Obituary: Roy Barraclough
Roy Barraclough’s television fame as theatrical agent-turned Rovers Return landlord Alec Gilroy in Coronation Street, and as the affectedly haughty Cissie to Les Dawson’s spoonerific Ada, eclipsed a theatre career that saw him appearing in the West End and winning acclaim as Arthur Miller’s Willy Loman.
The only child of a professional footballer father, he was born in Preston, Lancashire, and while working as an engineering draughtsman became increasingly active in amateur drama. With no formal training, he made his professional debut with the New Theatre, Huddersfield, in 1962.
In 1965, he was seen as Falstaff in Henry IV, Part 1 at the Victoria Theatre, Stoke, before joining Oldham Coliseum’s rep company the following year. Barraclough would go on to have a long and fruitful relationship with the company, co-writing pantomimes and directing Colin Welland’s Say Goodnight to Grandma in 1974.
With Birmingham Rep, he appeared in Stephen Bill’s The Old Order as a loquacious shop-floor steward and in the first British production of Gunter Grass’s The Wicked Cooks in 1979.
A deft gift for comedy saw him playing Captain Fumbling Grope in Spike Milligan’s zany adaptation of Alfred Jarry’s Ubu Roi for Charles Marowitz’s Open Space company at the Jeanetta Cochrane Theatre in 1980.
In drama, Barraclough was just as resourceful and nuanced, winning plaudits as a psychiatric patient in Tom Elliott’s Ward Games at the Library Theatre, Manchester, before transferring to the Duke of York’s Theatre in 1982.
A sympathetic Perks in The Railway Children (Grand Theatre, Swansea, 1984), his Willy Loman in Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman at Nottingham Playhouse in 1988 (and Redgrave Theatre, Farnham, 1989) was hailed by The Stage for its “sheer superlativity.”
At the Leicester Haymarket, he was seen in Miller’s The Price (1991) and gave a “tour de force performance” in Tom Elliott’s Feed as a retired straight-man reminiscing in a nursing home.
After Gypsy at the Sheffield Crucible (1986), he returned to musicals in 1993 as Doctor Watson to Robert Powell’s eponymous sleuth on tour in Leslie Bricusse’s Sherlock Holmes – The Musical, and again as Lord Brockhurst in the 50th anniversary production of Sandy Wilson’s The Boy Friend in 2003.
He played a bereaved bachelor and his resentful sister in Jimmie Chinn’s A Different Way Home at the Oldham Coliseum in 1998 and on tour in a 2001 revival, and proved a comically vital Mr Boo in a revival of Jim Cartwright’s The Rise and Fall of Little Voice at the Royal Exchange, Manchester, in 2004. He twice played Santa Claus, in a musical at the Birmingham Alhambra (2007) and a Christmas show at the Mayflower, Southampton in 2009.
Roy Barraclough was born on July 12, 1935, and died on June 1, aged 81. He was appointed MBE in 2006.
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