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Obituary: Keith Barron

Keith Barron with Jemma Redgrave in Donkeys’ Years at the Rose Theatre, Kingston, in 2014. Photo: Tristram Kenton Keith Barron with Jemma Redgrave in Donkeys’ Years at the Rose Theatre, Kingston, in 2014. Photo: Tristram Kenton

In later years, Keith Barron came to lament the success of the ITV sitcom that made him a household name. Eric Chappell’s Duty Free ran for three series from 1984 and featured Barron as the philandering husband to Gwen Taylor’s wife while holidaying in Marbella.

Panned by critics, it was a huge hit with audiences and spawned a stage version in 1985, although Barron worried that it made him seem a less versatile actor than he was. Ironically, his final appearance on stage saw him returning to Spain in the company of original cast members Taylor and Neil Stacy for a tour of Chappell’s Last of the Duty Free in 2014.

Born in Mexborough, South Yorkshire, he began acting in amateur theatre alongside fellow actor-in-waiting Brian Blessed and after national service in the RAF joined the Sheffield Playhouse repertory company. There, he quickly made a name for himself, The Stage describing him in 1960 as “one of the best three repertory actors in the country”.

Barron proved to be a forceful Cassius in Julius Caesar at the Bristol Old Vic in 1962 and a virile lead in Joan MacAlpine’s The Exploits of Tom Jones on tour and at London’s Prince of Wales Theatre (as Beset by Women) in 1966.

Although television kept him increasingly away from the stage, he was seen in John Osborne’s The End of Me Old Cigar (Greenwich Theatre, 1975), Michael Pertwee and John Chapman’s Holiday Snap (New Theatre of Comedy tour, 1986) and Malcolm Taylor’s thriller Ricochet (Bath Theatre Royal, 1993).

In 1994, Barron appeared in Chappell’s Haunted (Theatre Royal, Windsor) and as the Sheriff of Nottingham in Babes in the Wood at Sadler’s Wells in London. More recently, he was seen in Michael Frayn’s Donkeys’ Years at the Rose Theatre, Kingston in 2014.

He made his screen debut in 1961 and amassed more than 160 credits, most recently as father to Stephen Tompkinson’s DCI Banks (2012-16). His final appearance, in an episode of Not Going Out, will be broadcast over the Christmas period.

His first brush with fame came as DS Swift in The Odd Man (1962-63), but it was Dennis Potter’s 1965 coupling Stand Up, Nigel Barton and Vote, Vote, Vote for Nigel Barton that set Barron out as a sophisticated dramatic lead.

In 1967’s The Further Adventures of Lucky Jim (scripted by Dick Clement and Ian La Frenais) he played the first in a long line of men led by their libidos, reuniting with Chappell as the womanising Haggard in the 18th-century romp (1990-92).

Barron’s finest performance came in Tony Marchant’s Take Me Home (1989) as the middle-aged taxi driver husband of Annette Crosbie who has an affair with Maggie O’Neill.

He was in two Carla Lane comedies – No Strings (1974) and Leaving (1984-85) – and forged a likable partnership with Nigel Havers as amateur sleuths in The Good Guys (1992-93). Later television included Where the Heart Is (2003-04), Coronation Street (2007) and Kay Mellor’s veterinary drama The Chase (2006-07).

In the early 1980s, he managed a successful restaurant in Hayle, Cornwall.

Keith Barron was born on August 8, 1934, and died on November 15, aged 83. He is survived by his wife, the theatre designer Mary Pickard, and son, actor Jamie Barron.

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