The name of Darrell Fancourt conjures up memories of a vivid and vital personality, who joined the Company in 1920 and played with such freshness and consistency until 1953, when he was awarded the O.B.E.. and then had to retire because of ill-health and died only six weeks after his last performance.
Before joining the Company, he had done mainly concert work, including an appearance at a Promenade Concert and also a performance in "Prince Igor" at Covent Garden, so he must have brought a very fresh mind to bear on the roles he gradually took over. He had played in all the operas in the repertory (including "The Sorcerer") with the exception of "The Gondoliers". He even played the Usher in "Trial by Jury" during the 1926 London season, and for years played Bouncer in "Cox and Box", together with Dick Deadeye in "H.M.S. Pinafore".
He had trained at the Royal Academy of Music and also in Germany, and had great technical control over his voice and breathing, and his diction was excellent.
Always popular with the members of the Company as well as with audiences in the British Isles, Canada, and the United States, he was a great stickler for etiquette and had strong self-discipline. No matter where he was, he always rested in the afternoon, and he himself often wondered how he kept awake during matinees! Maybe that was part of his routine too.
He was a keen golfer and a fine bridge player, also a great conversationalist with a keen sense of humour. Once, in the second Act of "The Yeomen of the Guard", he became too absorbed in a book, and suddenly heard his name being called urgently. He rushed on to the stage, forgetting that he had removed his wig and was still wearing his glasses. The principals on the stage gave one look and nearly collapsed, and Darrell, when he realised what he had done, saw the funny side too. It was a very "Strange Adventure" that was recounted that evening!
But such happenings were rare. He was always a tower of strength, and at all times helped understudies and the principals to the best of his ability. He would tell them not to worry as he knew his part and nothing they did would put him off!
In the Coronation honours he was awarded the O.B.E
During the 1953 season, he was to have made his farewell performance, at Sadler's Wells Theatre, as the Mikado but fell ill before the performance and died a few weeks later at the age of 65 and will always be remembered as one of the most enlightened and outstanding Savoyards.
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