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Fred Ridgeway

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Fred Ridgeway

Fred Ridgeway

Frederick Gerrard Ridgeway (16 October 1953 – 12 November 2012)[1] was an Irish-born stage and television actor. He began his professional life pursuing a career as a money-broker, but at the age of 42, he decided to take up professional acting. He performed in a variety of stage productions across the UK, including several Richard Bean plays and a number of Royal Shakespeare Company productions. His final role was as Charlie Clench in One Man, Two Guvnors, which toured the UK as well as appearing on Broadway. Prior to its Broadway run, Ridgeway was diagnosed with motor neurone disease, from which he died in November 2012.

Early life and career

Fred Ridgeway was born in Dublin, Ireland on 16 October 1953, the youngest son of railway worker Benjamin Ridgeway and Christine née McCormack. The family later moved to Peckham in south-east London, as his father worked at Peckham Rye station. His parents were Catholic.[1]

Ridgeway's first serious experience of acting came when he was a student at St Thomas the Apostle College, Nunhead. Actively encouraged by his A Level English teacher, Terry O'Brien, he joined the National Youth Theatre.[1]

Ridgeway did not immediately enter the acting profession, however; at the age of 18 he began a career in finance. After 25 years, he held the position of associate director at Exco. During his time working in finance in New York, Ridgeway attended theatre classes at the Actors' Playhouse in Greenwich Village.[1]

When Ridgeway returned to England, living in Chislehurst, he was active in amateur dramatics, performing with the South London Theatre in West Norwood and the Geoffrey Whitworth Theatre in Crayford, Kent.[1]

Acting career

In 1996, at the age of 42,[2] Ridgeway left his job as a money broker and decided to take up acting professionally.[1] His first role was as an understudy for Tim Pigott-Smith in a National Theatre production of The Alchemist at the Birmingham Repertory Theatre. His professional London debut was in David Haig's My Boy Jack at the Hampstead Theatre in 1997. The following year, he appeared in productions of Dealer's Choice, Saturday, Sunday, Monday and Loot. In Loot, a black comedy by Joe Orton, he was praised by critics for his performance as Truscott of the Yard.[1] The Sunday Times reviewer John Peter enjoyed his "darkly funny performance, beautifully detailed but never fussy".[3] For James Christopher, Ridgeway offered a "play-saving performance" in the vein of the character Basil Fawlty from Fawlty Towers.[4]

In the mid-1990s, Ridgeway began appearing in television series such as The Bill, Heartbeat, EastEnders, Midsomer Murders and Casualty.[1]

In 2003, Ridgeway appeared in Absolutely! (Perhaps) at Wyndham's.[1] He also performed in a number of Royal Shakespeare Company productions, including the parts of Enobarbus in Antony and Cleopatra (2006),[5] Sicinius Velutus in Coriolanus (2007)[6] and Egeon in The Comedy of Errors (2010).[7]

From 2008, he appeared in a series of Richard Bean plays, namely The English Game (2008), England People Very Nice (2009), The Big Fellah (2010) and One Man, Two Guvnors (2011–12). His portrayal of an IRA member in The Big Fellah was described by a reviewer in The Guardian as "utterly terrifying".[8] In One Man, Two Guvnors, he played Charlie Clench, a criminal, a part which was written by Bean specifically for Ridgeway to play.[8][9] Ridgeway was part of the cast when the play opened in May 2011 in the South Bank and remained in the cast as the production toured the UK and travelled to Broadway.[1]

Personal life

Ridgeway married Jeanne in 1983. They had two children, Sarah and Benjamin.[1] His children have also been involved in acting, with Sarah having had appearances in the BBC soap opera Doctors and Benjamin having appeared in the films The New Adventures of Pinocchio and About a Boy. His wife, however, was less keen, and in an interview in 2001, Ridgeway stated: "My wife Jeanne wants nothing to do with it all".[2]


Ridgeway was diagnosed with motor neurone disease prior to the five-month run of One Man, Two Guvnors in New York. He continued in the play, missing only two performances, and tried to keep his illness hidden from most of his colleagues. Although his tiredness off-stage caused fellow cast members to suspect there was something wrong, they only became aware of his illness after the Broadway run of the play was completed.[8] James Corden, who played the lead role, explained: "When we got to New York, a lot of us in the cast started to realise he was unwell, but he never missed a beat. He never missed a cue, an entrance, a line."[10] Ridgeway died from motor neurone disease on 12 November 2012, aged 59.[8]

Selected work


of appearance
Production Role
1997 My Boy Jack
by David Haig

Hampstead Theatre, London

Mr Frankland
1998 Dealer's Choice
by Patrick Marber

West Yorkshire Playhouse, Leeds

1998 Saturday, Sunday, Monday
by Eduardo De Filippo

Chichester Festival Theatre

1998 Loot
by Joe Orton

Chichester Minerva / Vaudeville Theatre

Truscott of the Yard
1999 The Impostor
by Peter Lawson

The Drum Theatre, Plymouth

2001 Spinning Into Butter
by Rebecca Gilman

Royal Court Theatre, London

2001 The Price
by Arthur Miller

Octagon Theatre, Bolton

2001 The Weir
by Conor McPherson

Royal Court Theatre, London

2008 The English Game
by Richard Bean

Yvonne Arnaud Theatre, Guildford

2009 England People Very Nice
by Richard Bean

National Theatre

2010 The Big Fellah
by Richard Bean
2011–12 One Man, Two Guvnors
by Richard Bean

Haymarket, London/Music Box Theatre, New York

Charlie Clench


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Coveney, Michael (16 November 2012). "Fred Ridgeway obituary".  
  2. ^ a b "I was right, says Fred".  
  3. ^ Peter, John (16 August 1998). "Bang to rights – Drama". The Sunday Times. 
  4. ^ Christopher, James (14 August 1998). "Pandering to the farcical – Arts". The Times. 
  5. ^ Taylor, Paul (10 July 2006). "Edges frayed but engrossing". The Independent. 
  6. ^ Billington, Michael (8 March 2007). "Theatre: Coriolanus Royal Shakespeare, Stratford-upon-avon". The Guardian. 
  7. ^ Hickling, Alfred (19 April 2010). "Theatre: Streamlined Shakespeare is a vibrant, modern treat". The Guardian. 
  8. ^ a b c d "Fred Ridgeway". The Times. 23 November 2012. 
  9. ^ Bean, Richard (16 November 2012). "'"Richard Bean on the actor Fred Ridgeway: 'A double-strength comic cocktail. The Guardian. 
  10. ^ Durant, Nancy (23 November 2012). "Corden pays tribute to fellow actor". The Times. 

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