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Felicity Kendal: ‘I won’t forget NHS heroes who helped save my partner from Covid’

Theatre director Michael Rudman was treated in the Royal Free intensive care unit

18 February, 2021 — By Tom Foot

Felicity Kendal with Mr Rudman at his daughter’s wedding

FELICITY Kendal has told Royal Free staff “we haven’t forgotten you”, as The Good Life star revealed how her theatre director partner was saved from Covid in the hospital’s intensive care unit.

Tony Award-winner Michael Rudman, who ran the Hampstead Theatre in the 1970s, has recovered well having survived his coronavirus infection after being treated for two weeks on an oxygen ventilator in October.

Mr Rudman’s daughter Amanda, who lives in Hampstead, has since set up a charity – Feed The Frontline – that is providing hot meals for the hospital’s staff.

In an interview with the New Journal this week, Ms Kendal CBE said: “I think I can speak for a lot of people about the fear being huge, and the frustration being a real hardship.

“That feeling that you don’t know what state your loved one is in and knowing you still can’t go and see them – it’s not like anything you’ve experienced before. It was just such a scary time. Michael is in his 80s.”

She added that the normal “support system” that people have during moments of crisis is not there.

“The thing that gets you through family sadnesses and illness is that you can bind together,” Ms Kendal said.

“You go out together and have a coffee after bad news. You chatter. If you have a sick child, one of you will take in the ice cream, and the other one will go round the next day with a balloon.

“People will cross the world to be with somebody for one last hour, because that’s what we do. But all that support system has been taken away and I just feel for people going through it.”

Felicity Kendal [Karan Kapoor]

Mr Rudman, who lived in Hampstead for decades, and also worked at the National Theatre and ran the Crucible in Sheffield before his Broadway production of Death of a Salesman, won a Tony Award for best revival.

Ms Kendal has also been diagnosed with Covid this year but she said her symptoms were minor in comparison.

She said: “I’ve been in the theatre, and could tell the hospital staff were at their wits end. I thought of their distress at having to be mother, father, grandfather – and look after people who are seriously ill.

“And they are in some ways as isolated as the patients. It’s not just going the extra mile – they are running a marathon every day.”

The actress, unforgettable as Barbara in The Good Life, the much-loved sitcom about a couple who decide to become self-sufficient and grow their own food, said: “If the staff want to go to the canteen for a meal they have to queue, which in normal times was ok and probably a bit of a break for them – but now they are rushing to get back to patients.

“This accumulates and it is so exhausting for them not having a break and a hot meal.

“So I am now one of the people involved in getting food to the staff in the hospital. There are so many hundreds of wonderful things we can do, but it is particularly moving to just say ‘look, there’s a hot meal, and it is sent to you with love for what you are doing for my family’.”

Ms Kendal is actively supporting Amanda Rudman’s efforts, which has already sent hundreds of meals to the Royal Free since it was set up.

Some of the food is supplied from Camden traders including Crescent Fruiterers in Belsize village, Spielburger in Heath Street and Spicy Basil in Kilburn High Road.

Amanda herself continues to have symptoms of long-Covid having caught the virus last March, said Ms Kendal, adding: “She used to run marathons like there’s no tomorrow and now she can’t do two miles.”

Ms Kendal warned that on the flipside of the overwhelming surge in charitable work and donations from the public that had emerged during the coronavirus crisis – epitomised by Captain Tom Moore, who died last month – lies a blame culture.

“We can be prepared for sudden catastrophes but this is like a war, it’s a different thing,” she said.

“Why are we always looking for who’s to blame? We have to hold on to the fact that we have the vaccine going out. It is brilliantly organised. It’s like the Titanic, you see the best and the worst, but there are many more heroes than not.”

The Royal Free Hospital

Ms Kendal said she missed the “relaxed fun and casualness of seeing friends” after a year of virus restrictions and lockdowns, adding: “Prison is like the naughty chair for a child where you are made to think ‘I will try and be better – in the future I will not throw my jam tart at my friend again?’

“But this imprisonment has gone on so long we don’t know what to think anymore.” She added: “At first I thought I’d use the time to write a book, but then I thought there would be so many books about ‘My time with Covid’, that I gave up.”

She is due to perform in her first musical, Anything Goes, at the Barbican in the summer – a sign of hope that theatres will soon get the chance to reopen. Now living in west London, Ms Kendal said: “When people are saying they don’t want a jab. I just say please. please get a jab.

“Covid is a very real thing – and to the staff I say: We haven’t forgotten you. “We have to remember these guys while we are waiting to have another life.”

You can donate to Amanda Rudman’s staff meals fundraiser, which has already raised £27,000, by visiting

https://www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/feedthe-frontline

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