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Tributes to actress and child star
Treibutes have been paid to an actress who put behind family heartbreak to become a leading child stage star.
Margaret Sharman, who died aged 80 on April 7, was hailed as a child actress who also enjoyed a successful career as an adult.
She was best known for playing the role of the 13-year-old Jewish heroine in the Phoenix Theatre production of The Diary of Anne Frank under her glamorous stage name of Perlita Neilson.
It led to her being invited to star in Hollywood’s film version of the play.
For the last 20 years of her life she lived in a small garden flat in Brighton.
Born Margaret Phillipa Sowden on June 11, 1933 in Bradford, she spent 12 years of her childhood in Argentina, where her father worked as an engineer and where she first fell in love with the stage, performing as a four-year-old.
She and her mother returned to Britain in 1945 when the family fled from Nazis and Peronists.
Her father stayed behind and Margaret never saw him again.
Her cousin Peter Sowden said he was reported to have died in 1951 from diabetes, but years of family enquiries into his whereabouts had run into a “brick wall”.
He said: “The fate of her father was something she tried to find answers to even later on in life.
“She was close to her father, so it’s strange they never heard from him.”
Ms Sharman made her first appearance on the West End stage at the London Coliseum aged 14 as Minnie in Annie Get Your Gun.
Five years into her career her acting attracted some serious attention including from renowned critic Kenneth Tynan who described her
performance in the British premiere of Arthur Miller’s The Crucible in 1954-55 as “perfect”.
Further West End triumphs followed in The Seagull and The Diary of Anne Frank which lasted well into the 1960s.
She also appeared in several leading television dramas including a 1960 version of Emma, and The Day of the Triffids in 1981.
Her funeral will be held on Thursday at 9.30am at St Nicholas Church in Dyke Road followed by a private cremation.
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