Lindsay Duncan

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Lindsay Duncan
Lindsay Duncan BAM 2011-01-15.jpg
Duncan after a performance of John Gabriel Borkman at the Brooklyn Academy of Music
BornLindsay Vere Duncan
(1950-11-07) 7 November 1950 (age 64)
Edinburgh, Scotland
Years active1975–present
Spouse(s)Hilton McRae
ChildrenCal McRae
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Lindsay Duncan
Lindsay Duncan BAM 2011-01-15.jpg
Duncan after a performance of John Gabriel Borkman at the Brooklyn Academy of Music
BornLindsay Vere Duncan
(1950-11-07) 7 November 1950 (age 64)
Edinburgh, Scotland
Years active1975–present
Spouse(s)Hilton McRae
ChildrenCal McRae

Lindsay Vere Duncan, CBE (born 7 November 1950) is a Scottish stage, television and film actress. On stage she has won two Olivier Awards, a Tony Award for her performance in Private Lives, and another Tony Award nomination for her role in Les Liaisons dangereuses. Duncan has starred in several plays by Harold Pinter. Her most famous roles on television include: Barbara Douglas in Alan Bleasdale's G.B.H. (1991), Servilia of the Junii in the HBO/BBC/RAI series Rome (2005–2007), and Adelaide Brooke in the Doctor Who special "The Waters of Mars" (2009). On film she voiced the android TC-14 in Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace (1999), and she played Alice's mother in Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland (2010). She was appointed CBE (Commander of the British Empire) in 2009 for services to drama.

Personal life[edit]

Duncan was born in Edinburgh, Scotland, in a working class family;[1] her father had served in the army for 21 years before becoming a civil servant.[2] Her parents moved to Leeds, then Birmingham when she was still a child. Duncan attended King Edward VI High School for Girls in Birmingham through a scholarship.[3] Despite her origins, she speaks with a Received Pronunciation accent.[1] As of 2011, her only role with a Scottish accent is AfterLife (2003).[4]

Duncan's father died in a car accident when she was 15.[4] Her mother was affected by Alzheimer's disease and died in 1994; she inspired Sharman Macdonald to write the play The Winter Guest (1995), which was later adapted as a film by Alan Rickman.[5] Duncan is married to fellow Scottish actor Hilton McRae, whom she met in 1985 at the Royal Shakespeare Company.[6] They live in north London. They have one son, Cal McRae, born September 1991.[7]

Duncan was appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) for services to drama in the 2009 Birthday Honours.[8]


Duncan's first contact with theatre was through school productions.[2] She became friends with the future playwright Kevin Elyot, who attended the neighbouring King Edward's School for boys, and followed him to Bristol, where he read Drama at University.[2] She did a number of odd jobs while staging her own production of Joe Orton's Funeral Games.[2]

Duncan joined London's Central School of Speech and Drama at the age of 21.[7] After her training she started out in summer weekly rep in Southwold to gain her Equity card.[1] She appeared in two small roles in Molière's Don Juan at the Hampstead Theatre in 1976, and she joined the Royal Exchange Theatre, Manchester when it opened. In 1978 she returned to London in Plenty by David Hare at the National. She appeared on the television in small roles in a special episode of Up Pompeii! and in The New Avengers, and a commercial for Head & Shoulders shampoo.[9] She made her breakthrough on Top Girls by Caryl Churchill, created at the Royal Court in London and later transferred to The Public Theater in New York: her performance as Lady Nijo, a 13th-century Japanese concubine, won her an Obie, her first award.[10] The next year she took her first major role on film in Richard Eyre's Loose Connections with Stephen Rea.[2] At the same time her television work included a filmed version of Frederick Lonsdale's On Approval (1982), Reilly, Ace of Spies (1983) and Dead Head (1985).

In 1985 she joined the Royal Shakespeare Company for the production of Troilus and Cressida, in which she played Helen of Troy.[11] In September she created the role of the Marquise de Merteuil in Les Liaisons Dangereuses, the play by Christopher Hampton after the French novel by Choderlos de Laclos. The play opened at The Other Place in Stratford-upon-Avon. On 8 January 1986 the production transferred to the 200-seat theatre The Pit in London's Barbican Centre, with its original cast intact. In October of the same year the production moved to the Ambassadors in the West End. In April 1987 the cast, including Duncan, took the play to Broadway, with the London production completely recast. For her performance she was nominated for a Tony and won the Olivier Award for Best Actress and a Theatre World Award. She was however replaced by Glenn Close for Dangerous LiaisonsStephen Frears's film of the play; similarly John Malkovich was selected for the role of Valmont instead of Duncan's co-star Alan Rickman.[12]

In 1988 Duncan won an Evening Standard Award for her role of Maggie in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof by Tennessee Williams. At the same time she became a regular in the plays of Harold Pinter and the television work of Alan Bleasdale and Stephen Poliakoff.[13] She performed for a second season with the RSC in 1994–1995, in A Midsummer Night's Dream in which she played the double role of Hippolyta and Titania.[14] She went on tour in the United States with the rest of the cast, but back and neck pains forced her to be replaced by Emily Button from January to March 1997.[15] Impressed by her performance in David Mamet's The Cryptogram (1994), Al Pacino asked Duncan to play the role of his wife in City Hall (1996) by Harold Becker.[4]

To please her young son, a Star Wars fan, Duncan applied for the role of Anakin Skywalker's mother in Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace (1999), but was not cast; she finally accepted to voice an android TC-14.[2] She reunited with Alan Rickman in a revival of Noël Coward's Private Lives (2001–2002), and won a Tony Award for Best Actress and a second Olivier Award for her performance as Amanda Prynne — she was also nominated the same year for her role in Mouth To Mouth by Kevin Elyot.[16]

Duncan played Servilia Caepionis in the 2005 HBO-BBC series Rome and she starred as Rose Harbinson in Starter for 10. Aged by make-up, she played Lord Longford's wife, Elizabeth, in the TV film Longford. In February 2009, she played British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher in Margaret. In November 2009, Duncan played Adelaide Brooke, companion to the Doctor, in the second of the 2009 Doctor Who specials.[17][18] Duncan played Alice's mother in Tim Burton's 2010 film Alice in Wonderland, alongside Mia Wasikowska, Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter. She also starred in the original London run of Polly Stenham's play That Face at the Royal Court co-starring Matt Smith and directed by Jeremy Herrin. She did the narration for the Matt Lucas and David Walliams 2010/2011 fly-on-the-wall mockumentary series Come Fly with Me on the BBC. In October–November 2010, Duncan starred in a new version by Frank McGuinness of Ibsen's John Gabriel Borkman at the Abbey Theatre, Dublin alongside her Liaisons dangereuses co-stars Alan Rickman and Fiona Shaw.[19] The production transferred in January–February 2011 to the Brooklyn Academy of Music.[20]

Alan Bleasdale asked for Duncan to feature in his first work for television after ten years of absence, The Sinking of the Laconia, aired on January 2011; she plays an upper-class passenger in the two-part drama based on a true story of World War II.[21] She also played the mother of Matt Smith in the telefilm Christopher and His Kind written by Kevin Elyot after Christopher Isherwood's autobiography of the same title. In October–November 2011, Duncan read extracts of the King James Bible at the National Theatre, London as part of the 400th anniversary celebrations of the translation.[22] She played Queen Annis, ruler of Caerleon and antagonist of Merlin, in the 5th episode of the fourth series of BBC1's Merlin.[23] She also appeared as Home Secretary Alex Cairns to Rory Kinnear's Prime Minister in "The National Anthem", the first episode of Charlie Brooker's Black Mirror.[24]

Duncan started 2012 as a guest in the New Year special of Absolutely Fabulous, playing the part of Saffy's favourite film actress, 'Jeanne Durand'. In February she returned to the West End in Noël Coward's Hay Fever with Kevin McNally, Jeremy Northam and Olivia Colman, once again under the direction of Howard Davies.[25] Later in 2012, Duncan featured in BBC2's productions of Shakespeare's history plays.[26] She is to play the Duchess of York in the first film, Richard II, with David Suchet as the Duke of York and Patrick Stewart as John of Gaunt.[27]

Beginning in October 2014, Duncan appears as Claire in the revival of Edward Albee's A Delicate Balance on Broadway.



1976Dom JuanCharlotte/ViolettaHampstead Theatre, London
1976Script, TheThe ScriptHampstead Theatre, London
1976ZackSally TealeRoyal Exchange Theatre, Manchester
1976Rivals, TheThe RivalsLucyRoyal Exchange Theatre, Manchester
1976Prince of Homburg, TheThe Prince of HomburgNatalieRoyal Exchange Theatre, Manchester. British premiere of the play.
1977Deep Blue Sea, TheThe Deep Blue SeaAnneCambridge Arts Theatre
1977Ordeal of Gilbert Pinfold, TheThe Ordeal of Gilbert PinfoldMargaretRoyal Exchange Theatre, Manchester. After a novel by Evelyn Waugh.
1977What the Butler SawGeraldine BarclayRoyal Exchange Theatre, Manchester
1977Skin of Our Teeth, TheThe Skin of Our TeethGladysRoyal Exchange Theatre, Manchester
1977Present LaughterDaphneRoyal Exchange Theatre, Manchester
1977Twelfth NightViolaRoyal Exchange Theatre, Manchester
1978PlentyDorcasNational Theatre, London
1978Comings and GoingsHilaryHampstead Theatre, London
1979Recruiting Officer, TheThe Recruiting OfficerSylviaBristol Old Vic/Edinburgh Festival
1980Julius CaesarPortiaRiverside Studios, London
1980Provoked Wife, TheThe Provoked WifeBelindaNational Theatre, London
1981Incident at Tulse HillRosemaryHampstead Theatre, London. Directed by Harold Pinter.
1982Top GirlsLady Nijo/WinRoyal Court Theatre, Londres then Joe Papp's Public Theater, New York
Won – Obie Award.
1984ProgressRonnieBush Theatre, London
1985–1986Troilus and CressidaHelenRoyal Shakespeare Company: Stratford-upon-Avon/Barbican Theatre
1985–1986Les Liaisons dangereusesMarquise de MerteuilRoyal Shakespeare Company: Ambassadors Theatre, Londres then Music Box Theatre, New York.
Won – Olivier Award for Best Actress and a Theatre World Award; nominated – Tony Award for Best Actress.
1985–1986Merry Wives of Windsor, TheThe Merry Wives of WindsorMistress FordRoyal Shakespeare Company: Stratford-upon-Avon/Barbican Theatre
1988Cat on a Hot Tin RoofMaggieNational Theatre, London
Won – Evening Standard Theatre Award
1988Hedda GablerHedda GablerHampstead Theatre, London
1990BéréniceBéréniceNational Theatre, London
1993Three HotelsBarbara BoyleTricycle Theatre, London
1994Cryptogram, TheThe CryptogramDonnyAmbassadors Theatre, London
1995Midsummer Night's Dream, AA Midsummer Night's DreamTitania/HippolytaRoyal Shakespeare Company: Barbican Theatre, London then The Lunt Fontanne, New York, afterwards adapted to film
1996Ashes to AshesRebeccaGramercy Theater, New York
1997Homecoming, TheThe HomecomingRuthNational Theatre, London
2000Celebration/The RoomPrue/Rose (double bill)Almeida Theatre, London, then the Pinter Festival New York
2001Mouth to MouthLauraAlbery Theatre, London
Won – Critics' Circle Theatre Award; nominated – Olivier Award, Evening Standard Award
2001Private LivesAmanda PrynneAlbery Theatre, London, then Broadway
Won – Olivier Award for Best Actress, Tony Award for Best Actress in a Play, Critics' Circle Theatre Award, Drama Desk Award and Variety Club Showbusiness Award; nominated – Evening Standard Award
2007That FaceMarthaRoyal Court Theatre/Duke of York's Theatre
Nominated – Oliver Award for Best Actress
2010John Gabriel BorkmanElla RentheimAbbey Theatre, Dublin, then Brooklyn Academy of Music, New York
2012Hay FeverJudith BlissNoël Coward Theatre, London
2014A Delicate BalanceClaireJohn Golden Theatre, Broadway


1985Loose ConnectionsSally
1985Samson and DelilahAlice NankervisShort, after a novel by D.H. Lawrence
1987Prick Up Your EarsAnthea Lahr
1988ManifestoLily SachorAfter a novel by Émile Zola
1989Child Eater, TheThe Child EaterEirwenShort
1990Reflecting Skin, TheThe Reflecting SkinDolphin BlueCatalonian International Film Festival Award for Best Actress
1991Body PartsDr Agatha-WebbAfter a novel by Boileau-Narcejac
1996City HallSydney Pappas
1996Midsummer's Night Dream, AA Midsummer's Night DreamHippolyta / TitaniaFrom the 1994–1995 Royal Shakespeare Company stage production
1999Ideal Husband, AnAn Ideal HusbandLady MarkbyAfter the play by Oscar Wilde
1999Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom MenaceTC-14Voice
1999Expelling the DemonWomanVoice, short. Screenplay by A-Soma
1999Mansfield ParkMrs. Price / Lady BertramAfter the novel by Jane Austen
2003Under the Tuscan SunKatherineAfter the novel by Frances Mayes
2003AfterLifeMay BroganBratislava International Film Festival Award for Best Actress, Bowmore Scottish Screen Award
2004Queen of Sheba's Pearls, TheThe Queen of Sheba's PearlsAudrey Pretty
2006Starter for TenRose HarbinsonAfter the novel by David Nicholls
2010Burlesque FairytalesIce Queen
2010Alice in WonderlandHelen KingsleighAfter Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass by Lewis Carroll
2012Last PassengerElaine Middleton
2013About TimeMary Lake
2013Le Week-EndMeg Burrows
2014BirdmanTabitha DickinsonThe New York Times theatre critic


1975Up Pompeii!ScrubbaSeries (BBC), special episode ‘Further Up Pompeii!’
1976One-UpmanshipSeries (BBC), episode ‘Woomanship’
1977New Avengers, TheThe New AvengersJaneSeries, episode ‘The Angels of Death’
1979The WinklerDianeITV Playhouse
1980Dick TurpinCatherine LangfordSeries, episode ‘Deadlier Than the Male’
1980Grown-UpsChristine ButcherBBC2 Playhouse, directed by Mike Leigh
1982Muck and BrassJean TorrodeSeries, episodes ‘Public Relations’ and ‘Our Green and Pleasant Land’
1982On ApprovalHelen HayleFilmed production of Frederick Lonsdale's On Approval, BBC Play of the Month
1983Reilly, Ace of SpiesThe PluggerMini series, episode ‘After Moscow’
1984Rainy Day WomenKaren MillerBBC Play for Today
1984Travelling ManAndreaSeries, episodes ‘First Leg’, ‘The Collector’, ‘The Watcher’, ‘Grasser’, ‘Moving On’, ‘Sudden Death’
1986Dead HeadDanaSeries, episodes ‘Why me?’, ‘Anything for England’, ‘The Patriot’
1986Kit CurranPamela ScottSeries, all episodes
1989These Foolish ThingsGutrune DayBBC The Play on One
1989TraffikHelen RosshaldeMini-series, written by Simon Moore, all episodes
1988–1990Colin's SandwichRosemarySeries, episodes ‘Enough’ (1988) and ‘Zanzibar’ (1990)
1990TECXLaura PellinSeries, épisode ‘Getting Personnel’
1991Storyteller: Greek Myths, TheThe Storyteller: Greek MythsMedeaSeries, episode ‘Theseus & the Minotaur’
1991ScreenplayKath PeacheySeries, episode ‘Redemption’
1991G.B.H.Barbara DouglasMini-series, witten by Alan Bleasdale, episodes ‘Only Here on a Message’, ‘Send a Message to Michael’, ‘Message Sent’, ‘Message received’, ‘Message Understood’, ‘Over and Out’
Nominated – TV BAFTA for Best Actress
1993Year in Provence, AA Year in ProvenceAnnie MayleMiniseries, all episodes. After Peter Mayle's book.
1994Rector's Wife, TheThe Rector's WifeAnne BouverieSeries, all episodes. After the novel by Joanna Trollope.
1995Just WilliamLady WaltonSeries, episode ‘William Clears the Slums’
1995Jake's ProgressMonicaMiniseries, episodes 1.1, 1.2, 1.3, 1.4, 1.6
1999History of Tom Jones, A Foundling, TheThe History of Tom Jones, A FoundlingLady BellastonMiniseries, episodes 1, 3, 4, 5. After the novel by Henry Fielding.
1998Get RealLouiseSeries, all episodes
1999Shooting the PastMarilyn TrumanTelefilm (BBC), written and directed by Stephen Poliakoff
Nominated – TV BAFTA for Best Actress
1999Oliver TwistElizabeth LeefordMiniseries, all episodes. Adapted by Alan Bleasdale after Charles Dickens' novel.
2000Dirty TricksAlisonTelefilm
2000Victoria Wood with All The TrimmingsPamChristmas special, segment ‘Women Institute’
2001Perfect StrangersAliceSeries, all episodes. Written and directed by Stephen Poliakoff
Nominated — TV BAFTA for Best Actress
2001Witness of Truth: The Railway MurdersNarrator's VoiceTelefilm
2005Agatha Christie's PoirotLady TamplinSeries, episode ‘The Mystery of the Blue Train
2005–2006SpooksAngela WellsEpisodes ‘Diana’ and ‘Gas and Oil, Part One
2005–2007RomeServilia of the JuniiSeries, 18 episodes
2006LongfordLady LongfordTelefilm
2007FrankensteinProfessor Jane PretoriusTelefilm
2008Criminal JusticeAlison SlaughterMiniseries, episodes 3–5
2008Lost in AustenLady Catherine de BourghMiniseries, episodes 3 and 4
2009MargaretMargaret ThatcherNominated – Scottish BAFTA Award for Best Actress
2009Doctor WhoAdelaide BrookeSpecial episode: ‘The Waters of Mars
2009MargotNinette de ValoisTelefilm (BBC)
2010Agatha Christie's MarpleMarina GreggEpisode: ‘The Mirror Crack'd from Side to Side
2010Mission: 2110CybeleChildren game show
2010–2011Come Fly with MeNarrator (voice)Series, all episodes
2011Sinking of the Laconia, TheThe Sinking of the LaconiaElisabeth FullwoodMiniseries (BBC), all episodes. Written by Alan Bleasdale.
2011Christopher and His KindKathleen IsherwoodTelefilm, written by Kevin Elyot after Christopher Isherwood's autobiography
2011–2012MerlinQueen AnnisSeries (BBC1), 4th season, 5th season
2011Black MirrorHome Secretary Alex CairnsMiniseries, first episode: ‘The National Anthem’ (Channel 4). Written by Charlie Brooker.
2011Against the WallFaith KowalskiPolice-crime drama television series, episode ‘We Have a Cop in Trouble Here‘
2012Absolutely FabulousJeanne DurandNew Year's Day 'Special' (BBC1)
2012White HeatLillySeries (BBC2), written by Paula Milne
2012Richard IIDuchess of YorkTelefilm (BBC2) – filmed production of Shakespeare's play
2012SpyThe DirectorEpisodes ‘Codename: Citizen Lame’ and ‘Codename - Show Stopper’
2012WallanderMonika WestinEpisode ‘Before the Frost’
2013Count Arthur StrongDame Agnes
2014SherlockLady SmallwoodEpisode: "His Last Vow"
2014The Honourable WomanAnjelica Hayden-Hoyle


  1. ^ a b c John Walsh (18 January 1997). "The stainless steel queen". The Independent. Retrieved 20 June 2011. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f Kevin Jackson (23 October 2005). "Lindsay Duncan: When in Rome". The Independent (London). Retrieved 7 May 2010. 
  3. ^ Tony Collins (7 May 2009). "Actress Lindsay Duncan helps Birmingham school celebrate". Birmingham Mail. Retrieved 20 June 2011. 
  4. ^ a b c Anna Burnside (26 June 2005). "The rose who showed her thorns". The Sunday Times. Retrieved 20 June 2011. 
  5. ^ Clare Bayley (January 2005). "Listening to the teenager within". The Independent. Retrieved 20 June 2011. 
  6. ^ Matt Wolf (5 May 2011). "Hilton McRae on Sharing the London Stage with Judy Garland in End of the Rainbow". Retrieved 20 June 2011. 
  7. ^ a b Harriet Lane (23 April 2007). "Bad girl. Lindsay Duncan talks to Harriet Lane about her new play". The Guardian. Retrieved 20 June 2011. 
  8. ^ The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 59090. p. 7. 13 June 2009.
  9. ^ "Thames Adverts, 25th January 1979 (1)". Retrieved 26 July 2010. 
  10. ^ "Lindsay Duncan". Masterclass, Theatre Royal Haymarket. Retrieved 25 June 2010. 
  11. ^ "The Tragedy of Troilus and Cressida". Royal Shakespeare Company. Retrieved 25 June 2011. 
  12. ^ Brian Viner (May 2001). "Lindsay Duncan: The thinking man's femme fatale". The Independent. Retrieved 25 June 2010. 
  13. ^ Emine Saner (14 February 2009). "Saturday Interviews – Lindsay Duncan". The Guardian. Retrieved 26 June 2011. 
  14. ^ "A Midsummer Night's Dream". Royal Shakespeare Company. Retrieved 26 June 2011. 
  15. ^ "The Royal Shakespeare Company's U.S. Tour - Robert Gillespie's Diary". Jane Network Productions. Retrieved 26 June 2010. 
  16. ^ "Lindsay Duncan's double-nomination triumph". January 2002. .
  17. ^ "Lindsay Duncan: I'm thrilled to be Doctor Who's new assistant". The Daily Record. 18 February 2009. Retrieved 18 February 2009. 
  18. ^ "Lindsay Duncan to star in second Doctor Who Special of 2009.". Retrieved 18 February 2009. 
  19. ^ Fintan Walsh. "John Gabriel Borkman". The Irish Theatre Magazine. 
  20. ^ "John Gabriel Borkman". BAM. 
  21. ^ Robert Chalmers (12 December 2010). "In from the cold: Alan Bleasdale on his return to television after a decade in the wilderness". The Independent. 
  22. ^ "King James Bible: In the Beginning — Cast and credits". National Theatre. 
  23. ^ Morgan Jeffery. "James Callis, Lindsay Duncan for 'Merlin' roles". Digital Spy. Retrieved 16 September 2011. 
  24. ^ Charlie Brooker: the dark side of our gadget addiction (1 December 2011). "Charlie Brooker: the dark side of our gadget addiction". The Guardian. Retrieved 2 March 2012. 
  25. ^ Kate Kellaway (26 February 2012). "Lindsay Duncan: 'There's pain as well as laughter in Noël Coward's plays'". The Observer. Retrieved 2 March 2012. 
  26. ^ Vanessa Thorpe (29 May 2011). "Shakespeare gets the starring role in cultural celebration alongside Olympics". The Observer. Retrieved 20 June 2011. 
  27. ^ Mike Watkins (May 2011). "BBC Two to air Shakespeare works Richard II, Henry IV Parts I and II and Henry V". ATV Guide. Retrieved 20 June 2011. 

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