Cyril Livingstone: Tributes to Leeds theatre director and critic

Cyril Livingstone.
Cyril Livingstone.
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Tributes have been paid to Cyril Livingstone, who died on March 31 aged 90, who was perhaps best known for his association with Leeds amateur drama group The Proscenium Players.

He had the enviable distinction of introducing the world to Frankie Vaughan, who went on to become a world-wide singing sensation and famously fell out with actor Peter O’Toole.

As a founder member of the Players in 1948, he became the group’s leading actor but his hankering for direction, which he did clandestinely from the sidelines in other directors’ productions, later blossomed in productions of his own.

Cyril, born March 28, 1921, was the youngest of three sons born to Bertha and Joseph Livingstone.

Long-term friend and colleague John Fisher joined the Players in 1952 and is author of An Audience Of Curious People: The Story of the Proscenium Players (published by Scratching Shed Publications, 2010). He was kind enough to share details of his career.

He said: “In the 1950s, he appeared in numerous plays for Harry Hanson’s famous repertory company the Court Players, staged at the now defunct Leeds Theatre Royal. He was nearly always chosen to play sinister and menacing characters, which he relished.

“He was invited to act in the York Festival’s 1960 production of the York Cycle of Mystery Plays where he was cast as Caiaphas, and directed by the late David Giles.

“He was a prime mover in the annual rag revues at Leeds University during the late 1940s and early 1950s, both as a member of the cast and author of many witty sketches and monologues.

“In fact he was one of a team of writers who first introduced the world to Frankie Vaughan in a 1949 Leeds University Rag Revue at Leeds Empire.

“His performance as the Chief of Police in Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment had one critic describe his slinky walk as ‘like a sleek cat approaching a saucer of cream’.

“But it is as a man of the theatre and an indefatigable director of outstanding merit he will be best remembered.

“Cyril, a blend of chic and cheek, was a hard task master and as director developed a forthright and blunt tone which brought the best out of his actors.

“Those who could not swallow his gallows humour fell by the wayside.

“Cyril’s love of design spilled over from his family fashion business, which he joined just before the Second World War and brought such panache to the Leeds fashion scenario.

“The salon, which he fronted with his mother in North Street and later Albion Place, was a landmark for the stylish.

“The fashion conscious would flock there to choose the latest haute couture and to Cyril’s opinion of what suited them best.

“In the 1950s Cyril began writing snappy theatrical appraisals and often reviewed the Leeds Civic Theatre drama season at the Proscenium Players’ Sunday Club meetings held at the Griffin Hotel in Leeds.

“He was at his most critical when reviewing a production of A Month in the Country which starred Peter O’Toole and which Cyril found ‘interminably boring’.

“His scathing critique ended: ‘More like a year in the theatre than a month in the country.’

O’Toole never spoke to him again.”

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