Scottish actress Brigit Forsyth dies

December 5, 2023

Brigit Forsyth, the Scottish television actor known for playing Thelma in the sitcom Whatever Happened to the Likely Lads?, has died. She was 83.

Her agent said she died peacefully with her family at her side.

Scottish actor dies

Raised in Edinburgh by Scottish parents, Forsyth pursued training as a secretary before enrolling in the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, where she won the Emile Littler prize.

She had her breakout role in the 1971 thriller The Night Digger, written by Roald Dahl.

Her most famous part is Thelma, the prim and proper librarian wife of Bob (Rodney Bewes) in Whatever Happened to the Likely Lads? (1973-1974.)

The BBC sitcom revolves around two working-class friends, Bob and Terry (James Bolam.) Bob has aspirations of joining the middle class, and his social climbing is the butt of Terry's jokes; Thelma is Bob's snobbish girlfriend-turned-wife.

Forsyth appeared in another class-conscious sitcom, Sharon and Elsie (1984-85), as Elsie, the middle-class friend of the down-to-earth Sharon.

“Up until then, I had done a lot of drama on telly,” she once said. “If I wasn’t being murdered, I was murdering somebody or I was a disturbed art teacher. I was playing quite a lot of deranged people, so comedy was a nice change.”

Versatile actor

Forsyth's other notable roles included Francine Pratt in Playing the Field (1998-2002), a BBC drama about a female soccer team, and Madge in Still Open All Hours, a reboot of the BBC sitcom Open All Hours. 

A multi-talented artist, she also played the cello from a young age.

She "had a varied and notable career in stage, screen and radio", her agent said.

"Best known for her roles in television as Thelma in Whatever Happened To The Likely Lads?, Francine Pratt in Playing The Field and Madge in Still Open All Hours. Brigit also played multiple roles in theatre from the West End to the National Theatres of England and Scotland, and the great reps of Leeds, Manchester and Birmingham, playing everything from the Queen in Single Spies, to Kate in All My Sons."

“She was in many radio plays on the BBC over the years and also featured in the Radio 4 sitcom Ed Reardon’s Week. A talented musician, Brigit played the cello, sang and composed, and in later years played with several bands including The Fircones. Brigit loved collaboration and helping to develop new works with actors, writers and directors, which eventually led her to form her own cross disciplinary theatre company, Word Mills Productions in 2016.”

She is survived by two children from her marriage to director Brian Mills. The two separated but remained friends until Mills' death in 2006.

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