We pay tribute to the actor David Warner, who has died at the age of 80.

Erica Whyman, our Acting Artistic Director, said: "We are saddened to hear of the death of David Warner, RSC Honorary Associate Artist, aged 80. Gregory Doran, our Artistic Director Emeritus, reflects upon David’s extraordinary career."

Gregory said: "I’m very sad to hear the news that David Warner has died.

"In 1963, David was part of the legendary Wars of the Roses cycle, directed by Peter Hall, in John Barton’s adaptation, where he played King Henry VI. When the second History tetralogy was added the following year (to celebrate the Shakespeare tercentenary), David played Richard II and, delightfully in the spirit of ensemble, Mouldy, one of the Gloucestershire recruits, in Henry IV Part Two.

"David’s most iconic role for the RSC was as Hamlet in 1965, directed again by Peter Hall, with Glenda Jackson as Ophelia, and Elizabeth Spriggs as Gertrude, with Brewster Mason as Claudius and the Ghost. A tortured student in his long orange scarf, David seemed the epitome of 1960s youth, and caught the radical spirit of a turbulent age."

Man with red scarf  with hands clasped
David Warner as Hamlet in Peter Brook's 1965 production
Photo by Reg Wilson © RSC Browse and license our images

Gregory added: "In Peter Hall’s 1969 film of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, David played Lysander, alongside Helen Mirren as Hermia, Diana Rigg as Helena, and Michael Jayston as Demetrius.

"After a varied career in film and TV, David returned to the company in 2007 to be part of Michael Boyd’s Histories, playing Sir John Falstaff. He was a generous spirit, a kind man, and a huge talent."

Former RSC Artistic Director Michael Boyd said: "Working with David Warner on the Histories was a joy and an education.

"He seemed incapable of acting in bad faith and it was easy to trust his instinctive search for simplicity and clarity of thought, as his cunning Falstaff padded his way about the world we had created in the first tetralogy and quietly and subversively made it his.

"Each time he shared the thoughts of Falstaff on “honour” with a thousand people in the Courtyard Theatre, I witnessed a kind of gentle alchemy at work: we all leaned in, the auditorium shrank, and the bombastic old hypocrite spoke the simple truth, showing us our own world in Hamlet’s mirror.

"His Lear with Steven Pimlott at Chichester was the subtlest and most moving I’d seen, and the reason I decided to try to persuade him back to Stratford.

"He was warm and funny and generous on his return to the company, and gave us his gorgeous gardener in Richard II to help with our public understudy runs.

"David always struck me as a gracious, vulnerable and tired angel. His self doubt seemed to keep his heart open and searching for honesty like a proper artist does. All of us in the Histories feel lucky to have shared them with David, and miss him terribly now."

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