Sad news tonight of the passing of Geraldine McEwan, aged 82. A veteran of Olivier’s National at the Old Vic — for whom she was once announced to star as Miss Adelaide in a production of Guys and Dolls that never happened — I first saw her as part of Peter Hall’s National in the 1980s, starring in a double-bill of Rattigan’s The Browning Version and Harlequinade, with Alec McCowen and Nicky Henson, both of whom we’ve also now lost.
Into the 90s, she was stunning in Ionesco’s The Chairs at the Royal Court, opposite the late Richard Briers, and from where they transferred to reprise it on Broadway. That was a project she’d initiated herself, telling Playbill’s Harry Haun when it transferred to New York in 1998: “I was reading plays, as one does, and I thought, ‘Oh, I’ll have a look at Ionesco, but I should think it’s old hat.’ I had no idea [The Chairs] had so much in it for an audience. I thought it would be a play of its time — the fifties — but when I read it, I was immediately intrigued by it.”
As she went on to tell Haun, “The germ started with me, then Simon responded, and he took it from there. Still, it’s satisfying to actually initiate something yourself instead of waiting for people to ask you to do things that you either want to do or don’t want to do. It’s a lovely feeling.”
Earlier this week, Oscar and Tony winner Joel Grey, now 82, came out officially as gay. “I don’t like labels,” Grey told People magazine, “but if you have to put a label on it, I’m a gay man.” It’s been no secret to his friends and family, the story goes on to say, but he’s never spoken about it publicly before. “All the people close to me have known for years who I am. It took time to embrace that other part of who I always was.”
And in today’s Observer, Richard Wilson, aged 78, tells The Observer about his own public coming out two years ago: “I was officially “outed” by Time Out a couple of years ago. They included me in a list of influential gays. I didn’t mind – because I am gay – but I did think I’d better warn my sister, who had probably guessed anyway. As a much younger man I was very keen not to come out, like so many others, because of my family.”