Letter: Ben Roberts obituary

·1 min read

Ben Roberts first appeared at Derby Playhouse in 1981, in Alan Ayckbourn’s Sisterly Feelings, becoming a regular until 1987 when he left for The Bill. His Bottom in A Midsummer Night’s Dream was the best people had seen, followed by appearances in The Snow Queen, The Caucasian Chalk Circle, and Waiting for Godot.

After his dramatic TV demise, Ben returned to Derby for four Christmas shows. His Ebenezer Scrooge in Karen Hebden’s adaptation of A Christmas Carol in 2003-04 was so successful that, after Merlin in Merlin and the Winter King, he reprised the role two years later.

Then he took three parts in the legendary performance of Treasure Island in 2007-08 when the cast defied the attempt to close Derby Playhouse just before the opening night. The administrators brought their families along to a packed show, filmed by BBC TV. The Playhouse still had money and a week later a rescue consortium reopened the theatre.

Ben and his wife, Helen, joined the new board, which in the autumn of 2008 negotiated the sale of the theatre to the University of Derby as a base for theatre arts. Not a few of the former staff were able to pick up their careers. The fact that the university now owns Derby theatre has provided the best insurance for its survival. When the theatre is fully operational again a prime seat in the auditorium will be named for Ben.

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