LAMDA celebrates life and legacy of Colin Cook

28 June 2024

On Monday 24 June, alumni and guests gathered at LAMDA for a celebration event to mark the extraordinary life and enduring legacy of Colin Cook. 

Colin Cook was a beloved acting coach, teacher and administrator who touched countless lives during his tenure at LAMDA between 1978 to 2015, his impact positively affecting generations of students and staff.  

Held at LAMDA's Sainsbury Theatre, the memorial event was a heartfelt tribute to a man whose legacy and influence remain strong, with distinguished guests speaking about his singular talent and devotion to his craft; his compassion for students and friends; his constant search for authenticity; and his unwavering sense of humour.  

The evening opened with a touching speech from theatre director and close friend, Penny Cherns, who met him in the 1970s at the Drama Centre, where they both studied the Directors' Course. Years later they taught alongside each other at LAMDA. 

Later, alumnus and New York-based theatre actor, Joe Franchini, spoke of his time as a student at LAMDA and the profound impact Colin had on him. During his speech Joe described a time that Colin encouraged him to pursue acting and continue his training at LAMDA, seeing untapped potential in him. 

Throughout the evening, key pieces from Colin Cook’s immense body of work were performed by students and alumni, including scenes from Much Ado About Nothing by William Shakespeare, Sherlock Holmes by William Gillette and Cloud Nine by Caryll Churchill. Each performance was a testament to Colin’s lasting impact on the students he taught. 

Current student Gavin Rasmussen also took to the stage for a rendition of the song Tartarus, which he performed a couple of weeks ago at the Stephen Sondheim Student Performer of the Year competition finals. 

At the end of the evening, theatre director and Dean of the David Geffen School of Drama at Yale University, James Bundy, was invited on stage, where he shared his student memories in the early 1980s and how the experience of working with Colin shaped his professional life. 

Listening to these touching tributes, we were reminded of the importance of nurturing talent, fostering creativity and living with curiosity and compassion. 

Colin Cook became Head of Drama at LAMDA in 1978 at the invitation of recently appointed Principle, Roger Croucher, after having worked together at the Royal Court Theatre. He held senior posts at LAMDA for more than 30 years, becoming more than just an acting coach; he was a mentor, a friend and a guiding light to all who had the privilege of knowing him. His teaching went beyond the technicalities of acting – he taught his students to explore the depths of human emotion, to be fearless in their creativity and to believe in their own potential. 

His unique approach to coaching helped shape the careers of many successful actors, including acclaimed performers such as Richard Armitage, Ruth Wilson, Hermione Norris, Sam Claflin, Clare Higgins, David Oyelowo, Paterson Joseph, Julie Hesmondhalgh, Rory Kinnear and Amir El-Masry.  

Peter James, who succeeded Roger Croucher as LAMDA’s Principal, said: “He has an extraordinary effect upon people allowing people to achieve extraordinary things.”  

LAMDA Principal and Chief Executive, Mark O’Thomas, reflecting on Colin Cook's legacy, said, "Under Colin’s guidance, LAMDA not only thrived but became a beacon of excellence in actor training, both nationally and internationally. He was a visionary who played a pivotal role in shaping the school’s curriculum, ensuring it remained dynamic and responsive to the evolving landscape of theatre and performance." 

In honour of his achievements, a new LAMDA Fellowship is being established in his name. The Colin Cook International Fellowship will enable a distinguished artist or scholar to join LAMDA in autumn 2024 and direct a student production. With plans to make it an annual Fellowship, it will help ensure that Colin’s passion for teaching and acting continues to inspire future generations of LAMDA students. 

Rest in peace, Colin Cook. Your legacy will live on in the stories we tell, the performances we create and the hearts you touched.