Tributes paid to Bridgwater-born theatre legend Chris Harris

CHRIS Harris, pictured at Burnham's Princess Theatre. PHOTO: Mike Lang.

CHRIS Harris, pictured at Burnham's Princess Theatre. PHOTO: Mike Lang.

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PANTOMIME legend Chris Harris will be “sorely missed” by his wider family of theatre-goers, former friends and colleagues have told the Mercury.

Tributes have been paid to the “Bridgwater born and bred” actor, who died on Wednesday April 30 of cancer, aged 71.

Best-known and best-loved for his pantomime career both as director and ‘dame’, Harris wrote, performed and directed at the Theatre Royal in Bath, and Bristol’s Old Vic.

Both expressed their sadness on Twitter at the news.

Chris, who was a member of the Bridgwater Amateur Operatic Society (BAOS), and later became a member of the Royal Shakespeare Company, was also joint president of the Highbridge Festival of the Arts, which celebrated its 67th birthday in March.

He advanced from BAOS to become a student at the Rose Bruford College, attended the Jacques Lecoq's L'École Internationale de Théâtre Jacques Lecoq in Paris, Ladislav Fialka's Pantomime Company in Prague, and enjoyed a stint at the Moscow State Circus School.

From the mid-seventies until his death, he toured one-man shows around the world, including ‘Kemp’s Jig’ and ‘That’s The Way To Do It’.

BAOS’s King & I director, Sue Pomeroy, told the Mercury: “It’s very, very sad, and before his time.

“He’ll be hugely missed by so many people, not least of all his friends and family, but all the audiences who have loved him over the years; the wider theatre-going public.

“He started his career at BAOS in the early sixties, but of course he became rather famous for his portrayal of the dame, and for writing panto at Bath.

“It’s very, very sad to think that he’s gone.”

Rita Jones, president of Bridgwater Carnival Club, said: "Chris, whose father Cliff Harris was a past President of Bridgwater Carnival, from 1977 to 1980, was a life long supporter of Bridgwater Carnival, and spread the word of Carnival wherever he went - even to Rio de Janeiro!

"He was always willing to help in any way he could and will be sadly missed."

Puriton Players’-own panto dame, Alan Scott, from Bridgwater, said Chris Harris was the reason “why I went into pantomime”.

He said: “Many, many years ago Chris came and did a workshop with the panto gang – he was fab. I watched him in many pantomimes in Bath.”

Leigh Redman, Somerset County Councillor for Bridgwater South, added: “I was lucky enough to know Chris and many years ago acted alongside him in a number of shows.

"He was a lovely person, and a great ambassador for Bridgwater, bringing his shows to town on many occasions.

“My thoughts are with his family and friends as his presence and professionalism will be greatly missed.”

The Bristol Old Vic tweeted: "We are very sad to hear that Chris Harris, legend of many of our pantomimes in the 1990s, passed away."

Bath’s Theatre Royal said: “As well as being a consummate professional, Chris was an exceptionally kind and generous man who will be fondly remembered and greatly missed by staff and audiences at the Theatre Royal.”

DID you know Chris? Please feel free to leave your tribute, below.

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