Get our free email newsletter with just one click

Barbara Keogh

by -

Well-known character actress Barbara Keogh died suddenly on October 25, aged 76.

Barbara was an established face to television viewers in varied roles such as the unkempt grandmother in successful ITV comedy The Grimleys and the glamorous Lilly Mattock in EastEnders.

She was born in Cheshire on April 21, 1929, and after the war trained at the Birmingham School of Speech and Drama and then the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art. Like many of her contemporaries she went into weekly repertory, an experience she always valued for the wonderful variety of roles she played, which included characters such as Mrs Malaprop in The Rivals and Mrs Danvers in Rebecca. At Kidderminster Repertory Theatre she acted alongside John Osborne and Ronnie Barker, who she was to work with later in Open All Hours and The Two Ronnies. There followed a tour of Teahouse of the August Moon with Bill Kerr.

In the late fifties and through to the seventies Barbara was a regular on television, making guest appearances on numerous programmes such as Dixon of Dock Green, Z Cars, Crossroads, the Sweeney, Coronation Street and The Newcomers. She also featured in the groundbreaking On Giant’s Shoulders with Dame Judi Dench.

Alongside her television career, her stage career flourished. She performed in No One Was Saved with a young Maureen Lipman at the Royal Court and with David Hemmings in Adventures of the Skin Trade, which was directed by James Roose Evens at the then newly established Hampstead Theatre. She also played at the Royal National Theatre in three productions – John Gabriel Borkman with Sir Ralph Richardson and Dame Peggy Ashcroft, Plunder with Dinsdale Landen and Frank Finlay and Engaged with Jonathan Pryce.

Throughout the eighties and nineties, Barbara’s career went strength to strength. On stage she worked alongside Bob Hoskins, Helen Mirren and Pete Postlethwaite in Adrian Noble’s production of The Duchess of Malfi and toured in Alan Ayckbourn’s Sisterly Feelings with Peter Sallis, Trudie Styler, Tessa Peake-Jones and the late Bryan Pringle.

On television she worked with the legendary Alan Clarke in his production of Jim Cartwright’s Road (1987) and made appearances in Juliet Bravo, The Ruth Rendell Mysteries, Heartbeat, Game On, My Family, Casualty and numerous others.

She also starred on the big screen, most notably in Tai Pan, The Virgin Soldiers, Princess Caraboo with Kevin Kline and cult classic The Abominable Dr Phibes, alongside Vincent Price and Terry-Thomas, playing the latter’s housekeeper.

It is a wonderful testament to Barbara that she was still working only four days before she died. She had recently filmed a forthcoming episode of Little Britain, which she was thrilled to be asked back to work on, after enjoying herself immensely as Marjorie Dawes’ mother in the first series.

She will be remembered as an actress of great versatility, a consummate professional and a lady with integrity, kindness and a wonderful sense of humour.

James Bradshaw

We need your help…

When you subscribe to The Stage, you’re investing in our journalism. And our journalism is invested in supporting theatre and the performing arts.

The Stage is a family business, operated by the same family since we were founded in 1880. We do not receive government funding. We are not owned by a large corporation. Our editorial is not dictated by ticket sales.

We are fully independent, but this means we rely on revenue from readers to survive.

Help us continue to report on great work across the UK, champion new talent and keep up our investigative journalism that holds the powerful to account. Your subscription helps ensure our journalism can continue.