JOAN BLACKHAM R.I.P.
Joan passed away on 6th September 2020 after a long fight with cancer.
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Her last theatre appearance was in David Hampshire’s new play Funny Turns at the Museum of Comedy, transferring to Jermyn Street Theatre in July 2019.
She was nominated an Offie Best Female in a Play 2017 for her performance in Naylah Ahmed’s play Ready Or Not at The Arcola and on tour for Kali Theatre.
She also played a retired war correspondent in Blown Apart, which won the Kenneth Branagh New Short Play Prize at the Windsor Fringe Festival.
TV work included a council estate vigilante in Doctors, a shape shifting ‘frail’ pensioner in Netflix series Innocents; delivering a tragic phone call in Dr Who; hitting Nicholas Lyndhurst over the head in New Tricks; a disgruntled patient in Take Five and a flirtatious receptionist in the Moran Sisters’ C4 sitcom Raised by Wolves.
Films include starring in a Ukrainian/Russian feature The Battle of Sevastopol, as Eleanor Roosevelt, and playing another American, Mrs. Fitzgerald, in the Czech film A Prominent Patient (Masaryk).
I had the opportunity of taking part in several readings with Joan at AWL and we always had fun. Most recently, in 2019, I played opposite her at the Jermyn Street theatre in ‘Funny Turns’ (which sadly proved to be her final stage performance) and I can’t recall working with a more truthful actor. Joan inhabited her character and internalized her acting to the point where she sometimes appeared to be doing very little, but what came across was a performance of dignity, honesty and truth. It’s only now I realize that Joan was battling her illness at that time, which made what she did even more special. I respected Joan’s talent and I learnt from her. The acting profession has lost a stalwart and we are the poorer for it. Rest in peace Joan, and thank you.
I directed Joan in the stage play ‘Funny Turns’ about a year ago and found her interpretation to be funny, moving and as truthful as I could ever have wished. She provided the sensitive, sincere qualities needed for the part beautifully and it is a performance I shall long remember. I would also often encounter her at Equity meetings where I believe she was an important contributor, and was very impressed by that too. A sad loss and she will be greatly missed.
Hayward B Morse
Joan was a tremendous and talented actress with a powerful and earthy voice, particularly suitable for some of the commanding roles she often played in a long and distinguished career. More importantly though, she was a warm, witty and wise woman it was always a delight to work with - and I feel privileged to have first met her years ago on a TV production at the BBC. More recently, she has graced many an AWL rehearsed reading with that unmistakable style and authority we have come to love her for. And in ‘Funny Turns’ she was simply outstanding. We shall all miss her greatly, and it is a terrible loss both to the group and the wider profession. Rest in Peace, Joan.
Joan Blackham was an actor of distinction. Her presence on stage demanded attention, whether in a heavy drama or light comedy. Her voice offered a deep seriousness or hysterical desperation. As one of her directors, if you asked for it, she could provide it, though not always without question! After it was all over, she might approach you with a flattering apology, saying that it was all her fault. It never was. Thank you, dear Joan, for being you.
I was so very sad to hear that our Joan had lost her valiant battle against cancer. She was an absolute inspiration. I had so much admiration for her, not only as a hugely talented actor, but also for the way she carried on with her daily life - attending AWL zoom meetings, performing at quite a few, and even going to auditions right up until the end, in such good spirits and with her usual positivity. I feel very privileged to have worked with Joan and to have had a couple of lovely long chats on the phone with her in the last few weeks. She will be sorely missed. Thinking of all her family and friends and sending heartfelt sympathy. RIP dear Joan xxx
I have such lovely memories of Joan. A superb actress; watching her in Catherine Harvey’s short play two weeks ago, she was brilliant, one would never have known how near the end she was. She was brave and totally without self-pity. I shall miss her friendship and her presence in the group.
If Joan was in a play at AWL, you knew you were in safe hands. Joan would deliver a performance that was always beautifully acted, and in that warm, deep, husky voice that was such a pleasure to listen to. She excelled at comedy. I was delighted that she played Olivia in the AWL reading of ‘Murder On Cue’. She brought many little touches to the role which I later incorporated in the rewrites. She was great in ‘Funny Turns’ by David Hampshire, and it’s a tribute to her consummate professionalism that few people knew she was already undergoing treatment by that time. Joan appeared in AWL play readings on Zoom (one only two weeks ago) and was busy acting right up to the end. Joan was also kind, generous in her support of others, nearly always present at AWL whether to perform or to sit in the audience, funny, enthusiastic and wise. I will miss her greatly at AWL.
Lucky to have seen both ‘Funny Turns’ and the thriller at the Arcola and we did have a nice chat afterwards. I looked her up and, My God, I never realised what an amazing career she had for so many years. It’s so good that she never stopped performing because she was always in demand. She didn’t suffer fools gladly, that’s for sure, quite rightly expecting you to be your best if you were lucky enough to work with her! I will remember her as someone who was a formidable and brilliant actress and friendly, warm and amusing if you could prove your worth. Amusing with a devastating dry wit in those low resonant tones. She had such a strong presence and I can hear her voice clearly now.
It is a terrible shock for all of us, as I felt Joan had so much more to give and was such a pivotal part of AWL. Personally, of course, I will miss her as a friend, but equally I will miss her talent. Joan was a fine and dedicated actress - she inhabited a role, took it over, playing it with absolute conviction. The two parts, I particularly remember her by, are her Phoebe in ‘The Entertainer’, where she played opposite me in a performed reading.at the Riverside Studios, and her brilliant Landlady, Alice, in David Hampshire’s wonderful play, ‘Funny Turns’ - funny and yet sadly pathetic at the same time. It was a joy to be on the same stage as her and when that happens, being an actor is the best job in the world. God Bless Joan.
Weirdly I was thinking about her yesterday but although we had been in touch during lock down had not known that the chemo had not worked, she looked so good two weeks ago when she was in a playlet on AWL zoom and was at the last Zoom Equity meeting. I cannot imagine AWL or Equity Branch without her. Whenever we can actually meet I shall wear my brightest lipstick in her honour (a long story, so I leave it a mystery!)
Joan Blackham was an actor of great authority and power, yet she could also create a gentle warmth, her acting had such truth she made you believe in every word her character told you. We will all miss Joan and her talent.
So sad to hear such tragic news that Joan Blackham is no longer with us...Such a talented, gorgeous, kind and caring lady to know and chat to at AWL evenings. With heartfelt sympathy to her family that she leaves behind at this sad time.
It’s truly shocking news. A wonderfully brave and uncomplaining soul and a true professional to the end. It’s difficult to believe that it’s only a year since she triumphed on stage in ‘Funny Turns’.
Joan was always such a warm, strong character, it is hard to believe that we won’t be seeing her again at AWL.
What very sad news. I admired Joan’s work and always enjoyed it when I saw her at meetings. I hope she was supported with love and light during her illness, treatment and her death.
So sorry to hear such awful news. I saw Joan in some memorable productions and she was brilliant in ‘Ready Or Not’ at the Arcola Theatre.
So very sorry to hear of Joan’s passing. I remember how welcoming and supportive she was when I first joined AWL. I also enjoyed her many acting contributions since I became a member. Sending condolences to her family and friends.
How sad that we have lost Joan such a lovely person - riding her bike - lovely humour - fighting to stay with us but now at rest.
Joan was an actor who brought her questioning intelligence, acute sensibility and unmatched stagecraft to every part she played. She was the first choice for so many roles. What will we do without her?
Joan was a great, versatile performer. And a great encourager. She paid people the compliment of taking their work seriously. I will miss her performances, her analytic mind, and her kindness. I can’t believe we won’t see her again.
Oh what sad news. I’ll always remember Joan fondly. She was a delight to work with from the read through of ‘Funny Turns’ in 2018 to her lovely performances last year.
So terrible. My memory of her is this. When we did one of our charity evenings at that little theatre in Bedford Street, I’d just read my piece and was coming back to my seat. I was very nervous. Joan grabbed my hand and said “Wonderful. More people should write like that.”
Very sad news. Unbelievable to think she was going through treatment while performing with her usual gusto at our Zoom meetings. Much missed and will leave an empty space at our meetings when we resume.
I am really sad and shocked. She was so strong I was so sure that she’d be all right
I’m still shocked and very sad to hear the news. Bless her.
I was quite devastated to hear of the news re Joan. She was the second old friend whose death I had heard about yesterday.
I was very sorry to hear your extremely sad news about Joan Blackham. I was lucky enough to talk to her several times at AWL and I admired her as an actor. I’m sure she will be really missed by everyone.
So sad to hear that Joan has died. We worked together briefly, guesting on BBC Doctors and she was charming and very professional.
I’m very saddened, indeed shocked, to hear the news of Joan Blackham’s death. Our paths intersected several times over the years, both outside as well as inside AWL, and I always found her charming, strong, fun, and above all truly professional. We are the poorer for her going.
What a shock! Sincere condolences to all her family and friend,s who must be devastated. May she rest in peace.
So very sad to hear the news. My condolences to her family. The very little I knew of Joan was that she was young in spirit. God bless her.
What a sad loss. We will remember her lovely performances and working with her, and so recently seeing her at the Zoom meetings where she gave us some super characters.
A sharp intake of breath as I read the oh so sad news about Joan. I don’t think she was in any of my plays, not for want of trying because when I did offer her a part she was nearly always busy. I admired her acting hugely and we often chatted at AWL. Very very sad
Dear Joan ... I so admire your courage in the way you faced your illness with a warm smile. You really are to be admired.
Joan was one of my favourite actresses at AWL. She was so committed and focused and i always loved watching her act. Always one of the first to congratulate me after a reading. I had such respect for her. She will be sorely missed.
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