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Renowned voice coach Cicely Berry dies

Cicely Berry has died aged 92. Photo: RSC
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Renowned voice coach Cicely Berry has died at the age of 92.

Berry joined the Royal Shakespeare Company in 1969, becoming head of voice the following year. Under Berry, the RSC became the first company to ever have a permanent full-time voice department.

Paying tribute to Berry, RSC artistic director Gregory Doran said: “She had a founding role in the tradition of modern voice teaching, and her influence today, not only on the acting community, in this country and around the world; and on generations of directors; but on the way we transform young lives by introducing her rehearsal working methods into the classroom through our education work, is immense.”

He added: “Her personality of course had much to do with her influence. Her openness combined with a sharp determination, her dedication to the work, her intellectual rigour, and lively curiosity, her abiding concern for the interests of actors, and her sense of mischief made her hugely popular. She was radical and subversive, playful and provocative, utterly unsentimental, and rigorously unpretentious.”

Berry directed her own version of King Lear in 1988.

Doran said her “last encounter” with the acting company was on the stage of the Royal Shakespeare Theatre, when she conducted a warm up for the press night of his own production of The Tempest in 2016.

“Sparrow-thin and supported on her stick, she had the actors running around the space connecting to every corner of the theatre, filling their breath down into their lungs, and deep into their bodies, preparing them to connect to the language and honour the task before them,” he said.

Paying tribute on Twitter, actor Paul Chahidi said Berry had a “huge heart and generosity of spirit that sought to give actors of all backgrounds the confidence to say ‘Yes, I can do that’”.

Berry died in the Cornish care home she lived in on October 15.

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