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Obituary: Royce Ullah

Royce Ullah

Royce Ullah’s sole brush with fame came as Salim in AR Rahman’s Bombay Dreams [1], the lavish Bollywood-inspired musical with a book by Meera Syal and produced by Andrew Lloyd-Webber, at the Apollo Victoria Theatre in 2005.

By then he had established himself as a reliable character actor capable of stepping into the limelight, memorably so as the brutish patriarch George Khan in Ayub Khan-Din’s East Is East at the Leicester Haymarket in 2001. He could also seamlessly integrate himself into ensemble pieces such as Willy Russell’s Blood Brothers (1988) or as Mr Szczepansky in The Railway Children (1989), for which he also served as assistant director, with Birmingham Rep.

Born in London, he began his career in the 1980s in theatre in education and came to attention in Channel 4’s award-winning documentary Framed Youth: Revenge of the Teenage Perverts in 1983.

The following year he appeared with the cabaret group Chris Gibson and the Exhibitionists and was seen in Noel Greig’s The Land of Whispers on tour with Theatre Centre in 1987.

He made his debut with the National Theatre in 1991, where he was seen in David Hare’s Murmuring Judges and Nicholas Hytner’s revival of George Farquhar’s The Recruiting Officer.

His stage profile had been in the ascendant in the decade following his appearance in Bombay Dreams in roles at Theatre Royal Stratford East, Manchester’s Library Theatre and, notably, as the sartorially-challenged postman Vish in Matthew Landers’ Arrows (Greenwich Playhouse, 2006) and as Pi’s Father in Andy Rashleigh’s adaptation of Yann Martell’s Life of Pi at the Greenwich Theatre in 2007.

More recently he was closely involved with Above the Stag, the UK’s only full-time professional LGBT+ theatre, based in Vauxhall, London. He directed Jon Bradfield and Martin Hooper’s Robin Hood: Queen of Thieves in 2010 and appeared in Seduction, Jack Heifner’s take on Arthur Schnitzler’s La Ronde, Hanif Kureishi’s My Beautiful Launderette [2] (2011) and Tim Evanicki and Esther Daack’s Bathhouse: The Musical (2014).

His television appearances included Farrukh Dhondy’s King of the Ghetto (1986), The Bill, Silent Witness and CBBC’s Playdays.

Royce Ullah was born on August 23, 1963 and died on November 24, 2017, aged 54.