'Exit my king': Theatre pays tribute after Sir Antony Sher dies aged 72

3 December 2021, 16:56 | Updated: 4 December 2021, 00:30

Antony Sher has died aged 72
Antony Sher has died aged 72. Picture: Alamy

By Will Taylor

Esteemed theatre star Sir Antony Sher has died of cancer, with fellow actors describing him as "deeply loved and hugely admired".

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Famed for his starring role in Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC) plays including 2016's King Lear and Falstaff in the Henry IV plays, it was revealed he had been diagnosed with terminal cancer earlier in 2021.

His husband, Gregory Doran, who works as the RSC's artistic director, had previously said he was taking a period of compassionate leave to care for him.

In a statement, the RSC's executive director Catherine Mallyon and artistic director Erica Whyman said: "We are deeply saddened by this news, and our thoughts and sincere condolences are with Greg, and with Antony's family and their friends at this devastating time.

"Antony had a long association with the RSC and a hugely celebrated career on stage and screen.

"Antony's last production with the company was in the two-hander Kunene And The King, written by his friend and fellow South African actor, writer and activist, John Kani."

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Antony Sher was celebrated as an actor
Antony Sher was celebrated as an actor. Picture: Alamy

Macbeth, Tamburlaine the Great and Richard III – which defined his career – were among the titular roles he performed.

Other landmark performances Sir Antony took on include Leontes in The Winter's Tale, Iago in Othello and Prospero in The Tempest.

The RSC statement added: The statement added: "Antony was deeply loved and hugely admired by so many colleagues.

"He was a ground-breaking role model for many young actors, and it is impossible to comprehend that he is no longer with us.

"We will ensure friends far and wide have the chance to share tributes and memories in the days to come."

Prince Charles said he was "deeply saddened" to hear of Sir Antony's passing.

"As the President of the Royal Shakespeare Company, I had the great joy and privilege of knowing him for many years, and admired him enormously for the consummate skill and passion he brought to every role," he said.

"My most treasured memory of him was as Falstaff in a brilliant production of Greg Doran's. I feel particularly blessed to have known him, but we have all lost a giant of the stage at the height of his genius."

Mr Kani said: "Both Tony Sher and I were born when our country, South Africa, was the worst place a child could be born let alone to be raised by parents who worked very hard to prepare their children for a difficult future - Apartheid South Africa.

"By the grace of his God and my ancestors, like Romeo and Juliet we found each other in 1973.

"We travelled together as compatriots, comrades in the struggle for a better South Africa, as fellow artists, and we both had the honour of celebrating together 25 years of South Africa's democracy in my latest play, Kunene And The King.

"I am at peace with you my friend and myself. Exit my King. Your Brother."