Colin McCormack

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Colin McCormack
Born John Colin McCormack
(1941-12-02)2 December 1941
Penarth, Wales
Died 19 June 2004(2004-06-19) (aged 62)
Middlesex, England
Other names Colin MacCormack
Years active 1955–2004
Spouse(s) Actress Wendy Allnutt (1967 until his death in 2004)

Colin McCormack (2 December 1941 – 19 June 2004) was a professional Welsh actor who enjoyed considerable success in classical stage performances and television shows over a career approaching fifty years from his debut as a child actor in a BBC TV's Dixon of Dock Green episode, a show he returned to twenty years later when he played a police constable. Later his presence and bearing as a stage actor and member of the Royal Court Theatre and Bristol Old Vic companies and the Royal Shakespeare Company was admired by audiences and fellow performers alike. McCormack also appeared in several feature films during his career.

As a celebrity, McCormack was probably little known to the public who may well have recognised his face but been unable to place a name to it, but as a character actor he was part of that high-quality and essential fabric that binds the elements of any production or a company together. McCormack was probably best known to a whole generation of British teenagers for his recurring role as Alan in the 1984 science fiction series Chocky. Older viewers may remember him better from his 1991 stint playing Kevin Masters in EastEnders.

In his close to fifty TV roles McCormack's electric presence and square jaw coupled with his imposing athletic build usually placed him in roles like soldiers, policemen or criminal types. However, he could also demonstrate a light and sympathetic capability that fitted equally into comedy roles in programmes like Man About the House, The Good Life and Yes, Minister. He was generous with his skills as an actor and was always keen to nurture budding talent, as shown by his regular time spent tutoring and coaching at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama where his students included Ewan McGregor, Daniel Craig and Damian Lewis.

McCormack died of cancer aged 62 after a short illness, following a tour of the RSC's Romeo and Juliet in Hong Kong.

History[edit]

Early life and career[edit]

Colin McCormack was born in Penarth near Cardiff in Wales on 2 December 1941, during the Second World War, the eldest son of a railway worker.[1] Educated at Kings College, a private junior school in Cardiff and Penarth Grammar School he appeared in several school plays and also joined the local Victoria Youth Drama Group, appearing in several amateur productions and drama competitions. While still in school, at the age of fourteen in 1955, he was chosen after an audition to play a young crime victim on an early episode of BBC TV's Dixon of Dock Green.

McCormack developed into a tall and muscular teenager and was a keen, accomplished rugby player. His active participation in the sport at inter-school level and with Penarth Rugby Football Club helped develop his solid and athletic build that would later stand him in good stead as an actor. In later years he became a formidable and dedicated squash player, a game he keenly played well into his fifties.

On leaving grammar school McCormack initially chose to attend an arts course at Cardiff Art College. Despite these early studies, acting remained his first love and he eventually secured a place at the Central School of Speech and Drama in London as a further step towards a professional acting career.

His first professional stage performance came in 1964 as a member of the Bristol Old Vic repertory company when he appeared in the play Bartholomew Fair followed by dozens of ensemble productions over the next few years, also willingly helping out with the manufacture of scenery and props and with the vast wardrobe management for the small company of actors.

Stage appearances[edit]

The Royal Shakespeare Company[edit]

His work at the Old Vic came to the attention of the RSC [2] and in 1967 he was invited to join Britain's most prestigious company of classical actors at their Stratford upon Avon headquarters. He would remain deeply associated with the RSC for the next thirty-six years right up until his death. As with most young recruits he then started working his way through minor supporting roles as a 'bit part' player. His first appearance with the RSC at Stratford was as a citizen in Coriolanus and during his first full season with the company he went on to play a courtier in Trevor Nunn's production of The Revenger's Tragedy, the First Suitor in All's Well That Ends Well, Donalbain in Peter Hall's production of Macbeth, and Third Musician in Romeo and Juliet.

McCormack's appearances with the RSC had to be interspersed with appearances with other theatre companies and his frequent TV roles but he appeared with the RSC during every decade between the 1960s and his death in 2004. In the 1970s he played Angus in the RSC's Macbeth at the Aldwych Theatre, London, Udy in Howard Barker's The Hang of the Gaol, Florence in The Adventures of Awful Knawful at the Warehouse Theatre during 1978, and Chachava in The Caucasian Chalk Circle. The decade ended with McCormack playing Borachio in Much Ado About Nothing in an RSC UK tour that started in the Autumn of 1979 and continued over into the spring of 1980.

The 1980 season continued with McCormack taking four different roles in Barker's The Loud Boy's Life when he played Costall, Dampsing, Streatham, and Imber, requiring many costume changes and several virtuoso characterisations. He starred as Macduff in the Barbican Theatre's 1988 showing of Adrian Noble's Macbeth and again in 1989. Also that year he played Mr. Hardacre in Edward Bond's play Restoration, Sebastian in The Tempest at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre, and Kent in the Almeida Theatre's King Lear directed by Cicely Berry.

The 1990s started with McCormack taking a starring role as gang member Dolin in the RSC's groundbreaking stage production of A Clockwork Orange at the Barbican Theatre. He returned to the RSC for the 1998 and 1999 seasons when the company alternated performances of three plays where he played Mike in Richard Nelson's Goodnight Children Everywhere, the Duke of Milan in The Two Gentlemen of Verona, and Baptista in the bawdy Elizabethan comedy The Taming of the Shrew. He reprised the last role for a small-scale RSC tour of the UK during the summer of 2000.

During the last few years of his life McCormack, by now a highly regarded stalwart and senior member of the RSC, played the Earl of Salisbury in King John several times over the 2001 and 2002 seasons, Casca in Julius Caesar at both the Royal Shakespeare Theatre and the Barbican, and filled three separate roles in Gregory Doran's "Season of Rarities" during the winter of 2002/2003: He was Lord Audley in Edward III, Bramble in Eastward Ho! and Pietro in The Malcontent.

Royal Court Theatre Company[edit]

McCormack's occasional association with Royal Court Theatre company started in 1982 when he appeared in G.F. Newman's play Operation Bad Apple. He returned to the Royal Court in 1986 to star in the original stage production of Jim Cartwright's seminal play Road. Also that year he appeared at the Theatre Upstairs in the Royal Court's production of Andrea Dunbar's Shirley. In 1991 he took a leading role in Griselda Gambaro's Putting Two and Two Together again at the Theatre Upstairs and starred in the 1992 production of Timberlake Wertenbaker's unusual play Three Birds Alighting in a Field.

Other Theatre companies[edit]

McCormack found himself increasingly in demand by a number of other acting companies and producers in the later years of his career and his other stage appearances include playing Islayev during the Cambridge Theatre Company's (CTC) 1987 tour of A Month in the Country and Pinchwife in The Country Wife in 1991 also with the CTC. He took on the dual roles of Chandebise and Poche in Feydeau's A Flea in Her Ear by the Welsh company "Theatr Clwyd" in 1993 and in a number of non-company appearances played Wangel in Ibsen's The Lady from the Sea at the Blackfriars Theatre in 1996, Lord Kent in the Haymarket Theatre's 1997 showing of King Lear, Estragon in Waiting for Godot in 2000 at the Mercury Theatre, Colchester.

McCormack's last UK stage appearance was as Nicholas in Harold Pinter's One for the Road at the Battersea Arts Centre during 2003. Pinter himself was particularly taken with McCormack's impressive interpretation and personally wrote to him afterwards, saying:

"I thought your Nicholas was absolutely terrific. What power and awesome lucidity." [3]

Television Roles[edit]

Year TV Show Role (If Known) Other notes
1955 Dixon of Dock Green Young boy victim First TV appearance following a BBC audition
1966 Z-Cars Running youth 1 Episode - Series 5
1970 Please Sir! Skinhead 'yobbo' 1 Episode in Series 1
1971 Trial Petrol pump attendant 1 Episode "Debris"
1972 Van der Valk Sailor 1 Episode "One herring's not enough"
1972 Public Eye Book Shop Manager 1 Episode "Girl in Blue"
1973 Thriller Peter 1 Episode "The Eyes have it"
1973 Warship Petty Officer James 1 Episode "Sub smash"
1973 New Scotland Yard Detective Sergeant Edge 1 Episode "Edge"
1973 Softly, Softly Tommy Jarvis 1 Episode "Night Watch"
1973 Spy Trap Detective Inspector Tarr 1 Episode "A dirty sort of War"
1974 Dixon of Dock Green Police Constable Wakeman 1 Episode "Sounds" - McCormack's second appearance on the show after a nineteen-year gap
1973–1974 Man about the House Bernard 3 Episodes "It's only money", "While the cat's away" and "Somebody out there likes me"
1975 Centre Play Telephone caller 1 Episode "Post Mortem"
1975 Quiller Press reporter 1 Episode "Objective Caribbean"
1977 The Good Life Mr Batty 1 Episode "Our speaker today"
1977 Doctor Who The Commander 2 Episodes "The Sun Makers - Part 3" and "The Sun Makers - Part 4"
1978 Armchair Theatre Detective Sergeant Bowen 1 Episode "The girl who walked too quickly"
1978 Out Keith Unknown episodes
1978 The Sweeney David Wade 1 Episode "The bigger they are"
1980 The Gentle Touch Jack Ledley 1 Episode "Break in"
1981 When the Boat Comes In Starkey 1 Episode "Back to dear old Blighty"
1981 Yes, Minister Bodyguard 1 Episode "The death list"
1982 Kelly Montieth (unknown) 1 Episode (Series 4 Episode 2)
1978 & 1983 The Professionals Detective Sergeant Edwards 2 Episodes "In the public interest" (1978) and "The Ojuka Situation" (1983)
1979–1983 Terry and June Jack 3 Episodes "Flying Carpets" (1979), "Uncle Terry, Auntie June" (1980) and "Tea and no sympathy" (1983)
1983 Storyboard George Taylor 1 Episode "Woodentop"
1984 Chocky Alan Featured in the entire series
1984 The Lenny Henry Show As himself in several sketches 1 Episode
1987 Casualty Dr Gregory Newman Several episodes
1990 The Chief Assistant Chief Constable Peter Leech Appeared in the entire second series
1991 Forever Green Brian Allerton 1 Episode (Series 2 Episode 3)
1991 EastEnders Kevin Masters Multiple episodes
1992 Ruth Rendell Mysteries Ken Harrison 1 Episode "Kissing the gunner's daughter"
1992 A Touch of Frost Caretaker 1 Episode "Conclusions"
1993 Spender Bob Bamford 1 Episode "Kid"
1994 Martin Chuzzlewit Bullamy Appeared in the entire series
1994 Open Fire Detective Chief Superintendent Haylor TV Play
1996 Kavanagh QC Sam Lomax 1 Episode "A stranger in the family"
1996 Pie in the Sky David Arthur Melchett 1 Episode "Coddled Eggs"
1997 Supply and Demand Superintendent Harper Appeared in entire series
1994–1997 The Knock Detective Superintendent Ray Parker 3 Episodes in Series one and three
1997 Inspector Morse Sergeant Hargreaves 1 Episode "Death is now my neighbour"
2000 Longitude Inn keeper TV play - McCormack's last recorded TV appearance

Filmography[edit]

Year Film Title Role (If Known) Other notes
1971 Death Line Policeman 1 aka "Raw Meat" in the US. Was killed with a spade by a tube train cannibal
1981 The Winter's Tale Dion AKA for US video release " The Complete Dramatic Works of William Shakespeare: The Winter's Tale"
1991 Let Him Have It Army Recruitment Doctor AKA for French cinema release "Âge de vivre"
1995 First Knight Sir Mador
2004 Raw Meat[4] Cameraman Filmed during 2003, the year before McCormack's death

Personal life[edit]

Colin met the young actress and movement specialist Wendy Allnutt [5] (born 1 May 1946) while they were studying together at the Central School of Speech and Drama in 1963, and they married shortly after they graduated. Colin and Wendy remained together happily married for 36 years until his death. Wendy survives him, as do their two children Katherine and Andrew.

Throughout his busy stage and television career Colin still found time to cultivate a lifelong interest, expertise and extensive knowledge in historic churches and medieval architecture.

Final weeks[edit]

In late 2003 McCormack was playing Lord Capulet in a tour of Hong Kong with the Royal Shakespeare Company's Romeo and Juliet when he first started to feel unwell. On his return to England he consulted doctors and learned that he had cancer.

Typical of his application and dedication as an actor he actually took a script, for a planned Spanish theatrical season at the Watermill Theatre, Newbury, into hospital with him to study during his treatment. He was still studying the script the day before he died on 19 June 2004 in the Royal Middlesex Hospital.

References[edit]

External links[edit]