Quotations from P G Wodehouse are copyright of, and reprinted by permission of, the Trustees of the Wodehouse Estate © 2015 The P G Wodehouse Society (UK)
Jonathan Cecil – an appreciation
by Paul Kent
It is with great sadness that we learned of the untimely death of the wonderful actor and Society Patron Jonathan Cecil, who succumbed to pneumonia on 22nd September, aged 72.
Jonathan last addressed the Society on the 16th February 2010, having hot-
Prefacing a masterful performance of three Wodehouse vignettes, he gave a short speech
by way of introduction. Having noted that he was “vain as the next actor”, Jonathan
confessed that he seldom listened to his own recordings, branding one of his earliest
as “a brilliant cure for insomnia”. This example of his characteristic modesty was
very soon afterwards proved to be an outrageous self-
In many ways, it was Jonathan in microcosm: brilliant, professional, funny, and selflessly letting the script do the talking without the performer getting in the way. Speaking as a director, it’s a beautifully poised kind of acting one seldom encounters today; totally unselfish, yet absolutely in control. And talking to Jonathan afterwards, he made absolutely nothing of his wonderful gift, speaking, once again, without a scintilla of false modesty. The anecdotes flowed, for he was not just a garrulous raconteur, but a mine of information on theatrical history, particularly that of the music hall, such that he was called on to pen book reviews for the Spectator and the Times Literary Supplement.
He truly had many strings to his bow, and the tendency of casting directors to immediately
think of him when they needed a toff or a dotty cleric unfairly limited his versatility.
It’s true that Eton, Oxford and having the noted scholar and critic Lord David Cecil
as his father wasn’t going to win him many auditions for kitchen-
But my abiding image remains Jonathan regularly sweeping into our local pub in Hammersmith, resplendent in long coat and fedora, accompanied by his wife (fellow actor Anna Sharkey), more than ready for an evening’s conviviality. It was never a showy entrance, but somehow you were always aware it was happening; and it seemed that whichever corner of the bar they ended up in, that was the source of all the bustle and the laughter.
Jonathan is survived by Anna and his siblings, Hugh and Laura.
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