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Haddrick, Ronald (Ron) (1929–2020)

by Glenda Korporaal

Ron Haddrick was one of Australia’s gentlemen actors whose 60-plus year career spanned radio plays in Adelaide, Shakespeare in Britain alongside Laurence Olivier, Michael Redgrave and John Gielgud, and theatre in Australia with John Bell and Ruth Cracknell.

From Haddrick’s first appearance on the stage in 1946, at Adelaide’s Tivoli Theatre, his career ranged from five seasons in Britain with the Royal Shakespeare Theatre company to frequent appearances at the Old Tote Theatre Company, the Nimrod Theatre Company and the Sydney Theatre Company.

Haddrick combined his career on stage with television roles including Dr Redfern in the ABC’s The Outcasts (1962) and Adam Suisse in The Stranger (1964), as well as appearances in, among other things, popular series such as Hunter, Sons and Daughters, Water Rats, Home and Away, Homicide and Underbelly.

He received an MBE for his services to the arts in 1974. In 2012 he received the Actors Equity Lifetime Achievement Award and in 2013 he was made a Member of the Order of Australia.

Bell Shakespeare company founder John Bell calls Haddrick “one of the great actors of his generation”. He also praises Haddrick as a mentor to young actors and an inspiration to others who worked with him. “He was a very happy actor. He always brought a lot of laughter and sunshine into rehearsals. Everyone was full of love and admiration for him. He was such a gentleman. Those of us who worked with him learned to imitate the way he behaved himself, both onstage and off.”

Born in Adelaide in 1929, Haddrick was the son of Olive May and Alexander Norman Haddrick. He started working in Adelaide as a dental technician but found himself drawn to dramas on local radio in the evenings.

A keen cricketer, he opened the batting for South Australia in a Sheffield Shield match in 1953. But his dreams of playing for the Australian cricket team took a different turn when the Shakespeare Memorial Theatre (now the Royal Shakespeare Theatre) played in Adelaide as part of a tour of Australia. English actor Anthony Quayle, who was managing the company, held auditions, which led to Haddrick securing a contract to join the company at Stratford-Upon-Avon.

“It was a fork in the road for Dad,” says son Greg Haddrick, a screenwriter, describing the choice between acting and cricket. “With encouragement from his father to follow his dream, Dad decided he couldn’t pass up the golden opportunity to improve his acting and learn from the best in the world.”

Ron Haddrick found himself on stage with Olivier, Redgrave, Gielgud, Harry Andrews, Edith Evans and Peggy Ashcroft. Haddrick later invited his girlfriend from Adelaide, Lorraine, to join him in England, where they married in 1956.

During his stint with the Shakespeare company Haddrick toured Russia in 1958 at the height of the Cold War. But, after five seasons at Stratford, the Haddricks wanted to return to Australia, heading to Sydney where Ron joined the Elizabethan Theatre Trust, playing Alf Cook in the world premiere of Alan Seymour’s The One Day of the Year.

The Haddricks bought a home in the inner-western suburb of Homebush. On the mortgage application, Ron Haddrick described himself as a dental technician, fearing that loans to actors were more difficult to secure.

In 1963 University of NSW drama professor Robert Quentin told Haddrick he was starting the Old Tote Theatre Company on the university campus. He invited him to star in the first production, The Cherry Orchard, which also featured young actor Bell. This marked the start of a long association with the Old Tote and nearly 30 years of almost continual work.

Memorable stage roles included Jock in David Williamson’s The Club, which toured London after performances in Australia, and Big Daddy in the STC’s Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. In the 1980s he played many roles for the Nimrod, STC, Marian Street Theatre and Queensland Theatre Company. In the 1990s he moved into musicals, performing in Hello Dolly and My Fair Lady.

Haddrick also had a long association performing with Cracknell, including in Wil­liam­son’s What If You Died Tomor­row? (1974), which toured Aus­tralia and London, and David Edgar’s Dickens marathon, The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby (1983) for the STC.

He also narrated six audio books of the British children’s TV series Thomas the Tank Engine and children’s and young adult books by Emily Rodda.

Haddrick is survived by wife Lorraine, daughter Lynette and son Greg, daughter-in-law Margaret and grandchildren Taya, Milly and Jack. He will be remembered this Sunday in a “final curtain call” at UNSW’s Parade Theatre in Kensington, Sydney. Speakers will include Bell, former Australian cricket captain Ian Chappell, Drew Forsythe, Kirrily Nolan and Aubrey Mellor.

Original publication

  • Australian, 26 February 2020

Additional Resources

Citation details

Glenda Korporaal, 'Haddrick, Ronald (Ron) (1929–2020)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://oa.anu.edu.au/obituary/haddrick-ronald-ron-30112/text37378, accessed 4 June 2020.

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