Actor and voice of the Daleks

Born: May 12, 1942;

Died: May 24, 2019

ROYCE Mills, who has died aged 77, was an actor and director perfectly at home in light comedy. With high cheekbones and a toothy smile, he exemplified the eager, bumbling, upper class English “silly ass”. Decades with Ray Cooney’s Theatre of Comedy Company gave way to annual performances as a pantomime dame, where he enjoyed himself greatly, as did his audiences.

An expert at appearing bemused by more worldly characters, he once made an entrance on a skateboard, in Dick Whittington, and performed a nightly fall down a flight of stairs in Love’s A Luxury (1997). Regularly heard on BBC radio productions from 1968 onwards, nonetheless the voice-over work he was most proud of was for the Daleks, in three Doctor Who stories between 1984 and 1988. The key to it, he said was to “hold your nose and use a really old microphone”.

He was born Anthony Royce Mills in Tetbury in Gloucestershire. He maintained that when his mother became unable to pay for his schooling at Eastbourne College, he earned the fees by working in the town’s hotels, at his headmaster’s suggestion. He also began performing, in cabaret shows by visiting performers. He originally entered the Guildhall School of Music and Drama intending to study design, but by 1966 had switched to drama, winning several prizes.

Graduating the following year, he quickly became part of the “permanent company” at the Yvonne Arnaud Theatre, Guildford, followed by the Bristol Old Vic in 1969, and the Theatre Royal, Windsor in 1972. Throughout his career and into the 21st century, he regularly returned to these venues; another favourite was The Mill at Sonning, in Berkshire, often directing and in Cooney’s work. Theatrical gossip asserted that he travelled in a mobile home.

Mills made his West End debut in a revival of The Boy Friend (Comedy, 1967). His television debut was in Oh Brother! (BBC, 1969), starring Derek Nimmo, with whom he re-teamed in See How They Run (Shaftesbury, 1984), under Cooney’s auspices. Of his TV appearances as a stooge for Ronnie Barker, Ronnie Corbett, Dick Emery and Les Dawson, Mills said “I always seemed to be in a bowler hat.”

He played the weedy, ode-spouting Nausius, son of the household attended to by Lurcio (Frankie Howerd), in the film of Up Pompeii (1971), and a variation in its sequel Up The Chastity Belt (1972). From 1977 to 1991, he was a regular on the Radio 4 satire show Week Ending.

Mills supported Joan Plowright and Helen Mirren in The Bed Before Yesterday (Lyric Hammersmith, 1975), a new comedy by the 89-year-old Ben Travers, directed by Lindsay Anderson. The mid-1970s saw him extending into producing and directing touring stage plays, usually farces. Again at the Arnaud, he was in the original production of Cooney’s Run For Your Wife in 1982, returning several times during its West End run.

He supported Peter O’Toole in Jeffrey Bernard Is Unwell, playing several acquaintances of the dissolute journalist, at the Apollo in 1989, and again at the Old Vic ten years later. He told O’Toole biographer Robert Sellers that initially, the star “didn’t trust me at all”, but relations became cordial once O’Toole realised Mills was a fellow product of the Bristol Old Vic. At the Savoy in 2000, for the D’Oyly Carte Opera Company, he was well cast as Pooh-Bah in The Mikado.

His wife Emma, and daughters Samantha and Miranda, survive him.