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Jacqueline Dutoit - An Obituary

Jacqueline Dutoit – Actress

Born, June 19, 1959; died March 2, 2020

Jacqueline Dutoit, who has died aged 60, was an actress of gravitas and style, whose many performances at Pitlochry Festival Theatre were possessed with the authority of an elder states-woman of the stage. This was the case over fifteen years working at Perthshire’s ‘theatre in the hills’ alongside her life-long partner and PFT’s artistic director, John Durnin. The presence and power Dutoit carried with her onstage was evident from the fact that she twice won the Leon Sinden Award for best supporting actress, voted for by the Pitlochry audience.

The awards were for Dutoit’s performances as overbearing snob, Lady Pontefract, in A Woman of No Importance, and as the equally upper crust Duchess of Berwick in Lady Windermere’s Fan, both written by Oscar Wilde. The two roles were telling of Dutoit’s penchant for playing high class eccentrics, which allowed her to indulge her own wicked sense of humour.

In lead parts too she brought a largesse to proceedings that was nevertheless rooted in reality. This was probably most evident on the Pitlochry stage in Alan Bennett’s autobiographical play, The Lady in the Van, in which Dutoit played the title role of Miss Shepherd, the elderly vagrant parked on Bennett’s doorstep. It was a part that could have been written for Dutoit.

Jacqueline Hamilton Dutoit was born at Epsom Hospital in Surrey, the youngest of three children to Winifred and Jack Hamilton Dutoit. Both she and her sister Michele and brother Stephen went to Burlington Road infant and junior school in New Malden, Surrey before Dutoit went to the Tiffin Grammar School for Girls in Kingston upon Thames. Drama became her passion as a teenager, and she studied drama at Manchester University.

Dutoit’s first acting job after graduation was at the Library Theatre, Manchester. This was significant not just for opening the door on a wide and varied career that would follow over the next three decades, but for her meeting a young deputy stage manager called John Durnin, who had also started working at the Library. For the next thirty-six years the pair were inseparable, and worked together extensively, both at the Northcott Theatre in Exeter, and at Pitlochry until 2017. Dutoit and Durnin were married at Ninewells Hospital, Dundee in 2019. Durnin passed away two weeks before Dutoit.

Prior to this, Dutoit spent time with the Royal National Theatre, and appeared in the world premiere of David Edgar’s post-Berlin Wall play, The Shape of the Table. In Exeter, Dutoit was at the centre of the theatre’s open-air Shakespeare in the Gardens initiative developed by Durnin. She was Katherine in The Taming of the Shrew and Titania in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, as well as playing Maria in Twelfth Night and Audrey in As You Like It. She also appeared as Oedipus’ mother, Jocasta.

In Pitlochry, Dutoit clocked up more than forty appearances, that saw her command the stage with the full diversity of her range that PFT’s repertory structure afforded her. She played Gertrude in Hamlet, was wicked as Ivana DeVille in Cinderella, and stole the show as comic housekeeper, Martha, in White Christmas. One of Dutoit’s great gifts was that of making character parts by the likes of Ayckbourn and Coward her own in a career that brought magnitude and a sense of fun to everything she did.

Dutoit is survived by her father, Jack, sister, Michele and her brother, Stephen.

The Herald, April 11th 2020

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