdom ComeFace ValueThe Nipponese ExperimentWhere the Lovemaking Does Go On and Marlowe’s Diaries, which starred Anton Lesser and won the Writers’ Guild of Great Britain’s Award for Best Original Radio Play.

As a screenwriter, Roy’s television films include The Cornet LessonToo Much Monkey Business and Housewives’ Choice for the BBC; Love Song and The Children of the Gods for ITV and The Garden Party for IKON-TV, Holland.

His most recent accolade was the 2017 Terence Rattigan Society Award for The Onion at the End, which is due to be published in August by Salamander Street Limited. Roy was also an acting coach, a songwriter and Academic Co-ordinator of the Emmy Award winning BBC/HBO/S4C co-production, Shakespeare, The Animated Tales. And he had just completed his debut novel, The Last Fool.

Roy joined the Writers’ Guild in 1980 and, for over two decades, served as a stalwart and much-cherished member of the Theatre Committee, working as a judge on the Awards panels, on the delegation to the Arts Council England and also on the Guild’s playwright development projects, Playwrights’ Progress.

He was a passionate believer in our union and, despite increasing ill-health, continued to work for the betterment of writers, attending an online committee meeting two days before he died. His loss will be felt not only by his much-loved family, Katina, and his sons Edward, Tom and Laurie, but also by his many loyal friends. For his colleagues and friends on the Theatre Committee, who have worked, laughed, debated and socialised with him over the years, there will be a huge gap – and not just because he was a physically big man, but because he was a big person, full of wisdom, wit, gentleness and generosity. We will miss him terribly.

Image: NYU