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Director Alastair Whatley remembers Simon Ward

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Jul 23, 2012 | 7:15am EDT

Whatley, one of the last directors to work with Ward, has told how the actor took on a "gruelling" stint playing the lead role in The Madness of George III in 2010, and never missed a showing despite his failing health.

He says, "Already in declining health, Simon took on one of the most challenging roles written in recent years and furthermore agreed to tour with the production all over England to venues often rather off the beaten track...

"My lasting memory will be what must have been one of his last public performances near his home town in the south west (of England) when we played our last show at The Exeter Northcott. To an audience full of his family and friends, he gave a final blistering performance to a standing ovation from audience and cast members alike...

"Modest to the end, quietly brilliant off stage and electric in front of an audience, he was also a total gentleman who taught this young director the meaning of the word professionalism and also the meaning of the word respect... A king to the very last. I know he will (be) missed by many."

Actress Susan Penhaligon, who played Ward's wife in the play - believed to be his last major theatre performance - has described him as a "loyal and sympathetic" friend.

She says, "He was a witty, frighteningly clever and handsome, complex man who I worked with a lot. He was extremely loyal and sympathetic, and could be a very good friend. I feel sorry that he is gone (but)... I'm very happy that I was in that play with him in which he triumphed."

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