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Subject: Actress Dilys Hamlett Dead at 74

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Date Posted: November 11, 2002 11:22:06 EDT

Actress Dilys Hamlett, who starred in heavyweight roles from Shakespeare, Strindburg and Ibsen and helped to found Manchester's Royal Exchange Theatre, has died at 74, theater officials said Monday.

Hamlett died of a brain hemorrhage on Nov. 7 in a hospital in Scotland, said Joanne Parkinson, a spokeswoman for the Manchester Royal Exchange Theatre.

Hamlett was a key member of the theater company Theatre '59 at the Lyric Theatre in Hammersmith, west London, whose members later formed Century Theatre in Manchester; she played a crucial role in subsequently restructuring the group as Theatre '69 and relocating to Manchester's Royal Exchange building.

Born in Tidmouth, southern England, Hamlett got her first professional break came as one of the haunting presences at the country-house setting of "The Innocents," William Archibald's atmospheric reworking of Henry James's "The Turn of the Screw" at Her Majesty's Theatre in London in 1952.

After a stint in repertory, she spent 1955 playing supporting roles such as the first witch, and understudying Vivien Leigh, in Laurence Olivier's "Macbeth" for the Royal Shakespeare Company at Stratford upon Avon. Hamlett's work was impressive enough for her to be invited to return the following season in more significant parts.

Her first major London appearances came in 1959 at the Lyric, Hammersmith with a new young company including Patrick McGoohan, James Maxwell and her future husband, the director Caspar Wrede.

Contact Theatre, formed in 1966, provided her with some of her best parts; between 1966 and 1968 she played roles that included a teasingly volatile Amanda in Noel Coward's "Private Lives," a quick-witted Portia in "The Merchant of Venice," and an acclaimed Mary Tyrone in Eugene O'Neill's "Long Day's Journey Into Night."

The opening of the theater within the Royal Exchange building in Manchester in 1976 provided further roles, including Miss Moffatt in Emlyn Williams's "The Corn is Green" and Madame Ranevkya in "The Cherry Orchard."

She is survived by one son.

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