The Arts Council of Northern Ireland has learned with regret of the death of one of Northern Ireland’s best-known actors, John Hewitt, who died, aged 58, at the Causeway Hospital, Coleraine, on Friday 28th November, following a short illness.
John Hewitt was known for his long association with the Arts and Lyric theatres in Belfast, and achieved popular acclaim for his television role as John Fletcher, playing alongside Kenneth Branagh in the BBC’s Play for Today series, the trilogy of ‘Billy Plays’ (1982-1984), set in Belfast.
He starred with Liam Neeson in Brian Friel’s Philadelphia Here I Come at the Lyric Theatre in the early 1980s, and appeared in stage plays by Northern Ireland’s leading playwrights, including Marie Jones (Eddie Bottom’s Dream, 1996), Robin Glendinning (Culture Vultures, 1988), Stewart Parker (Northern Star, 1984), Christina Reid (Tea in a China Cup, 1983) and John Boyd (Guests, 1974).
Roisín McDonough, Chief Executive of the Arts Council, joined the many tributes to the actor. “John toured Northern Ireland with us several times between the mid-1980s and 1990s, as part of Theatre Ulster, a touring production company set up by the Arts Council, Riverside Theatre and Arts Theatre. The Year of the Hiker by John B Keane and Tom Stoppard’s Night and Day were particularly memorable Ulster Theatre productions. Everyone who saw John perform was struck by his stage presence, yet he would never try to upstage the other actors. His acting talent would surely have established him as one of the leading actors of his generation, if that had been his ambition.”
The actor, Dan Gordon, paid tribute to Hewitt, saying that he was “a lovely gentle man” and an actor of “the first and highest order.”