Stage and screen actor best known for his roles in Only Fools and Horses, The Vicar of Dibley and Harry Potter
Thursday 16 January 2014
The talented and idiosyncratic character actor Roger Lloyd Pack, who has died of pancreatic cancer aged 69, achieved national recognition, and huge popularity, as Colin "Trigger" Ball, the lugubrious Peckham road sweeper in John Sullivan's brilliantly acted comedy series Only Fools and Horses. He appeared alongside David Jason's Del Boy and Nicholas Lyndhurst's "plonker" Rodney from 1981 for 10 years, with many a seasonal "special" for another decade.
This success cemented a career in which, up to that point, he had played important roles at the Royal Shakespeare Company, the National Theatre and the Almeida theatre in north London – he was a notably anguished Rosmer in Ibsen's Rosmersholm at the National in 1987, opposite Suzanne Bertish – without recognition any wider than usually appreciative reviews.
His enhanced status led to another hugely successful BBC television comedy series, The Vicar of Dibley (1994-2007), written by Richard Curtis, and starring Dawn French as the ecclesiastical new broom, Geraldine, in a sleepy Oxfordshire parish. He played Owen Newitt, the local farmer with a suspiciously ambiguous relationship with his own animals, who lusted after the breezy cleric and was not averse to misinterpreting her exiguous signs of encouragement.
Lloyd Pack described Trigger as both a blessing and a curse, as it made him susceptible to cheerily sarcastic greeting on the streets. This was not false modesty. The actor lived a full life in his local communities in north London and Fakenham, Norfolk, and was highly visible in all sorts of political and charitable activities, where his good nature and deep feeling about issues such as schools, the ambulance service and integrated traffic policies engaged him fully.
On stage he was very good at looking as though he would not hurt a fly, but his last work, in Mark Rylance's all-male company at Shakespeare's Globe (and in the West End) in 2012 revealed other facets in his apparent equability: he played the "deep, revolving" Duke of Buckingham to Rylance's Richard III with sudden revelations of shark-like attack; and paired this with a definitive Sir Andrew Aguecheek, the dim-witted, lovelorn sidekick ("I was adored once, too") of Toby Belch in Twelfth Night.
Roger's father, the actor Charles Lloyd Pack, was proud of his working-class origins in Wapping, east London. His mother, Elizabeth Ulrike Pulay, was a Viennese Jewish refugee, worked as a travel agent and later founded a kindergarten because she disapproved of what was available. Roger was born in Islington, north London. After prep school he was packed off to Bedales, in Hampshire, trained at Rada in London, made his stage debut in The Shoemaker's Holiday by Thomas Dekker at the Theatre Royal, Northampton, and joined the RSC.
Lloyd Pack made his television debut in The Avengers in 1965, subsequently appearing in many established series in the 1970s such as Jason King, Crown Court and Softly Softly: Taskforce. Still, he seemed doomed to the periphery, even when he made a film debut in Guy Green's The Magus (1968), based on the John Fowles novel and starring Michael Caine and Anthony Quinn, and had a minor role in Joseph Losey's The Go-Between (1970), adapted by Harold Pinter from LP Hartley's novel and starring Julie Christie and Alan Bates.
In the mid-1970s he was a committed member of the Joint Stock Theatre Company, formed by William Gaskill and Max Stafford-Clark. Other notable theatre appearances included Alan Bennett's Kafka's Dick (1986), directed at the Royal Court by Richard Eyre, and, 10 years later, as Albert Parker, one of the blind-sided town stalwarts, in a delightful revival by Jude Kelly of JB Priestley's When We Are Married at the Chichester Festival theatre (and the West End), both of these productions also featuring his great friend Alison Steadman.
Actually, Roger's friends were legion. Not only was he immensely respected in the theatre, he was immensely popular, and his enthusiasms for cricket (he was a member of the MCC), Tottenham Hotspur and (until recently) the Labour party defined, to a large extent, his attitude to work. Another friend, Stephen Frears, directed him in the film Prick Up Your Ears (1987), written by Bennett, about the playwright Joe Orton (played by Gary Oldman) and his lover, Kenneth Halliwell.
Even quirkier, and darker, was Peter Greenaway's dream-like The Cook, the Thief, His Wife and Her Lover (1989), which contains an amazing roster of the finest British actors led by Helen Mirren, Alan Howard and Michael Gambon. In one of the many take-over casts of Yasmina Reza's Art in the West End, he appeared alongside Nigel Havers and Barry Foster in 2001. In that play, Havers and Foster were witnesses to his own character's off-stage marriage and Lloyd Pack, on a sudden whim, decided to cast his colleagues in those roles in real life when he married his partner of over 20 years, the poet and dramatist Jehane Markham (herself of some theatrical pedigree: daughter of the actor David Markham and sister of the actors Kika and Petra).
He then joined forces with the director Mike Newell, another friend and neighbour, on Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (2005), the fourth film in the series, in which Lloyd Pack was Barty Crouch, and pulled another big surprise in playing a pantomime dame, Sara the Cook, in Dick Whittington, written, just as surprisingly, by Mark Ravenhill, at the Barbican in the City of London. This was not a huge success, but Lloyd Pack's view was that the critics who delivered mixed notices (all of them) had momentarily forgotten that panto was for the kids.
He had a good deal of fun as John Lumic on the reappearance of Doctor Who on television in 2006, playing opposite David Tennant, and returned to the stage in a revival of Patrick Marber's gambling classic, Dealer's Choice, at the Menier Chocolate Factory in 2007. He was much praised, too, for a growly old Davies in Pinter's The Caretaker at the Nuffield, Southampton, and a fierce and transported Prospero in The Tempest at the Edinburgh festival.
His last films included Nigel Cole's Made in Dagenham (2010), about the strike at the Ford car plant in Essex in 1968, and a nice cameo as Inspector Mendel in Tomas Alfredson's Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (2011), starring Oldman. And some of his last television, in 2009-10, was The Old Guys, in which he and Clive Swift played two ageing has-beens, focusing their attentions on the hopeless cause of Jane Asher's disobliging neighbour.
Lloyd Pack was married first in 1967 to Sheila Ball, with whom he had a daughter, the actor Emily Lloyd, and from whom he was divorced in 1972. He and Jehane had three sons, Spencer, Hartley and Louis. They, and his brother, Christopher, a stage manager, all survive him.
• Roger Lloyd Pack, actor, born 8 February 1944; died 15 January 2014