Person - David Futcher

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DAVID VERNON FUTCHER (1926 - 1996)

Of interest to ASIO, David Futcher was born on 21 August 1926. He was an RAAF cadet in 1944 and the next year graduated in bookkeeping from the Hemingway Robertson Institute. His first appearance on stage at New Theatre was as Phillips in a 1947 Workshop of Waiting for Lefty,its cast including John Hepworth as Sid. In 1948 he was well reviewed as the Brown Priest of the Poor in The Star Turns Red. This was followed by the Egyptian Son in The Dangerous Sex, Farmer Case in 6 Men of Dorset, Hans Schmidt in The Governor of the Province and a Greek soldier in X=0. In 1949 he acted in The Lion on the Square , Birthday of a Miner, Tennessee Williams’ The Long Goodbye , the election revue Pot of Message, and Man of Destiny. The last was repeated as part of a variety night fundraiser for the Amjah Defence Fund (charged with desertion and as an illegal immigrant, Malayan seaman Amjah was discharged a free man after protracted court hearings). In 1950 Futcher assisted director John Armstrong on Had We But World Enough, played Gerald in An Inspector Calls and was in the cast of the revue Press the Point. The next year he played Estaban in Spanish Villageand was on the NT children's theatre committee.

Futcher also acted in Workshops: Speak Ye Comfortably to Jerusalem directed by Graeme Stewart, The Tree by Sydney Box directed by Cedric McLaughlin, as a policeman in The Rising of the Moon by Lady Gregory, and as a king in St Simeon Stylites by F Sladen-Smith. X=O and The Long Goodbye began as Workshops.

In 1949 Futcher passed with credit a course in microphone technique and screen acting with the Muriel Steinbeck Film Academy in Sydney. He toured schools as a priest in Twelfth Night with other NT actors Lyle O'Hara (as Olivia), Ossie Conroy (as Feste) and Cedric McLaughlin. He played The Explorer in Eleanor Witcombe's The Bushranger directed by Elsie Dayne for the Mosman Children's Theatre Club; Samuel Snizzle in Pirates at the Barn for the same producers (its cast included Reg Livermore and NT actors Elsie Dayne, Alan Herbert, John Barnard and Jack Mudge); and, again for the same producers, was Rummy in Smugglers Beware (the cast including its director Elsie Dayne plus NT actors Barbara Brunton and Alan Herbert). In 1951 The Bushranger toured NSW towns with Futcher as the comical Constable, Elsie Dayne as Mrs Merryweather, John Barnard as Wallaby Joe and Jack Mudge as Gentleman Jack.

In 1952 David was in NT's Sky Without Birds and played Slappy in The Travelling Musicians before sailing on the Otranto to try his luck in England. He had become restless at NT, wanted to act professionally, felt he lacked political intellect, and that his voice was more English than Australian. Soon after arriving in England, he was awarded a two- year scholarship at the Webber Douglas Academy of Singing and Dramatic Art in London. Before starting classes he joined Wilf Beaver for three weeks in Hanover with the National Students Union.

David found London a wonderful place if you had money but the average working man was badly off and needed two jobs to survive. In 1953 he was well reviewed as the lame boy in The Pied Piper directed by Heather Gell at the Adelphi. After drama school he worked with the Salisbury Arts Theatre, Farnham Rep, and on BBC TV and radio. He toured Canada with the London Theatre Company and was offered a job in the Arctic Circle but turned it down. He soon tired of rep because one became blunted with nothing fresh to offer.

By 1957 he was playing younger characters, could fall back on “little man” roles, and had landed a bit part in the film The Gipsy and The Gentleman (on a daily rate which thanks to the English weather lasted a week). In 1958 he was living in Chelsea, in and out of work, but a role as a comic spiv on BBC TV paid enough money to bring his mother to London for a visit. In 1962 he was working with Laurence Olivier, and in the early 1980s, by which time he had “come out” as a gay man, was doing pub revue in London. He used the stage names David Ryder, David Reider and David Ryder-Futcher.

In the UK he caught up with NT actors Lyle O'Hara, Jack Mudge, Les Tanner ~ and Jerry Wells who hadn't changed one bit! He remained a close friend of Wilf Beaver until his death.

David Futcher died in London on 23 December 1996. His scrapbook of clippings, programmes and photographs is held by Mitchell Library: MLMSS 6501.


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