Andy Howells pays tribute to actor, Richard Dymond who passed away on May 20, 2020.
I cannot profess to have seen every performance Richard Dymond made on the Dolman Theatre stage over his five decades involvement with Newport Playgoers. I have however, appreciated over several years as a regular visitor to the theatre; his work as a performer, director, greeter and even a barman!
If I am honest, I’m still numb at the news of Richard’s passing this week. I knew I wanted to write something, but summarising the joy someone brings to people through performance, in the world of “amateur dramatics” (a term I use lightly, as like any theatre, the audience still expect to be genuinely entertained and informed) is a difficult task when their contribution has been constantly prolific and enjoyable.
As a theatre reviewer, firstly for the South Wales Argus and more recently for entertainment south wales, I have had the pleasure to witness several of Richard’s performances over the last decade and even speak with him on several occasions. I felt genuinely honoured when he sent me a friend request on Facebook recently. I wish I had told him!
Richard Dymond Was The Perfect Captain Mainwaring for Stage Dad’s Army
I recall thoroughly enjoying Richard’s portrayal of Town Clerk, George Blakeworth in Newport Playgoers’ Claudia Barnes directed The Titfield Thunderbolt at the Dolman Theatre back in 2011. It was this pompous portrayal that reminded me so much of the style of the late Arthur Lowe.
I was therefore extremely excited in 2013 when I learned Richard was cast as Captain Mainwaring in Newport Playgoers’ stage presentation of Jimmy Perry & David Croft’s TV classic, Dad’s Army. The spirit of Walmington on Sea had arrived at The Dolman Theatre when the platoon, led by Richard Dymond as Mainwaring marched through the auditorium and on to the stage to the tune of Bud Flanagan’s Who Do You Think You’re Kidding Mr Hitler? and the rapturous applause of the audience.
Not an easy accomplishment. There had been two recent revivals of Dad’s Army on professional stage and it is fair to say that Richard’s portrayal of Mainwaring was far superior to any of those on tour at the time. Every pause, nuance and line were perfect Captain Mainwaring.
As a lifelong Dad’s Army fan, I was so taken with the presentation of which I reviewed on the opening night, that I went back to watch the show again for the Saturday matinee. Every attention to detail was there from the cast, so much so, I broke a rule after the show and went upstairs to the reception area to congratulate everyone involved and get my programme signed. I am sure the cast (including Richard) were all slightly bemused by me, but many thanked me for my review, and graciously signed my programme, including the productions director, Desrae Tucker, who sadly passed away only a few weeks afterwards.
I recently spoke to Richard after a show and mentioned that he was my favourite stage Mainwaring. “After 30 years, I feel that was certainly a pinnacle moment of my stage career” he chuckled.
Dymond a “Jewel in Newport Playgoers Crown”
Of course, there were other Dymond performances that made him a jewel in Newport Playgoers crown for me. It has been lovely to read comments from fellow performers across other societies, as well as see photographs from many early presentations.
Richard was equally loved by his audience. One friend of mine informed me some years ago his wife always made a point of checking the cast list of a Newport Playgoers production and ensured tickets were booked if Richard Dymond was featured in the production.
Among my personal memories are a brilliant portrayal of Argan, The Hypochondriac in Roger McGough’s adaptation (after Moliere), and an over-enthusiastic suited BBC announcer in the parody musical of Dick Barton – Special Agent.
Richard not only had great comic timing; he could also perform with sensitivity. I sadly missed his much-praised performance as Mr Tom in Goodnight Mr Tom, but do recall his ability to wonderfully mix tragedy and comedy opposite Eileen Symonds as they portrayed a couple addressing their mundane marriage in Alan Ayckbourn’s tragicomedy Time of My Life (of which Richard also directed).
“A Kind of Magic”
In June 2019, Richard directed another Ayckbourn play, The Things We Do for Love and in February 2020, he made his final Playgoers performance as Mr Van Daan in The Diary of Anne Frank, again striking the perfect balance between tragedy and comedy alongside a cast of brilliant actors and performers.
Superbly directed by Adele Cordner, The Diary of Anne Frank culminated five decades of wonderful productions with Newport Playgoers for Richard, of which he summarised in the programme as “A Kind of Magic”. How apt that his final performance with the Playgoers, a Saturday matinee, was a sell-out for the cast and crew and will live on in memory for all who attended for years to come. it must have been an immensely proud moment, the production and presentation itself was certainly a moving and beautiful one.
It’s been a pleasure to review his performances over the years and I will certainly be one of many who will miss his presence on the stage in the future.
Thank you, Richard.