Briers used to be best known as a television sit-com star - like Penelope Wilton, his co-star in "Ever Decreasing Circles," whose own theatre career has now taken her to the Donmar in The Little Foxes. Briers, along with Felicity Kendal (also an accomplished stage actress), is fondly remembered for the BBC's "The Good Life," but is also an award-winning student at RADA, and has appeared in the West End in numerous plays since the late 1950s - including several by Alan Ayckbourn.
The revival of his stage career was largely thanks - as he is the first to admit - to Kenneth Branagh, who cast him in his Renaissance Theatre Company stage productions of - among others - King Lear and Uncle Vanya, in both of which Briers played the title role, and as Polonius in Branagh's four-hour film version of Hamlet.
Briers' appearance three years ago, opposite Geraldine McEwen, in Ionesco's The Chairs, directed by Simon McBurnet for Theatre de Complicité and the Royal Court, with a subsequent transfer to Broadway, won rave reviews on both sides of the Atlantic.
Briers also appeared on stage (at Wyndham's) in the West End in the mid 1990s in David Storey's Home, with his "The Good Life" co-star Paul Eddington. This production, the first in the West End since the original 1970s one starring two theatrical knights, Sir John Gielgud and Sir Ralph Richardson, was a critical and commercial success. The fact that Eddington was terminally ill with a form of skin cancer made their appearance on stage together all the more poignant.
—by Paul Webb Theatrenow