Categories Print Media Tributes

Helen McCrory: engaging, enthralling, always magnetically watchable

The exquisitely talented actor shone at playing complex, intelligent women with a seemingly effortless skill

by Mark Lawson | April 16, 2021 | The Guardian

Extreme … Helen McCrory in the National Theatre’s 2014 production of Medea.
Photograph: Tristram Kenton/The Guardian
It seems fitting that one of Helen McCrory’s final screen performances in a career devastatingly truncated by her death at 52 was as a barrister. In last year’s ITV drama Quiz, she played Sonia Woodley QC, hired to defend Major Charles Ingram and his wife Diana, accused of conspiring to steal the titular prize in Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? through a code based on studio coughing.

With a majority of viewers likely to be convinced of the Ingrams’ guilt (from media coverage of the case in 2003), McCrory as Woodley in episode three presented an alternative interpretation so engagingly and persuasively that the previous two episodes seemed to be cast into doubt.

Continue reading Helen McCrory: engaging, enthralling, always magnetically watchable

Categories Medea Old Times Peaky Blinders Print Media The Deep Blue Sea Tributes Uncle Vanya

Helen McCrory would have been the next Helen Mirren or Judi Dench

The actress leaves an extraordinary body of work, but there is no doubt that she had so much more to give

The wonder for me about Helen McCrory – whose passing, at 52, is so cruel, so sad, such a profound and premature loss to the acting profession – is how relatively long it took for people to cotton on to her magnificence.

I was lucky enough to visit the Tricycle, north London one winter evening in 1995 and see her star as Lady M in Macbeth. In fact, of course, she wasn’t then the “draw” – here was, surprisingly enough, a Shakespeare production at a major off-West End venue renowned for its contemporary political work. It was an oddity from artistic director Nicolas Kent. Yet within the space of a couple of hours, I emerged with her name on my lips, and the surest conviction that I had set eyes on one of the greats.

Here was an actress who was so intense, so spellbinding, so caught up in every moment of every scene she was in that it was as though she carried a lifetime’s acting experience within her: but she was just in her mid-20s. Her flintiness illuminated every line it sparked off.  Rapt, I ended my review of that dark, sinister torch-lit night, referencing the sleepwalking scene, saying that “it is the sight of McCrory alone, scurrying restlessly round in the dark and hugging a single flame, that burns a lasting image of unstoppable evil onto your retina.”

Categories Print Media Theatre Tributes Uncle Vanya

Truly, we have lost a luminous talent in Helen McCrory

Helen was nothing if not a giver of care but, of course, she excelled as an actress

In my mind’s eye, I see her making a slow entrance on to the Donmar Warehouse stage as Yelena in Chekhov’s Uncle Vanya.

No wonder Simon Russell Beale’s Vanya has his tongue hanging out; Helen McCrory utterly commanded the stage in that moment. Wide-brimmed hat, long brocaded gown, she echoed a sense of Greta Garbo with the glamour of Marlene Dietrich.

This was one of artistic director Sam Mendes’s farewells at the Donmar in London, before he went on to direct two Bond movies. I chatted about it later with Helen and she explained: ‘Darling, that was Sam’s doing. I chose the hat and he choreographed the walk.’

Categories Peaky Blinders Print Media Tributes

So long, Aunt Polly

Remembering ‘Peaky Blinders’ star Helen McCrory

by James McMahon | April 16, 2021 |

It’s a gross failing of Britain’s entertainment industry that there’s a time of life when women fall off our screens. There’s no absence of roles for twenty, thirty and forty-somethings. Turn 60 and, if you’re lucky, you can navigate the journey to retirement via the sort of roles Helen Mirren or Dame Judy Dench have made their own. But in your fifties? Not so much. If you’re a woman in your fifties who likes sex? Drinking? Y’know, an authentic representation of a woman in middle age? No chance.

It would be wrong to say that Helen McCrory – who has died aged 52 from cancer – changed this. But her role as Peaky Blinders’ chain-smoking matriarch Polly Gray has made such an impact that it will surely lead to future change. Her casting as Aunt Pol in the interwar crime drama went under the radar in 2013; the show’s lead, Cillian Murphy was a far bigger name. But it was far from undeserved. Anyone who has three Harry Potter movies on their resumé, an acclaimed West End career, has worked with the great Martin Scorsese (in 2011’s Hugo) and played her part in making 2012’s Skyfall the best Bond movie of the modern era is worthy of a punt.

Continue reading So long, Aunt Polly