The last post I wrote was about my own mortality, and now I discover the world is poorer by the loss of the unforgettable, extraordinary and generous man that was Victor.
I first met him in Wyndham’s Theatre in London, where he was one of the brilliant ensemble cast of Joan Littlewood’s ‘OH WHAT A LOVELY WAR’. I was fifteen. I had no idea, as I took my seat in the stalls, that my life was about to be changed for ever.
It began just after the curtain rose, when Victor, as MC, pointed at me and my friend and spoke directly to us. In all my years of going to West End theatres, I had never been noticed, let alone spoken to, by an actor onstage. It was scary, wicked, exhilarating.
My friend and I moved nearer the front, as he suggested,, and for the rest of the evening I was breathless with excitement, not because of who we were – I soon forgot myself – but because the story of the Great War was new and shocking to me. The raw talent, the passion and the commitment of Victor and the rest of the cast sent me reeling into the night, determined to find out more and to come back and see the show again.
I returned five times to that theatre; every time it was a new performance, with new ad libs and new business.
This experience formed my ideas about what theatre could be. Not sterile, encased in immovable text, but comic, tragic, musical, free flowing, telling dark truths with power and panache.
Joan Littlewood, I salute you. You were the innovator. But Victor, one of your prize pupils, who afterwards became my friend, was in his element in your world. His kindness to a starstruck teenager was typical of the man whose stories charmed me and whose smile concealed worldly wisdoms I knew nothing of in those innocent days.
Adieu, Victor. You were my favourite actor for so many years.