Olivier-winning thesp Michael Bryant who spent 25 years with Britain’s National Theater (several of them an associate director) and also was featured in memorable TV and film roles, died April 25. He was 74.
London native served in both the merchant navy and army before setting his sights on farming, but instead turned his gift of mimicry to the stage. His first small role was in Tennessee Williams’ “A Streetcar Named Desire” in Brighton. By the mid-1950s, he originated Willie in Eugene O’Neill’s “The Iceman Cometh.”
He earned acclaim in Peter Shaffer’s long-running comedy “Five Finger Exercise” (1958), appearing in it as well in New York and on U.S. tour. His next long run was as T.E. Lawrence in “Ross,” assuming Alec Guinness’ role. Other plays in the early 1960s included “Gentle Jack” and Harold Pinter’s “The Homecoming.”
He joined Peter Hall’s Royal Shakespeare Company in 1964 and the National in 1977. At the National, he was Lenin in Robert Bolt’s “State of Revolution,” a role that won him a SWET award for best actor. Just a few of his many other credits include “The Lady From Maxims” and Ibsen’s “Brand,” the title character in “Uncle Vanya,” the blinded Gloucester in “King Lear” and Prospero in Hall’s “The Tempest,” which traveled to Russia and Japan. He also won another SWET Award for “The Mayor of Zalamea” and gained the Olivier for best supporting actor.
He continued to appear regularly throughout the 1990s, including Badger in “The Wind in the Willows,” the Storyteller in “Peter Pan,” and Charon in “The Invention of Love.” His last role with the company was as the crumbling Firs in “The Cherry Orchard.”
Films include “Nicholas and Alexandra” (again as Lenin), “Gandhi” and “Colditz.”
Television roles included the groundbreaking series “Talking to a Stranger” (opposite Judi Dench) and 13-parter “The Roads to Freedom” (opposite Daniel Massey).
He was appointed a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in 1988.
He was married twice: to Josephine Martin, with whom he had four children, and then to Judy Coke, who survives him.