Date of Birth: 18 March 1947, Surbition, Surrey, UK
Birth Name: Susan Haydn Thomas
Nicknames: Susan Sheridan
Susan Sheridan, who has died aged 68, was an actress and voice artist who provided the voices of Trillian in the original radio production of Douglas Adams’s The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (1978), and a range of children’s television characters, most notably Noddy in the BBC’s Noddy’s Toyland Adventures (1992-94 and 1999-2001).
The mischievous doll in the red and yellow taxi first appeared in Enid Blyton’s book Noddy Goes To Toyland in 1949 and on television in the 1950s. Known as Oui-Oui in France, Doddi in Iceland and Purzelknirps in Germany, he was an immediate hit with children, though he tended to be sniffed at by the literati for shallow characterisation, and even found himself accused of racism and sexism.
By the 1990s, when Susan Sheridan was picked to voice the character, Noddy had been forced to clean up his act. The original stories had featured “golliwogs” who lived in Golly Town, including Mr Golly, the proprietor of Toyland’s garage. These characters had been dropped from the BBC’s television adaptation of the books in the 1980s and replaced by other soft toys. Also gone was Miss Rap, the schoolmistress who dished out spankings with a slipper.
Noddy’s Toyland Adventures featured a new character not present in the original books, Dinah Doll, a china doll described as a “black, assertive, ethnic minority female”, for whom, among several other minor characters, Susan Sheridan also provided the voice.
The animation studio Cosgrove Hall made the series and it did a superb job bringing the Noddy stories to life. Much of the success of the series was due to Susan Sheridan, whose voice had been selected out of some 200 audition tapes. Explaining how she came up with Noddy’s sing-song cadences, she explained that she had studied the illustrations in the original Noddy books: “He’s got eyebrows that look surprised or cross, so that’s how I found the voice. He talks up and down like that most of the time.”
She was born Susan Haydn Thomas in Surbiton, Surrey, and educated at the Brigidine Convent, Windsor, and at Ashford Grammar School.
After training at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, she cut her teeth in regional rep before making her West End debut in 1975 at the Phoenix Theatre as Christopher Robin in a production of the musical Winnie-the-Pooh.
Her voice skills led to auditions with BBC radio, on which she made her name as the astrophysicist Trillian in the radio adaptation of Douglas Adams’s cult sci-fi comedy. Other characters she voiced included Angus and Elspeth, the children who befriend a family of Loch Ness Monsters in the BBC cartoon series The Family-Ness (1984), Jimbo the talking aeroplane in Jimbo and the Jet-Set (BBC1, 1986), and Princess Sylvia in the BBC animated English language teaching series Muzzy in Gondoland (1987) and Muzzy Comes Back (1989).
She dubbed voices in several films, including Princess Eilonwy in the Disney cartoon The Black Cauldron (1985), the young Puyi in Bertolucci’s The Last Emperor (1987) and one of the chickens in Chicken Run (2002). She also “voiced” video games, read audio books and in later years worked as a voice coach. She remained active on the stage with roles in touring productions and a one-woman show The Merry Wife of Wilton (2004).
In 2011 she made a rare appearance in front of the cameras as Mother Thomas Aquinas, a nun found strangled in a chicken coop, in Midsomer Murders.
Date of Birth: 16 May 1941, Sierra Leone, Africa
Birth Name: David Laurie Lyon
Nicknames: David Lyon
David Lyon was a stalwart of numerous Royal Shakespeare Company productions and became a familiar face on television in series such as The Bill, Lovejoy, Taggart, Holby City and Midsomer Murders.
Though he was a popular figure at the RSC, Lyon never got to play the Dane and most audiences would be hard-pressed to name his roles. On stage they included the Earl of Westmoreland in Henry IV parts I and II and Henry V; Capulet in Romeo and Juliet; the Duke of Albany in King Lear; Thomas Mowbray in Richard II; King Philip of France in King John; Don Pedro in Much Ado About Nothing; Hortensio in The Taming of the Shrew; and Dull in Love’s Labour’s Lost. On the small screen he ranged from bishops (The Inspector Linley Mysteries) to murderers (Midsomer Murders).
The principal exception to this rule was his role as Henry Collingridge, Margaret Thatcher’s decent but dithery successor whose position at No 10 is steadily undermined by his Machiavellian Chief Whip Francis Urquhart (Ian Richardson) in the 1990 BBC production of House of Cards.
The role was memorable not least because the first episode in the four-part series aired on November 18, four days before Mrs Thatcher stunned her Cabinet by announcing that she would resign as Prime Minister “as soon as a successor can be chosen”. Lyon uttered exactly the same lines, written some months earlier, in House of Cards two weeks later. He added, as Mrs Thatcher may also have done to her Cabinet colleagues, two-thirds of whom had told her she might not win if she stayed in the race: “I should like to take the opportunity of thanking you for your friendship and your loyalty at this time those who feel this description applies, of course.”
David Laurie Lyon was born on May 16 1941, the son of a diamond merchant, and grew up in Sierra Leone. He was educated at Merchiston Castle School, Edinburgh, where he played scrum-half for the first XV. Forced to leave school aged 16 after his father was declared bankrupt, he worked for Royal Insurance in Glasgow, then as a flooring salesman in Birmingham. In his spare time he performed as an amateur actor with the Old Grammarians in Glasgow and the Crescent Theatre in Birmingham, and in the early 1970s studied at the Central School of Speech and Drama in London.
After making his professional debut in Manchester in 1975, he performed in repertory theatres around the country before joining the RSC in 1976. As well as supporting roles in Shakespeare, he also appeared in several modern plays, such as The Innocent, After Aida and Piaf.
In 1998 he married the actress Sandra Clark, whom he had first met at drama school when she was married to someone else. They spent their honeymoon touring with a production of Romeo and Juliet, in which they were playing Capulet and Lady Montagu.