A founding member of the National Theatre, Terence Knapp found fame on the other side of the world where he was formally anointed “Hawaii’s Adopted World Class Actor” by the state’s legislature.
London-born to Anglo-Irish parents, he graduated from RADA with a bursary that took him to Liverpool Playhouse in 1954. After proving himself in weekly rep over the next four years, he moved to London in 1958 and made his West End debut in Robert Tanitch and Sandy Wilson’s Call it Love? at Wyndham’s Theatre in 1960.
Invited by Laurence Olivier to join the fledgling Chichester Festival Theatre company in 1962, he stayed with it as it transitioned into the National Theatre. Notable early appearances included Osric to Peter O’Toole’s Hamlet (1963) and standing in for Olivier as Tattle in William Congreve’s Love for Love (1965).
He cemented his growing reputation at Nottingham Playhouse under John Neville (with whom he would later tour West Africa and Southeast Asia) with a gleefully cunning Lumpkin in Oliver Goldsmith’s She Stoops to Conquer and Feste to Judi Dench’s Viola (Twelfth Night) in 1966, and an imperious Oberon (A Midsummer Night’s Dream) and petulant Roderigo (Othello) in 1967.
Opposite Neville’s George Bernard Shaw, he was seen as HG Wells in John Dankworth and Benny Green’s musical Boots and Strawberry Jam in 1968, before spending a year in Japan on a Churchill Fellowship. He regularly returned there over the next 25 years, establishing several significant collaborations with local actors.
Meeting Kabuki scholar Earle Ernst in Tokyo, he was invited to teach at the University of Hawaii. Establishing himself at the Kennedy Theatre, Manoa, Knapp transformed the state’s theatre scene, championing Shakespeare – notably pioneering the use of the state’s indigenous pidgin English in Twelf Nite O’ Wateva! in 1974 – and contemporary American classics.
His solo performance as Hawaii’s most influential missionary in Aldyth Morris’ Damien in 1976 earned him a clutch of awards and he became a television staple in succeeding years.
He published an autobiography, Hawaii’s Adopted World Class Actor (co-written with Hilda Wane Ornitz) in 2000. In 2001, the Hawaii Shakespeare Festival announced that it would be dedicated in perpetuity to Knapp.
Terence Richard Knapp was born on February 14, 1932, and died on August 12, aged 87. He is survived by his partner and three sisters.