Felicity Kendal

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Felicity Kendal

Felicity Kendal on Thomas Murphy Presents.jpg
Felicity Kendal in 2016
Born (1946-09-25) 25 September 1946 (age 72)
Years active1947–present (stage)
1965–present (screen)
Partner(s)Tom Stoppard (1991–98)
Michael Rudman (1998–present)[1]
Children2, including Charley Henley
RelativesJennifer Kendal (sister)

Felicity Ann Kendal CBE (born 25 September 1946) is an English actress, working in television and theatre. She has appeared in numerous stage and screen roles over a 45-year career, but the role that brought attention to her career was that of Barbara Good in the 1975 television series The Good Life.

Early life[edit]

Felicity Kendal was born in Olton, Warwickshire, England, in 1946.[2] She is the youngest daughter of Laura Liddell and Geoffrey Kendal, an actor and manager.[2][3] Her older sister, Jennifer Kendal (died 1984, aged 50),[4] was also an actress.

After early years in Birmingham, Kendal went to India with her family at the age of seven: her father was an English actor-manager who led his own repertory company on tours of India.[3] The ensemble would perform Shakespeare before royalty one day and in rough rural villages the next, where audiences included many schoolchildren.[5][6] As the family travelled, Kendal attended six Loreto College convent schools in India,[7] and contracted typhoid fever in Calcutta at the age of 17.[8] She left India at the age of 20.[4]

The Good Life[edit]

In 1975 Kendal had her big break on television with the BBC sitcom The Good Life. She and Richard Briers starred as Barbara and Tom Good – a middle-class suburban couple who decide to quit the rat race and become self-sufficient, much to the consternation of their snooty but well-meaning neighbour Margo and her down-to-earth husband Jerry Leadbetter (played by Penelope Keith and Paul Eddington). Kendal appeared in all 30 episodes, which extended over four series and two specials from 1975 to 1978.

Kendal has said that she can be "short-tempered and difficult", in contrast to the generally cheerful, patient and upbeat Barbara, with whom the public have come to associate her.[4]

Stage work[edit]

Kendal made her stage debut aged nine months, when she was carried on stage as a changeling boy in A Midsummer Night's Dream.[2]

She made her London stage debut in Minor Murder (1967), and went on to star in a number of well regarded plays.[citation needed]

Kendal's stage career blossomed during the 1980s and 1990s when she formed a close professional association with Tom Stoppard, starring in the first productions of many of his plays, including The Real Thing (1982), Hapgood (1988), Arcadia (1993), and Indian Ink (1995). This last was originally a radio play and the role was written for her.

She won the Evening Standard Theatre Award in 1989 for her performances in Much Ado About Nothing and Ivanov.

In 2002, Kendal starred in Charlotte Jones's play Humble Boy when it transferred from the National Theatre to the West End. In 2006 she starred in the West End revival of Amy's View by David Hare.

In 2008 she appeared in the West End in a revival of Noël Coward's play The Vortex.

In 2009 she appeared in the play The Last Cigarette (by Simon Gray) and in 2010 in Mrs. Warren's Profession (by Shaw). Both played at the Chichester Festival Theatre and subsequently in the West End.

In October 2013 she toured the UK with Simon Callow in Chin-Chin, an English translation by Willis Hall of Francois Billetdoux's Tchin-Tchin.[9]

In 2013 she starred in the first London revival of Relatively Speaking by Alan Ayckbourn at the Wyndham's Theatre.[10] In 2014, she toured the UK[11] and Australia as Judith Bliss in Noël Coward's Hay Fever, which then played in the West End.[12]

In 2017 she starred with Maureen Lipman in a revival of Lettice and Lovage at the Menier Chocolate Factory.

Personal life[edit]

Kendal's first marriage to Drewe Henley (1968–79) and her second to Michael Rudman (1983–90) ended in divorce. Kendal has two sons: Charley, from her marriage to Henley, and Jacob, from her marriage to Rudman. In 1991 she left Rudman, and subsequently started a relationship with playwright Tom Stoppard.[13] The affair with Stoppard ended in 1998, and Kendal has since reunited with Michael Rudman.[1][13]

Kendal was brought up as a Catholic. She converted to Judaism at the time of her second marriage,[4] and has stated about the conversion, "I felt I was returning to my roots".[14] Her conversion took more than three years; she has stated that her decision to convert had "nothing to do" with her husband.[15]

In 1998 Kendal published a book of memoirs titled White Cargo.[5]

When asked (by The Guardian in 2010) whom she would invite to her "dream dinner party", Kendal replied "Emmeline Pankhurst, Gandhi, Byron, Eddie Izzard, George Bernard Shaw, Golda Meir, and Marlene Dietrich".[8]

Kendal was appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire in the 1995 New Year Honours for services to drama.[2][16] Felicity Kendal is an ambassador for the charity Royal Voluntary Service, previously known as WRVS.[17]


Television work[edit]

As herself:

Film work[edit]

Kendal's film roles are:


  • 1976 – Most Promising Newcomer – Variety Club
  • 1979 – Best Actress – Variety Club
  • 1980 – Clarence Derwent Award
  • 1984 – Woman of the Year – Best Actress – Variety Club
  • 1989 – Best Actress – Evening Standard Theatre Awards


  1. ^ a b Nikkhah, Roya (2015). "Felicity Kendal: I'm happy with my ex-husband — but won't marry him again", The Telegraph (London), 03 April 2015. Retrieved 11 April 2019.
  2. ^ a b c d e "Felicity Kendal". Strictly Come Dancing. BBC Online. 2000. Retrieved 14 December 2012.
  3. ^ a b c "Shakespeare Wallah". Merchant Ivory Productions. Retrieved 15 December 2012.
  4. ^ a b c d McGibbon, Rob (10 February 2012). "Felicity Kendal: The Good Life portrayed me as sweetness and light, but I can be difficult and very short-tempered". Daily Mail. Associated Newspapers Ltd. Retrieved 15 December 2012.
  5. ^ a b Kendal 1998.
  6. ^ "Meet Jennifer Kendal". Good Wrench. 2000. Archived from the original on 25 October 2009. Retrieved 14 December 2012.
  7. ^ "BBC Radio 4 Extra - Desert Island Discs Revisited, The Good Life, Felicity Kendal". BBC. Retrieved 15 November 2014.
  8. ^ a b Greenstreet, Rosanna (27 March 2010). "Q&A: Felicity Kendal". The Guardian. Guardian News and Media. Retrieved 15 December 2012.
  9. ^ "Felicity Kendal and Simon Callow to Star in U.K. Tour of Classic Comedy Chin-Chin" by Mark Shenton, Playbill, 16 July 2013
  10. ^ "Relatively Speaking, Wyndham's Theatre, review" by Charles Spencer, The Daily Telegraph, 21 May 2013
  11. ^ "Hay Fever review – hysteria rules as Felicity Kendal does Coward" by Michael Billington, The Guardian, 28 August 2014
  12. ^ "Win tickets to Noel Coward's Hay Fever!", 774 ABC Melbourne, 8 October 2014
  13. ^ a b Hardy, Rebecca (2 October 2010). "'I've never felt sexier': Felicity Kendal on men, her new tattoos – and why she can't wait to sizzle on Strictly". Daily Mail. Associated Newspapers Ltd. Retrieved 14 December 2012.
  14. ^ Garvey, Anne (26 October 2006). "Felicity Kendal's good (Jewish) life". The Jewish Chronicle. Archived from the original on 4 March 2016. Retrieved 15 December 2012.
  15. ^ "Felicity Kendal interview with Saga Magazine". www.saga.co.uk. Archived from the original on 24 October 2014. Retrieved 15 November 2014.
  16. ^ "No. 53893". The London Gazette (Supplement). 30 December 1994. p. 9.
  17. ^ "Our Ambassadors: Felicity Kendal CBE", Royal Voluntary Service, Cardiff. Retrieved 11 April 2019.


  • Kendal, Felicity (1998). White Cargo. University of Michigan, US: Michael Joseph. ISBN 0718143116.

External links[edit]