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Obituary: Malcolm Drury

Malcolm Drury (centre, in bow tie) with colleagues at Yorkshire TV‘s Bedford Row office, London, circa 1990

Malcolm Drury had a promising career in the diplomatic service ahead of him when he decided to leave politics for television, where he went on to become one of the most respected casting directors of his generation.

Born in Edinburgh, he attended the city’s Boroughmuir High School (through which Annette Crosbie had also passed a decade earlier) before joining the Commonwealth Relations Office in 1963. From 1966 to 1968, he was the assistant private secretary to two secretaries of state for Commonwealth affairs.

Having decided on a change of career, he worked for the BBC booking department before leaving to work for the agent Julia MacDermot.

After a spell with Granada Television, Drury joined Yorkshire Television in 1980, becoming head of its casting department two years later, a position he held until the department was closed in 1993.

During this period, Drury ably demonstrated his ability to cast in-depth in a wide variety of programmes that included Laurence Olivier’s 1983 King Lear, Alan Plater’s jazz-accented The Beiderbecke Affair (1985) and its follow-up, The Beiderbecke Tapes (1987) with James Bolam and Barbara Flynn, and David Nobbs’ satire on family social functions, A Bit of a Do (1989), starring David Jason and Gwen Taylor.

He was equally at home with more outrageous comic vehicles such as Maurice Gran and Laurence Marks’ The New Statesman (1987-89), which featured Rik Mayall as the obnoxious Tory MP Alan B’stard, and Jan Butlin’s sitcom about love, sex and infidelity in suburbia, No Strings (1989) in which Edward Petherbridge and Jean Marsh were the unlikely philanderers.

He also cast episodes of The Darling Buds of May, The Ruth Rendell Mysteries, crime soap The Bill and the nostalgic police comedy-drama Heartbeat.

As a freelance, Drury’s credits included the crime thriller series Wolcott (1981) with George Harris and Warren Clarke, and casting Alan Bates and Gemma Jones in John Osborne’s Very Like a Whale (1990).

Drury took to the stage himself on three occasions – all featuring companies consisting entirely of casting directors and agents – in Cinderella at the Tower Theatre, London in 1979 and twice later at the Theatre Royal Stratford East in aid of that venue and the Equity Benevolent Fund.

In 1997, he was one of the first members to join the Casting Directors’ Guild on its formation.

Malcolm Drury was born on May 29, 1944 and died on September 3, aged 72. He is survived by his twin sister and older brother.

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