Barbara Jefford, one of the leading British stage actresses of the past 70 years, has died aged 90.
Jefford made many appearances for the Royal Shakespeare Company, the National Theatre and the Old Vic, playing almost every available classical role.
She also appeared on screen, earning a nomination for best British actress at the Bafta film awards in 1968 for playing Molly Bloom in Ulysses.
A statement from her agents said: “In the course of an extraordinary 70-year career, Barbara has graced the screen within TV and film, but it was on stage that she truly felt at home.”
The statement called Jefford a “warm and generous woman, a sensational actress, and a dear friend who will be missed by many”.
Devon-born, Jefford studied at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (Rada) in London, before joining the Shakespeare Memorial Theatre Company – now the RSC – in Stratford-upon-Avon.
She made her debut as Isabella in Measure for Measure opposite John Gielgud, before moving to the Old Vic in the mid-1950s.
At the age of 34 in 1965, she was made an OBE for service to the theatre – reportedly becoming the youngest ever recipient of the award until that date.
The Guardian described her as “one of the greatest of Shakespearean actors” when she was seen opposite Kenneth Branagh in Richard III in 2002.
Over the years, Jefford filled almost every major role from the classical repertoire, including Cleopatra, Phèdre, Hedda Gabler, and Madame Arkadina.
Theatre critic Michael Billington said of Jefford: “There didn’t seem anything she couldn’t play.”
She also frequently appeared on TV and radio, including in the BBC’s The Canterbury Tales in the late 60s, Porterhouse Blue in the 80s and The House of Eliott in the early 90s.
On the big screen, her other credits included 1971 Hammer Horror film Lust for a Vampire, Federico Fellini’s And the Ship Sails On in 1983, Roman Polanski’s The Ninth Gate in 1999, and Stephen Frears’ Philomena in 2013.