Actor

Born: June 24, 1931;

Died: October 29, 2015

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KENNETH Gilbert, who has died at the age of 84, was an actor and a familiar face on television. Prematurely grey and with distinguished granite features, he often played authority figures, and his solid presence and gift for subtle underplaying lent his characters a touch of class and ensured him regular employment. His most notable stint on television was probably in the early 1980s as Oliver Banks in Crossroads: a respectable businessman who got tongues wagging when he had an affair.

Born in Devon in 1931, Gilbert’s early stage work included a 1957/58 stint with what was to become the Royal Shakespeare Company at the Shakespeare Memorial Theatre playing (amongst others) Balthazar in Romeo And Juliet (with Richard Johnson and Dorothy Tutin), Valentine in Twelfth Night and the Priest to Michael Redgrave’s Hamlet. He stayed at Stratford for the following season for Charles Laughton’s King Lear and Paul Robeson’s Othello.

He was the principal actor at Pitlochry’s 1975 season playing Solness in The Master Builder and Richard in On Approval. For the Old Vic he toured in Henry VI Parts I and II and Henry V (1974-1975) and played the key role of Enobarbus opposite Alec McCowen’s Antony in their 1977-1978 Antony and Cleopatra (Derek Jacobi was Caesar). Other theatre work included St Joan with Eileen Atkins (Prospect Theatre 1977), Judge Brack to Joanna Lumley’s Hedda Gabler (Dundee 1985), Boyet in Love’s Labours Lost (Ipswich, 1992) and the title role in The Wizard of Oz (for the RSC at the Theatre Royal, Bath 1994-1995).

He was a familiar face on the small screen, starting with The Heir Of Skipton in 1953. Prominent roles included Friar Tuck in Wolfshead: The Legend of Robin Hood (1969) and in House of Cards and To Play The King (1990/93) as Harold Earle: one of the unfortunate politicians who got in the way of Francis Urquhart (Ian Richardson) and had to be dealt with via blackmail.

He also made a strong impression as the duplicitous civil servant Richard Dunbar in the popular Doctor Who story The Seeds Of Doom (1976): a role he almost lost when he caught chicken pox from his daughter. The production team went to great pains (and expense) to reschedule the recording dates in order to secure his contribution. The story’s director Douglas Camfield also cast him in The Sweeney (1976) and Ivanhoe (1982).

He played countless guest parts in everything from No Hiding Place (1963) to Hustle (2011) via Callan (1969), The Mind of Mr JG Reader (1971), Crown Court (1973), Edward VII (1975), The Changes (1975), The New Avengers (1976), Testament of Youth (1979), Enemy at the Door (1980), The Gentle Touch (1981), Cracker (1995) and Midsomer Murders (2003) often playing policemen or doctors. Gilbert also had an underused gift for comedy as well as a natural presence which brought watchability to potentially dull roles.

In 1966 he married the actress Beth Harris - she died in 2012.

TOBY HADOKE