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Actor content to let his work do the talking

IAN SMITH looks back at the career of veteran Scottish actor Leonard Maguire

HE was a founding member of the Citizens' Theatre in Glasgow, a senior member of the Royal Lyceum Theatre Company in Edinburgh, and widely recognised as one of the foremost acting talents of his generation. Despite this, it is difficult to glean much about the life of Leonard Maguire, the Scottish actor who died aged 73 at the weekend, from newspaper archives going back over a career which spanned more than 50 years. Not that the media was not interested in his work; there are plenty of reviews of the many plays which he both wrote and performed, almost exclusively favou-rable. However, interviews with the man are few and far between, and those which do exist provide only snippets of insight into the man behind the characters he portrayed. Maguire was very much an actor who preferred to let his work do the talking. His public reticence was exemplified in 1980 when he refused to give advance publicity about his first appearance with the National Theatre in a play called Thee and Me, which went on to be a great success at the Theatre Royal in Glasgow. Steven Beard, one of the actors who appeared alongside Maguire in Thee and Me, paid tribute to Maguire, and gave his impressions of the man offstage. He said: ''I was very sad to hear about Leonard's death. He was so learned and lively and funny. He was always great fun to be with, really fantastic company. ''Once you got him talking about one of his favourite subjects it was fascinating. And of course he had a wonderful voice to listen to.'' Maguire's long love affair with the theatre began when he won a #2 prize for writing a play while attending St Mungo's Academy in Glasgow. His first foray into professional theatre came in 1943 when, after being invalided out of the RAF, he was a founding member of the Citizens' Theatre as assistant stage manager. Soon, however, he was treading the boards himself and building a reputation as an actor. His talent can be gauged from some of those he starred alongside in his early career, when British theatre was in the midst of a golden age. Laurence Olivier, John Gielgud, Vivien Leigh, and Edith Evans, to name a few. He also notably featured in world premieres of plays by Samuel Beckett and Dylan Thomas. His writing abilities were as formidable as his acting, and the plays he penned provide a picture of his personal interests and passions. Scottish history was one of those passions, and his plays were often forays into the treasures of Scottish life and letters. In 1976, he won the first of three successive awards at the Edinburgh Festival fringe for his one-man play The Wasting of Dunbar, which he wrote and performed, about the great Scottish bard of the middle ages. He also gave acclaimed stage portrayals of characters from Scottish history such as Fletcher of Saltoun, in John McGrath's TV dramatisation of the 1707 Union of Scotland with England, as well as Sir David Lindsay, and John Knox. Maguire was well known for his voice, which made him a firm favourite on radio shows. In 1991, he provided the voice of the book in Peter Greenaway's film Prospero's Books. Maguire was involved in the early days of television, presenting arts programmes Perspective and Tempo, and reaching a wider audience as the headmaster in the drama serial This Man Craig. Later in his career he returned to TV, playing Lou Beale's close friend Uncle in EastEnders. His film credits also include The Honorary Consul (1982) with Richard Gere and Michael Caine, and A Dry White Season (1988) with Susan Sarandon and Donald Sutherland. His final work was with Willem Dafoe in the 1995 filming of Joseph Conrad's Victory, which has yet to be released in the UK. He will be buried in the French village of Cordes-sur-Ciel, near Toulouse, where he lived over the last years few years with his wife, radio producer Frances Campbell, 80, and their three children.

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