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Obituary: Leon Sinden

Leon Sinden had a long and varied career, enjoying particular success in Scotland Leon Sinden had a long and varied career, enjoying particular success in Scotland

Although the limelight was kinder to his older brother, Donald, Leon Sinden enjoyed a career of comparable length, flourishing particularly in Scotland, where he enjoyed long associations with companies in Pitlochry and Perth.

Born in Ditchling, East Sussex, his acting career began while still at school in a company based at the nearby Theatre Royal, Brighton, which toured shows to army training camps along the south coast. In 1945 he was a founder member of the still thriving Ditchling Players and remained a patron of the company until his death.

After the war he found work in regional reps, appearing with Donald alongside Paul Scofield’s Pericles for the Under Thirty Theatre Group in 1950. The two later shared a stage in the Royal Shakespeare Company’s revival of London Assurance at the Aldwych Theatre in 1970 (and later on Broadway) and again in 1994 in Peter Hall’s production of She Stoops to Conquer at the Queen’s Theatre.

In 1951 he moved to Scotland to work with Wilson Barrett’s company, spending five years there. Early successes included Earnest in The Importance of Being Earnest (1952) and the company’s swansong, The Corn is Green (1955).

He spent 1957 with the New Zealand Players Theatre as a leading man and on his return to the UK joined Perth Theatre.

His West End debut followed in 1960 alongside Alec Guinness in Terence Rattigan’s Ross, directed by Glen Byam Shaw at the Haymarket Theatre.

He joined the Royal Shakespeare Company in 1952, where his roles included the Friar (Measure for Measure), Philostrate (in Peter Hall’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream to Judi Dench’s Titania) and Philario to Vanessa Redgrave’s Cymbeline.

Aside from brief spells in English reps, the remainder of the decade was spent in Scotland, mostly with the Festival Theatre, Pitlochry. Notable roles during the period included Colonel Lukyn (The Magistrate) and The Duke (The Revenger’s Tragedy) in 1965; Sir Peter Teazle in The School for Scandal – hailed by The Stage in 1966 as a performance “of tremendous potency and point” and Lovewit (The Alchemist, 1969).

His directorial credits for the company included Boeing-Boeing and JM Barrie’s The Professor’s Love Story (both 1968) and Arsenic and Old Lace (1969).

In 1970 he played multiple parts in Caryl Brahms and Ned Sherrin’s adaptation of Nicholas Nickleby for the Citizens Theatre, Glasgow, and his regular forays into English theatre included Entertaining Mr Sloane with Coventry’s Belgrade Theatre, which also toured to the Netherlands in 1971. The end of the decade saw him appearing with Cambridge Theatre Company as Sir Tunbelly Clumsy (The Relapse) and the villainous Spettigue (Charley’s Aunt) in 1978 and Mortimer Durham in The Constant Wife the following year.

Returning to Scotland in the 1980s, he was seen as Skinner – “a superb mixture of confident authority and craven fear” (The Stage) – in Michael Frayn’s Liberty Hall at Pitlochry in 1981.

He was the Judge in James Bridie’s Mr Gillie with the Scottish Theatre Company in 1984 and again in 1986, and the following year played the merchant Werle in The Wild Duck at the Perth Theatre.

Later productions in Perth included Lady Windermere’s Fan (1989), What Every Woman Wants (1991), Shadowlands (1992), Rebecca (1993) and An Ideal Husband in 1994, after which he retired from the stage.

His television credits included No Hiding Place (1962-65), Scotch on the Rocks (1973), Rough Justice (1977), Rebecca (1979), Noel Coward’s The Kindness of Mrs Radcliffe (1981) and High Road (1987-94).

For many years, he was an active member of Equity in Scotland.

Leon Fuller Sinden was born on July 20, 1927, and died on November 4, 2015, aged 88. His nephew Marc, also an actor, survives him.

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