Charles Vance (Goldblatt)
Born Belfast 6th December 1929
Died London 13th January 2013
Diligent theatre producer/director/actor and writer, champion of English repertory, who had an ephemeral career as a screen actor during a two year period between the end of the fifties and the beginning of the sixties. He was however a busier stage player, making a chance debut at the Grand Opera House, Belfast in 1946, when as a law student at Queens University, with an interest in amateur dramatics, he was asked to stand-in for an incapacitated Edward Mulhare in a touring production of Harry Delph’s comedy ‘The Family Upstairs’.
Although a nephew of the respected Group Theatre actor/director Harold Goldblatt, whose influence he might have availed of, he chose instead to gain experience elsewhere and after his graduation he was offered a dogsbody role with the legendary Monaghan born actor/manager Anew McMaster, a Shakespearean devotee, who was charged it seems to bring the Bard’s work to the nether regions of Ireland.
In 1949 Michael MacLiammoir and Hilton Edwards invited McMaster to the Gate Theatre, Dublin, a venue then shared with the Longford Payers, for a short season of classics. Although the barely twenty year old Vance was bringing up the rear on the credit lists, to be at the Gate in such esteemed company, was an experience beyond estimation. He moved to England in early 1950 and within weeks was given a bit-part, credited as Garda O’Hanlon in Irish writer/director Desmond Leslie’s Dublin set drama, ‘Stranger at My Door’, which featured Belfast born Bee Duffell, who was also making her film debut.
In December of that year he met his first wife Vicky and after a whirlwind romance of two weeks, they were married on January 1st 1951. The union lasted almost as long as the courtship and after witnessing an unsavoury incident, he walked out, never to return. Then followed a sojourn in France working as a trainee chef in Paris and a longer working holiday in the Cote d’Azur where he bought and overhauled a 32ft boat and in 1956 made a solo crossing of the Atlantic, landing in St Lucia.
He later joined a low budget company, grandly called the National Theatre of Ireland, on a tour of second level venues across America. In 1958 he was given an opportunity to continue his Dublin theatre work experience, with Cyril Cusack’s Theatre Company, appearing most notably as Captain Nodolmy in Roger McHugh’s adaptation of Alfred Noyes ‘The Accusing Ghost, or Justice for Casement’.
He returned to England shortly afterwards and in 1959 had another attempt at screen recognition, this time an also- starring role as Eddie Holden in director Don Sharp’s crime thriller ’The Professionals’. 1960 saw the change in philosophy that would determine his future, when he founded his own company and made his directing debut with Tennessee Williams’ ‘The Glass Menagerie’, staged at the Empire Theatre, Sheringham in Norfolk.
This was the beginning of what was to be a long and rewarding career, creating a series of repertory companies throughout the South of England in the 60s and 70s and in Yorkshire in the 80s. He continued to take small parts both on film and television until 1962, all of which were forgettable. That year, after his retirement from the screen, he established the Civic Theatre, Chelmsford as a base for CV Productions, remaining as co-resident until the mid-sixties.
He founded other repertory venues such as Eastbourne Theatre in 1969 and Leas Pavilion, Folkestone in 1976. In a rare London theatre appearance in 1975, he gave a noteworthy performance as Sir Thomas More in Robert Bolt’s ‘A Man for All Seasons’, presented at the Greenwood Theatre and in 1979 directed a notable revival of Agatha Christie’s ‘Witness for the Prosecution’, which opened at the Ashcroft Theatre, Croyden and transferred to the King’s Theatre, Edinburgh.
He continued producing into the eighties and in 1987 established with his wife Imogen, a summer season at the Manor Pavilion in Sidmouth, Devon, which celebrated an unbroken run of twenty five years in 2012. Charles Vance may not have possessed the acting talent of his illustrious uncle, Harold Goldblatt, but he survived for over sixty years in a contrary business and was a genuine mover and shaker in the preservation of regional theatre.
Other Film and TV credits:
-Watch Your Stern(1961)