Longstanding Associate Lecturer in the Department of Media, Communications and Cultural Studies at Goldsmiths, Anita Elias, passed away 22nd December 2021 at her home in Hampstead at the age of 79.
Anita was an outstanding voice coach and highly respected professional actor having studied at Royal Central School of Speech and Drama, University of London for three years.
She taught use of voice to MA Radio students at Goldsmiths University of London as an associate lecturer for 25 years.
Many generations of broadcast journalists and radio broadcasters owe her a great debt for the skills and confidence she imbued in them.
She is in a noble tradition in Goldsmiths’ history.
Anita’s willingness to travel to New Cross for the very modest fees paid to visiting lecturers and provide all the benefits of her artistic and professional knowledge and experience represents a vital part of the story of the College.
Experts in their thousands have been crucial to the quality of education provided to full-time and part-time students.
Voice training has been taught on the site as far back as the late 19th century when the Goldsmiths’ Company of the City of London created and funded the Goldsmiths’ Recreative and Technical Institute between 1891 and 1904.
Dame Ellen Terry attended the New Cross premises as external examiner for elocution courses during the last years of the reign of Queen Victoria.
Goldsmiths MA Radio alumni Tomos Povey said: ‘Anita Elias believed in her students and, as such, our future successes were ultimately her success. She was a lady of integrity and wit; she will be sorely missed.’
Professor Tim Crook: ‘She was the most brilliant voice coach and teacher and I was so proud to have hired her for Goldsmiths, University of London MA Radio students. She was recommended to me by a fellow radio journalist in the 1990s.
Students used to mumbling and crouching lazily in chairs found themselves leaping up in the air, learning how to use their diaphragms to control their breathing, and vocalize great speeches from history in her quest to teach effective articulation and the vital confidence of developing and using their voices to the best of their potential.
Her kindness and understanding helped and developed so many students during the 25 years she taught at Goldsmiths.’
Professor Crook added: ‘She was, of course, a most outstanding professional actor. I remember how she played a part in a student’s radio play and demonstrated the timing, poise, and qualities of the very best of comedy acting.’
Anita was a highly accomplished music hall performer and featured in many London and regional stage productions with leading credits. She was much acclaimed by the critics.
Between 2013-14 she was a member of the Ensemble at the Concert in the production of the Ladykillers at the Gielgud Theatre in London’s West End.
As recently as 2017 she demonstrated her considerable comedic acting talent in an advertisement for Hopewiser, the address experts.
Though she will be perhaps best remembered for her leading role as the election candidate in the 2015 Shreddies Nanas launch NanaState advert.
She told the Stage in 2002 ‘I like Music Hall songs because they tell stories. I remember seeing the late Rita Treisman singing ‘Isn’t It A Pity To Be Poor?’ at the Gatehouse Theatre. Sometime later I asked her if I could sing it, and she said “Yes, so long as you don’t sing it when I’m on the bill.”’
Anita devised her own one woman show dedicated to the vaudeville star and singer Sophie Tucker.
Her reputation for performing Music Hall roles took her around the world. She would like to relate her experience of touring Russia on a Music Hall Bill: ‘We were in St Petersburg and the professors from the University came. They got onstage for the finale, rolled up their trousers, and sang ‘Knees Up Mother Brown’ with us.’
Anita’s professional career included parts in film, radio, theatre and television. In 1984 she played the role of Rachel Kallinsky, a member of the Jewish family, in Channel 4’s A Women of Substance series with filming on location in America.
In 1983 she was in a company called the Entertainers which toured the country with ‘An Evening of Music Hall.’ One critic said: “Comedy being the strong suit of this company, Anita Elias gets the lioness’ share of funny songs, being particularly effective in ‘The Old Blasted Oak’ and ‘The Spaniard Who Blighted My Life.’”
In 1999 she was much acclaimed for her role as Wendla’s mother in Stephen Henry’s production of Frank Wedeking’s ‘Spring Awakening.’ Her performance for Theatre 28 at the St Jermyn’s theatre in the heart of the West End was described as having been ‘played with beautifully flustered pathos.’
Among her many talents was an ability to play the Ukulele.
Anita never retired and remained available and willing to work in her much cherished acting profession for as long as her health allowed. In her personal statement for her agent’s profile she enthusiastically declared: ‘I am an older character actress and have been in the business for quite some time. I tend to play character comedy but also play straight characters. I sing, but sadly no longer dance. Additional skills: improvisation skills, have a one woman music hall show and still perform for The Players on some occasions.’
Family and friends
Anita was born in Staines, Middlesex during the Second World War in 1942 to Jewish refugee parents. She was a Hebrew speaker having been raised in the Jewish faith and later converted to Buddhism.
She was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumour in August 2021.
Her friend Sabrina Stoecklin said in her final weeks she had many visitors with friends chanting with her, reading poetry and making sure she was as comfortable as she could be: ‘She left this world feeling loved and surrounded.’
Anita’s cremation was at Lambeth Cemetery on 12th January 2022. She did not want a funeral service or flowers hoping that any donations and tributes to her memory would be offered to the Actors’ Benevolent Fund.
Sabrina said: ‘Anita wanted us to organise a gathering for all her friends to have a ‘party’ together and celebrate her unique and treasured life. Eulogies, anecdotes and memories will be shared. We want it to be entertaining too.’
Her friends have also adopted her beloved cat Jack. Don Holloway said: I think Anita would want emphatic mention of her love for all animals, especially her cats Oliver, Scarlett, and later Jack. They were her dear family.’
Students travelling to her home in Hampstead for voice training sessions would remember how much her cats would show appreciation to improving recitations of poetry and famous dramatic speeches from Shakespeare and other famous playwrights.
The Goldsmiths History project thanks Sabrina Stoecklin, Roy Baxandall, Sylvie Courtay, Tomos Povey and all the friends of Anita Elias for their generous help and assistance in researching this profile.