Former Dynasty star Kate O’Mara, who has died in Worthing at the age of 74, had been hoping to move to Sussex.
Distinguished theatre director Roger Redfarn said her death – just a couple of months after that of her close friend Alexandra Bastedo – was a devastating loss to the theatre.
The British actress was best known for her role as sister to Joan Collins’ Alexis Colby in the US soap Dynasty. She also had prominent roles in the 1980s series Howards’ Way and Triangle, and also in Doctor Who.
Mr Redfarn, who lives just outside Chichester, said: “Kate was so very full of life, a whirlwind and loved the theatre. She cared about it and spent her every moment involved in it. She was beautiful, kind and a joy to work with. Truly a wonderful devoted professional.”
Mr Redfarn said he was last with her in Chichester last September for the Cathedral memorial service to Alexandra’s husband, Patrick Garland, who died in April 2013. Mr Garland had twice been artistic director at Chichester Festival Theatre.
“To lose Patrick, Alexandra and now Kate in so short a period is such a devastating loss to the theatre”, Mr Redfarn added.
Mr Redfarn said: “She had a very difficult time over the last two years. She died in a nursing home in Worthing. She was in the process of buying a house in Sussex. She had been in Stratford upon Avon.
“I have known her for many years. She played the lead in the musical Kiss Me Kate for me amongst other things. She was passionate about the theatre and in particular William Shakespeare and set up her own company and toured many productions. She was very close to Alexandra and very supportive of her. I find it difficult to believe Alex has gone and now Kate. I have a very heavy heart.”
Her death followed a short illness.
O’Mara last posted a message on Twitter on March 17: “Thank you so much for your kind tweets. It’s both humbling and completely overwhelming to read all of your messages. Much Love x.”
O’Mara appeared at the Connaught Theatre in Worthing in February 2012, winning much praise for her performance in Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Nile, directed by Barnham’s Joe Harmston.
She was also in Worthing in 2009 as Hollywood legend Marlene Dietrich in a new play Lunch With Marlene And Noel, opposite Frank Barrie as the wry playwright Coward.
O’Mara found parallels with herself in Dietrich.
“She confided in Coward because he shared her high public profile and he understood her frustrations,” Kate told Sussex Newspapers. “Dietrich resented being cast as a vamp because of her exotic looks. We have that in common! Thankfully I escape the tyranny of TV and film typecasting by working in the theatre.”
Kate admitted the parallels went beyond the professional.
“The play explores Marlene’s vulnerabilities but she was fiercely independent and could be terribly imperious. Just like me. I have always said that I can emasculate a man at 50 paces!”
In another interview with Sussex Newspapers, she had spoken of her frustrations
“I can’t get any TV work these days,” she lamented. “Nobody wants me! It’s nice to do TV occasionally because people get to know you. There is a whole generation of people that know me from my TV work, but there is a younger generation, who unless they are constantly watching repeats on the extra-terrestrial channels as I call them, won’t know me at all.”
Part of the problem, Kate said, was that she had known ‘as being me’: “And that works against me. I get an awful lot of publicity as me, but then things will come around again.”