I was shocked and saddened by the recent sudden death on November 29 last year of the actor John Hewitt.
I worked with John many times at the Lyric Theatre in Belfast and at the BBC in Radio Drama.
I never knew John intimately. Like many talented actors, he always had a private hinterland you couldn’t easily enter.
However, as a colleague and friend, he was always professional and personable, with a great sense of humour.
To those like myself who weren’t from Northern Ireland, he showed an openness and generosity of spirit to share the culture he loved.
He was an actor of range. While he was at home in naturalistic drama, he also performed well in more stylised plays.
He certainly understood what kind of play he was in.
Of the many memories of his talent, two stand out: his wonderful comic timing and his ability to be so specific with many different accents.
His comic performance as an inadequate middle-aged Irish bachelor in Brian Foster’s The Butterfly Of Killybegs displayed a verbal and physical dexterity that made the central scene when the bachelor is seduced by a young girl, farcical playing of the highest order.
And very few actors could be so vocally convincing as John.
He could take you to every nook and cranny of Ireland, north and south.
John was a leading actor, who, for variety of reasons, didn’t always play leads.
When he got the opportunity in plays of substance like All My Sons by Arthur Miller or Rat In The Skull by Ron Hutchinson, his talent blossomed.
He met the considerable demands of the parts by moving up a gear, opening out and revealing a great humanity and depth to his work.
Maybe we didn’t see him do this enough.
He was, after all, in essence a modest person.
But a good actor and a lovely man. I shall miss him.
(Artistic Director Lyric Theatre 1988-91, Senior Producer |Radio Drama BBC Northern |Ireland 1996-99)