from For Ian Charleson: A Tribute
Constable & Co, Ltd, London: 1990
3 The Lanchesters
162 Fulham Palace Road
London W6 9ER
ISBN 0 09 470250 0
I MET IAN when we were both
in Simon Gray's "Otherwise Engaged." It was a particularly
happy company. Ian played a surly lodger who took everything
for granted and was very bolshy to the landlord. He was marvellous
in the part and was immediately accepted by everyone. Though
he was the youngest in the cast -- still in his early twenties
-- and it was his first time in the West End, he wasn't overawed.
Nor did he play at being the gauche young man. It was simply
that, without being arrogant, he was quite fearless and had a
natural ease with everybody. There were no barriers for him.
My children were very young at the time and when he came to the
house he was lovely with them too. I think that he was family-conscious
in a way which is quite rare in a young man. Once he brought
his father and mother to my home. And I remember how proud he
was of his sister who had just begun to be a musician.
Unfortunately I never worked
with Ian again, though we were close to one another at times,
meeting through friends. But, without any effort being made on
either side, it was a friendship which survived. We had a natural
rapport, an ease between us that we could always recapture.
A haunting memory I have of Ian
is when we were trying to save the site of the Rose Theatre and
Ian McKellen had organized a street concert at the site. Ian
didn't look well. I think he was already receiving treatment
for his illness. But he went onto the concert platform and sang
'My Love is Like a Red, Red, Rose'. He could still give himself
to a cause like that.
Shortly before Ian died, I wrote
and rang a couple of times saying I would love to see him if
he could manage it. I was deeply touched when he said I could
come, because I knew he was too ill to see many people. We spoke
on the phone before I went round. My hair had been dyed blond
when I was filming and I'd kept it that way to make my sons laugh.
So I said to Ian: 'Don't get a shock when you see me, because
I'm blond.' Ian joked about my blondness and then said, with
the same humour: 'Don't get a shock when you see me. It's Quasimodo,
baby.' The lightness had stayed with him, thank God. It must
have helped him in all he had to undergo.